Florence Files:  Imbusto Lacing Positions
Recreating 16th Century Florentine and Tuscan  Clothing and Lifestyle

Florence Files

A question pondered by La Signora Onorata Katerina da Brescia.

The question behind this one was "where does the lacing go"? So I went looking... (some pics are lightened to see details more clearly).

Early 1500's example.

In the early 16thC at least, the Florentine mindset was "if you have front lacing, you are of a non-upper class, as you cannot afford a wet-nurse and have to breast feed yourself" (La Moda a Firenze). This can be seen in Sarto's The Birth of the Virgin, 1513.. The far left detail is of an upper class woman. the second detail is of a servant, possibly the we-nurse? (pinned at front??)
But where is the lacing? Is it in the side back, or on the side as in the late 1400's (below left) in Ghirlando's Birth of st John, 1486-90? (spiral laced).

1530's -40's

The An unknown lady attrib. to  Angnolo Bronzino, c.1530-32  (left) has a possibly sewn in sleeve, so where are the lacings? If the sleeve is inset, then possibly at the back? If the sleeves are only partially sewn in (See below - Is it laced or sewn in?), then the opening could be side or side back. We cannot see from this pic where it is.

Looking at the Bronzino portrait of A woman and a boy, 1545-46 (below left), there is no side lacing visible. However... I have a query side lacing for Bronzino's Bia, Illitimate daughter of Cosimo I, 1542. (far right)
It is difficult to tell if this is spiral laced.


Giorgio Vasari and Giovanni Stradano's 'The arrival of Leo X in Florence', 1559-60 (left) seen in the Palazzo Vecchio, shows many 'backs' of outfits in the painting. This is great for researchers, as we can see the side lacings on at least four women, two of which can be seen on the left. (spiral laced)
Right: Zucci,  Portrait of Woman, 1560-65 (below), found in the Fridsam collection, in New York Metropolitan Museum gives a rare glimpse of the side, with the arm away from the body. There is no visible front or side lacings. This would suggest back or (more likely), side back lacing

Above: Extant items, such as Eleanora d'Toledo's burial dress (c.1562) shows side back lacing also. (spiral laced). 

Is it sewn in or laced in?

OK, these are not a Florentine paintings...
Far left  is by Palma Vecchio (Virgin and child with saints in a landscape, 1518)  and left is Jacopo Bassano's Way to Calvary (1550-1). Why then?
Logically the positioning of the lacing can be determined by the sleeve attatchment. These two paintings appear to show sleeves only attatched at the top. This could be laced or permanently sewn in....do you think they look like they are permanently sewn in????
well, that is the question. I continue to research into this.

Confused? So where does this leave us?
I keep looking for more portraits that may give us a glimpse of where the lacings are and to give us more of a hint of how some sleeves are attatched. If only there were more paintings like Breugel and Campi that showed us the middle classes and their activities! That would make life so much easier!
Most of the pictures seem to show spiral lacing. A good practicle page on how to spiral lace can be found at: The Zen of spiral lacing.
For most of the early to mid 16thC, Florence it is probably safe if you use side or side back lacings. If you want to be lower or middle class, then front lacings are appropriate.


  • Arnold, Janet Patterns of Fashion, MacMillan, London, 1985. ISBN: 0-333-38284-6 
  • Humphrey, Peter. Painting in Renaissance Venice, Yale University, 1995. ISBN: 0-300-06247-8
  • Orsi Landini, Roberta & Niccoli, Bruna. La Moda a Fioenze 1540-1580. Pagliai Polistampa, Firenze, 2005. ISBN: 88-8304-867-9
  • Festive Attyre: Gallery. homepage.mac.com/festive_attyre
  • L'Abito della Granduchessa; Vesti di corte di Madonne nel Palazzo Reale di Pisa. Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Reale, Pisa. 
  • Metopolitan Museum of New York. http://www.metmuseum.org/
  • SFarmer's Gallery: http://epee.goldsword.com/sfarmer/SCA/Paintings/
  • The Zen of spiral lacing http://www.festiveattyre.com/research/lacing/lacing.html
  • Web Gallery of Art: http://www.kfki.hu/~arthp/html/

© K Carlisle. , 2007-2008

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