Friday, August 5, 2011

The Ensemble - the best laid plans of mice and (wo)men

Artemisian Costuming Challenge - Two Outfits
The First Outfit: Women's Clothing of the 1490's

The lady's clothing of this era began with her unmentionables.  Corsets were generally not worn during this time period, and the silhouette was achieved through boning in the dress.  A fine or rich lady would wear Brache or Calze.  Brache appear in inventory lists of the mid 16th century.  "The drawers listed were made from elaborately gold-worked green velvet, and one is listed as being made from crimson silk taffeta."  (Landini 2004: 133).  Several of the extant brache have lace and embroidery embellishments.  Silk and gilt were consistently used to decorate the extant brache. The brache pictured are from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.  It stands to reason a noble lady would wear drawers appropriate to her wealth and station.
 The camasia or camacia was worn over the corset and was made of as fine a linen as the lady could afford.  Bleached linen was worn by the upper class; it was considered a sign of a virtuous wife if she wore a crisp white camasia.  A woman's camisia was "made full length, to the floor. Sleeves were generally long, some were cut in raglan style" (Tortora 162). Embroidery was frequently done at the neckline and the wrist as a show of wealth and station.  Black and red were the most common colors used when embroidering the camasia, but other colors, including gold, were used.  (Landini 2005: 125).  The camasia pictured is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A lady would also wear an underskirt with a stiffened hem to help provide the desired silhouette. The hem was often decorated with embroidery and a clipped (sometimes piped) edge.  The underskirt was frequently shown off by lifting or draping up the skirt of the dress.  This website,, has instructions that I'm going to try to follow for my petticoat.  I have some felted wool – it's beautiful except for the webbed backing glued onto it, so it's inappropriate for any place where it'll show, some black duck canvas and some lilac colored linen to make the skirt out of.
The lady would also wear knee-high stockings with a decorative garter below the knee.  I will probably use stockings I already own.  I plan to make new garters that are more delicate and feminine than a length of my husband's tablet-woven trim tied around my calf. 

Over the camasia is the gamurra which could also be called the camora, sottana, cotta, gamurrino, camora, zimarra, camurra, zottana, gonella or zupa.  The gamurra is the everyday dress of a lady, and she would wear it around her home.  The bodice of the gamurra is a tight-fitting, wrinkle free garment usually laced under the arms, but could be laced up the front. Typically, these bodices closed with a simple spiral lace cord known in period text as accordellata (Thompson). The skirt could be attached to the bodice with knife pleats, box pleats, or gathers, however, they do not seem to use cartridge pleats until after this period. The sleeves of the dress were laced onto the bodice with many ribbons that could either be displayed or hidden on or within the sleeve respectively. The camisia would be pulled thru the spaces left by the lacing and form attractive puffs, one of the reasons why the camisia sleeves were so much longer. The material of the sleeve could match the dress, or, more commonly, the sleeve would be of a contrasting color. There is very little difference between the gamurra and cotta, except that the cotta was generally a lighter, summer garment, made from silk or lightweight wool. Women would wear the gamurra with nothing over it only in the privacy of their homes. This composite of the frescoes of Domenico Ghirlandaio shows the styles of 1482-1490.
The layer worn for outerwear could be a giornea, mantello or cioppa.  The mantello is a length of cloth, like a cape, that could be worn over the hair, and was made from rich fabrics.  The giornea was a tabard-like garment without arms.  It usually had open sides and an opening down the front to display the fabulous gamurra.  Giornee were usually of very rich fabrics, such as ornate brocades and velvets.  The cioppa was a dress worn over the gamurra.  They are very similar in style to a houppelande and had very full skirts and often had slashed sleeves. 

The picture shows some of the materials I plan to use with this outfit.  The giornea will be made from chenille, and the gamurra from the pale gold silk.

The lady would adorn herself with simple jewelry: a string of coral or pearls at her neck, rings and possibly earrings.  She might wear a girdle belt or a prayer book.  Jewelry was limited by Florentine Sumptuary Laws, so it tended to be more simplistic. Her hair could be taped with bende, which were lengths of white linen or silk fabric intertwined into her hair.  She might also have strings of pearls, called frenello, woven into her braided coiffure.  I am playing with the idea of headgear like Bianca Sforza, with the lenza (black band across the forehead, sometimes decorated with fermaglio also called brochetta di testa (hair brooches)), trinzale (metallic cap) and coazzone (hair tube.)  This brochette is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and is from the 15th Century.

Second: Women's Clothing of the 1560's
The second outfit will be based off of the late period doublet-gowns, called veste, worn by the de Medici family, immortalized by artists such as Lavinia Fontana, Sofonisba Anguissola and Allesandro Allori. The inspiration portrait (red and gold) is of a style similar to each of these artists.  Bella, from Realm of Venus, states:
"The colour image is from La Couturière Parisienne Costume and Fashion Site , according to which this is a portrait of an Unknown Lady by a follower of Tiziano (Vecellio). However, the identical (monochrome) image is also located at the Bildarchiv zur Kunst und Architektur in Deutschland, where it is listed as a portrait of Eleanora de Toledo by the school of Bronzino. Whatever the case, it is almost certainly a Florentine overgown. The style is very similar to others in portraits by Bronzino."
The veste, which is the doublet-like outer layer, will be made from a printed green corduroy that will be embroidered and pearled. The skirt will be made from coordinating solid corduroy. The skirt will be lined in coordinating green cotton, and the veste will be lined in silk or linen.   The baragoni, also called brodoni, are the large decorative puffs on the upper part of the sleeve.  The veste was especially fashionable in Florence, where the de Medici family was highly influential.
I am replacing the ruffled collar with an embroidered "de Medici" colletto,  also referred to as a gorgiero or coverciere, such as in the Allori portrait of Maria de Medici (blue dress).  
The main garment layer in Italian clothing is the cotta. My cotta will be made from a butter-gold silk dupioni. The sleeves will be white silk with gold bands grosgrain, and covered in silk gauze floating sleeves (as shown in both portraits) with pearl rosettes to tack it in place.
 For accessories, I hope to make a pair of pianelle, which are slipper-like footwear without heels, or a pair of scapini which are flat shoes.   
I will make a new girdle belt, a new strand of pearl beads, and drop earrings. 
I plan to make a saccoccia, which is a pocket-like teardrop or oval shaped purse that is tied to the waist, a belt or to the stays.  The saccoccia will be embroidered on the front.  If I can figure out how to do it, I might incorporate leather tooling in heraldic design on the saccoccia.  The saccoccia here is Spanish, and from Museo den Traje, Spain.
I plan to make a pair of embroidered leather gloves because I have always wanted a fancy pair of my own.  My preferred leather is kid skin or alum-tanned doe suede.  I will be happy with a period-correct leather that is affordable to my budget.  I might save this project for another time, as Italian gauntlets did not have the fancy embroidery that English gauntlets did (and I want bling!).
 Time permitting, I want to make a copricalla and a black velvet bonnet.  The copricalla would be made from this opulent brown velvet I received in trade for some silk.  I could repeat the pearl-and-cabochon from my cinture on the hat band, add a fabulous pearl or amber pin, and a few feathers for fun.
 It would tickle me pink if I had time to make a customized prayer book, filled with my favorite phrases from da Vinci, Petrarch, Machiavelli and other brilliant Italians. 
Garments & Accessories:
Drawers: linen or velvet
Camasia: linen with black silk & possibly pulled thread
Sottana/Cotta: gold silk lined in linen/cotton blend
Gamurra: Chenille brocade
Veste: Green corduroy lined in silk or linen, embellished with gold thread and pearls
Skirt: Green corduroy lined in cotton
Baragoni: Green corduroy and silk with gold thread and pearls
Colletto: linen
Doppia: the underskirt; felted wool, canvas and
Time and funds permitting:
Calze: Stockings, from linen with embroidery
Saccoccia: Leather and linen, possibly tooled leather
Gloves: Leather and silk
Scapini or Pianelle: Leather and Velvet
Bonnet: Velvet
Copricalla: brown velvet
Cinture, trinzale & brochetta di testa: jewelry, primarily gold, acrylic cabochons and pearls
Coazzone: silk
Accordellata: lucet
Trinzale: gold thread with pearls
Ventuolo: Fan of silk & wood, might make a feather fan instead
Prayer Book with illumination and calligraphy, possibly bound

Arnold, Janet (1985), "Patterns of Fashion 1560-1620", MacMillan, London
Arnold, Janet (2008), "Patterns of Fashion: Shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories 1540-1660", MacMillan
Campbell, Lorne (1990), "Renaissance Portraits", Yale University Press, New Haven & London
Cox-Rearick, Janet (1993), "Bronzino's Chapel of Eleonora in the Palazzo Vecchio", University of California Press, Berkeley
dal Poggetto, Paolo (editor) (2004), "I della Rovere, Piero della Francesco, Raffaello, TIziano", Electa publishing
Eisenbichler, Konrad (red) (2004), "The Cultural World of Eleonora di Toledo, Ducess of Florence and Siena", Ashgate
Köhler, Carl (1963), "A History of Costume", Dover Publications
Landini, Roberta Orsi and Bruna Niccoli (2004), "Moda a Firenze, Lo stile di Eleonora di Toledo e sua influenza", Pagliai Polistampa, Florence
Monnas, Lisa (2008), "Merchants, Princes and Painters"
Pope-Hennessy, John (1985), "Cellini", Abbeville Press
Steele, Valerie (2001), "The Corset. A cultural history", Yale University Press, New Haven & London
Welch, Evelyn (2005), "Shopping in the Renaissance, Consumer Cultures in Italy 1400-1600"

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About Me

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I began playing SCA in 1999. I had this idea to become a Late Period Costuming Laurel from Day One. On the way, I developed a deeper love for all things Italian, specifically the clothing. If you have questions, ask me. If you have comments, share them. If you have suggestions, tell me.