Historical, Sewing

16th Centuray Italian Peasant Dress – Part 2: Skirt & Bodice Drafting

<< Part 1: Camica
Part 2: Skirt & Bodice Drafting
Part 3: Bodice & Result >>

Hi everyone! Thanks for joining me again on my 3-part post on sewing an Italian peasant dress! Today I am sewing the skirt and making some progress on drafting the bodice.


I was gifted this gorgeous vermillion linen and it was just perfect for a working class dress. The fabric looks pink in some pictures but it is a gorgeous kind of washed out red.dav

I cut two panels of 1 meter wide by 1.20 meter long and stitched them together on the side seams, leaving a 20cm slit open in each side. This will allow me to get in and out of the skirt but also function as pouch openings. I can now wear a money pouch on a belt around the camica, and reach it from the side slits.


I then pressed and stitched the edges of the slit down.


I used 1.5cm seam allowance to make it easier to do this small hem. You could also use some fabric strips or even a facing.


I stitched some fabric strips for the tie closure and turned them inside out using my loop turner.


I didn’t make cartridge pleats, but regular knife pleats instead. This process took me a while because I miscalculated the pleat depth so many times! I ended up using a curtain calculator to pleat both 100cm panels back to 60cm.



Then I stitched the pleats down with a long fabric strip, and attached the tie closures. I could have done this with a singular strip of fabric, but I didn’t have enough scrap left to make the 90cm strip I would have needed.


I fitted the skirt but it was way too long, so I ended up doing a 15cm hem, oof! I hand-stitched the hem with a whip stitch so it wouldn’t be visible on the outside.

Bodice Drafting


I also want to show how I drafted the bodice in this post because I didn’t take many pictures of the skirt. Here is my initial shape drafted using the tutorial by Elizabethan Costumes.


I made a moch-up and quickly learned my plus-size dress form looks nothing like me and needs some heavy padding.


I put one of my bras and an old camisole on the dress form and stuffed it until I was happy with the shape. Then I cut another mockup with a zipper in the middle so I could also try it on myself.


After I was happy with the shape and tightness of the bodice, I draped the straps. I had a hard time figuring out where the straps should go on the block pattern. In that case, draping is always better!


I was happy with my first mockup and transferred everything to paper.


I drafted the pattern with a regular side seam, but most paintings I studied showed that the bodices often had a side-back seam instead. I redrew this seam on the back of the bodice.


Here you can see what my final bodice pattern looks like with the side seam moved to side-back. I also shaved off another 1cm from the waist.


The final mockup! You can now see the limitations of using a dress form. This bodice was pretty much perfect on me but the armholes are gaping on the dress form.


I do have a bit of a hunched back, which is very obvious here compared to the straight back of the dress form!

Alright this is all for this week, see you next week where I will post the bodice construction AND the final result of everything worn! Of course I started way too late on this project as the Ren Fair is next week, but I will just push forward and see how far I get!

Thanks again for reading,

~ Mardie

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