Striped Italian “surcoat” for a new campaigning Kender kit!

Mara’ramja once again, my friends!

Fyaren here, with the first of several (I hope!) writeups detailing my movement away from the Bocksten tunic and “Rus” poof-pants garb silhouette for my Kender Paladin kit.  While these were good learning-to-sew projects that made almost eight years of sturdy garb, as my character evolved I wanted more fop than these garments could offer.  For this look, I turned to late Renaissance and early Tudor fashion in Italy, France and Germany.

This project was the third I completed for this look, and I stumbled upon it by accident.  I had roughly six yards of blue and white woolen fabric, which was quite fluffy, that had been sitting around for almost five years and needed to become an outer garment.  Originally I toyed with the cioppa, an Italian Renaissance outer garment with many iterations combining floppy sleeves, a fitted/pleated bodice, a large skirt and fur trim.  However, my fabric was a little fluffy for the crisp look of the cioppa’s tight pleats and gathers.  Eventually I found this garment, a variation on the vest and base military padding of the Italian Renaissance, which was adapted into a civilian garment by the nobility (Norris, 1997).

Following are my main sources of inspiration for this garment:

Left: an excellent reconstruction of the garment, hosted at;  Center: sketch from Tudor Costume and Fashion, by Herbert Norris; Right: detail of “The Mass at Bolsena” by Raphael (1512).

To keep the rustic fashion aesthetic of my Kender kit, even in late Renaissance fashion, I widened each piece of fabric, in addition to using fluffier wool in blue and white for a more pastoral appearance.  Originally I planned on making the skirt and vest detachable separate components, but the cleanest alignment of the stripes came from a hard attachment.  I may revisit this feature later…

This garment is made entirely from trapezoid gore-like shapes: mine contained 69 separate pieces of structural fabric (3 for each skirt panel).  I made the skirt first, to get comfortable sewing the two wool fabrics together (one was a Shetland twill and the other was a white herringbone).  I used a ½” seam allowance, and left a rather long hem until late in the construction.  This project, while my first attempt at a garment like this, probably took 40 hours over a couple weeks.

Here’s a rough idea of the steps I took to complete this project.  It’s a straightforward construction so I didn’t take a lot of in-progress photos.

  1. Cut 3 pieces for each skirt panel (8 sets of three pieces in each color set: white/blue/white and blue/white/blue). I also cut four half-panels to use at the openings, but I took them out because I didn’t like how they draped and I had an excess of fabric at the waist.
  2. Assemble the skirt panel pieces, then sew them together from the hem to carefully align the bottom stripes.
  3. Tailor the waist as needed, then hand-sew eyelets for lacing in the front (and back if you wish). IF you just want a skirt to wear under other garments, you can add a waistband, hem and stop here.
  4. Taking the final fabric width used for your skirt waist (ie the top of a panel), transfer this onto a pattern piece to be used for your bodice panels (this measurement will be the bottom width).
  5. Cut some mockup back-neckline short trapezoids out of thin cardboard—I used a cereal box—until you can cover the desired width with an even number of pieces. I used six pieces.

**NOTE: to get the proper alternating stripe pattern vertically on the garment, you want the neck pieces to MATCH the skirt pieces and the bodice pieces to be OPPOSITE.

  1. Take the wide bottom edge from your neck trapezoids once you construct them in the final fabric. The top of one skirt panel and the bottom of one neck panel set the widths for the bottom and top of your bodice stripes, respectively.
  2. Construct a rectangular-ish panel out of the bodice stripes, then pin on the neck, sew, and cut the curve to match.
  3. Add additional short bodice panels to wrap around the sides and front. Cut the armhole as you go.
  4. Attach the skirt to the bodice, and add eyelets to the bodice front.

**Add a lining here, if you so desire.  I live in a hot climate so I left mine unlined as I will have linen undergarments with it always

  1. Finish the armhole and neckline with bais tape (or twill tape, or whatever you want really). I did this step by hand, which really paid off in the final product.
  2. Hem this beast.

Here are some pictures of the finished product.  The skirt is MORE than one full circle of fabric and super twirly, even with a flat-finished hem.

LEFT: an early photo I took in full kit, skirt only before trimming and hemming.  RIGHT: spin test on the balcony!

A WIP shot of the trim on the arm and neck holes.  The cotton bias tape was coffee-dyed from a bleached white into a soft ivory.

My panels overall were much wider than the period examples (intentionally), and I like the resulting pastoral aesthetic.  It’s a little lumpy where my pleated linen shirt is tucked into my hose…sorry about that!  The black herringbone stitch on the edging ties in the black leather lace.  I never would have used stark black in my earlier-period inspired kit, but I think it’s rather sharp in these later garments.  I’d like to add a lace-on (and off) front panel at some point, but I think the puffy front is also cute.  It reminds me of a fat songbird.

A full-length view from the front.  The hem falls at a flattering length, and the vertical stripes are super cute (even with a white shirt)!  The right is the view under my armor (before hem trimming and adding the bodice), and I REALLY love this look.

I hope this post inspired you to consider late-period looks; they are great for historic (obviously) and fantasy kits too!

See you next time!


About the author: Fyaren Windseed Applereach