Celebration – Italian camicia

Cheeky selfie in my new linen camicia. The linen is so fine, you can see the shadows of my other garments under it.

Cheeky selfie in my new linen camicia. The linen is so fine, you can see the shadows of my other garments under it.

I originally intended to make an Italian camicia to go with my Italian costume, but ended up running out of time so did a makeshift version in cotton instead.

I opted to FINALLY finish the Italian camicia (shift, underdress, chemise) that I started a year and a half ago for the costume I was making for the elevation of Caterina to the Order of the Laurel. I had intended to do this entirely by hand, but after doing four of the shortest seams by hand, I was frustrated with how long it took, so I decided to switch to the invisible/interior stitching done by machine. All of the seams are finished with a French seam, which I hope will suitably support the thin gauze fabric.

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UFO turned Italian chemise stop-gap

Finished camica. Photo taken after event so I look a bit ragged, hence the blurred face!

Finished camicia. Photo taken after event so I look a bit ragged, hence the blurred face!

For my Italian Renaissance costume (and, luckily in a case of excellent timing, the first challenge for the Historical Sew Monthly (prev. Fortnightly) for 2015) I needed a camicia – a chemise/shift/smock – the layer closest to the body which protects the “nice” clothes from body oils & sweat, as well protects the skin from irritations from those “nice” clothes. When the gowns are hand-beaded and covered in real metals for trim… tossing them in the laundry isn’t really much of an option!

Unfortunately, I started a bit late working on the project to have it in time for when I really wanted it. I wanted to finish (at least part way) the bodice of my underdress (Gamurra) before cutting the camicia, in order to get the right kind of neckline. I REALLY wanted to have just that slight bit of camicia showing at the top of the neckline, rather than seeing loads of white fabric under my red gown. This meant that I hemmed and hawed for a while about what I wanted to make my camicia out of. In my stash I already had:

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1480s Florence – Camicia (shift, chemise, smock)

The camicia is the layer worn closest to the skin – a chemise, smock or shift. Like it’s counter-part in other parts of the world, it was worn for a few reasons – it was made of more washable fabric (or at least not fabrics embellished by metals, etc) so could be washed more frequently than the gowns which would be more challenging (or possibly not washed at all). It protected the skin from the outer gowns, but mostly protected the gowns from the sweat and oils of the skin.

For the most part, this garment was unseen – but in the era I’m looking at, it was shown peeking out from the neckline, cuffs, and at the opening of the gown in the front.

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