The Florence Files:Eleanor d' Toledo/ Medici mid 16th C
Recreated by La Senora Onorata Katerina da Brescia.


I love the 'aglets' on the sleeves - they look a lot like pearls!


These three portraits are all by Agnolo Bronzino of Medici women - two of Eleanora who died in 1562 from malaria, aged 40, and the third of her daughter, Maria d'Medici. All three show similar dresses with a wide square neck, straight sleeves with a 'folded' puffy top, held onto the bodies with buttons. Similar dresses can also be seen in Bronzino's Portrait of a girl with a book and the extant Medici dress.

(I thank Mistress Oonagh for this picture). Both can be seen below.

Bronzino's portrait of Eleanor d'Toledo and son.

Bronzino's portrait of Eleanor 1545

Bronzino's portrait of Maria d' Medici 1551


While the portraits show plain materials of both silk? and velvet, the first portrait also showcases the patterned materials that Florence was renowned for. (See Research)

I chose a similar symmetrical pattern. I managed to find this material in Spotlight. I like the mushroom colour (not purple hey?) on a light background:

The girl with a book (L) has the sleeves tied in.
The portraits have partlets: the 2 Eleanor portraits have partlets made of 'cords' tied in a net-like fashion. The other 2 have material partlets. The Girl with a Book has a material partlet with couched cords.

The extant dress (R) does not have one, but as it may not have survived, may not have been placed with the dress, it can be assumed (from the portrait evidence) that it is highly likely that there was some sort of partlet worn with it.

The dress on the right is very similar in style to the extant burial dress of Eleanora that can be found in Patterns of Fashion. It is a dress worn by Eleanora di Toledo 1550-60 from the Museo Nazzionale di Palazzo Reale, Pisa.

The extant burial dress of Eleanor can be found at

This picture also confirms the pattern I intend on using. There are also drawings of this dress in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion. (below right).

Below are pictures of the bodice and skirt in progress.

I have now made the shoulder seam towards the back. This is indicated in the patterns in both Patterns of Fashion and the extant picture of Eleanora's dress. The skirt was attatched with knife pleats.
Details on how I made the toile and pattern for this dress can be found HERE.

I hand sewed the eyelets and staggered them to allow for lacing one cord tied at one end. This was shown again in both the extant picture and Janet Arnold.
front and back..

The lining was blind-stitched to the bodice. This has been indicated in extant available clothes, some of which are in Patterns of Fashion and Marc Carlson's website.

Now onto the sleeves.
For my RESEARCH on Italian Sleeves, CLICK HERE

My sleeves are based on the '4 panel sleeve' seen in the extant dress (far right), Eleanor and her Son ( middle R). The sleeve is snug fitting, made from panels which are decorated. This is consistent with a Florentine sumptuary law of 1439, limited trim and embroidery to only be on the sleeves of an outfit. This caused a fashion of the sleeves being the most decorated part of the outfit. (Dressing Renaissance Florence and Renaissance Clothing and the materials of Memory).
The sleeves are attatched with buttons (looks like approx. 5 each arm). The all important decoration for 'closure' of the sleeve was not as easy, well it was sort of. Something was needed to hold the sleeve together. Buttons were the obvious. To do this I would need up to 56 buttons (+ the 10 for the armhole attatchment). Hmmm... this could get

expensive. Ah, but wait! There was the third picture. I must admit, I really like aglets. ( I have an article on agelts in Cockatrice -Lochac's A&S Magazine) Costing ready-made aglets was not simple. But what if I made my own. The far right portrait (above) shows aglets of pearls. Now I would loove to use real pearls but there are 2 problems here. 1. I don't have that many and 2. cost would be a little prohibitive at this stage. (I needed over 500 individual pearls). Making my own aglets also meant that, if I lost one, I could make another. I am sure most of you know what a hassle it is to find extra matching buttons when one is lost!

First, the Pattern:

I drafted up a sleeve pattern and then sectioned it into 4 parts. (L) The panes were made longer than normal sleeve length, as I wanted to do the neat little folding thing at the top that gives the puff.

The seam was folded over, ironed and the same to the linen lining. This was blindstitched to the sleeve material. (R and far R).

The pearl aglets will be used to catch the panes together in 8 spots for each 'slit'. Making the aglets took approx 7 hours (with a little help from my dear hubby Dafydd.) Total cost: approx: Aus $20 (Buttons could have been $50 - $100+).


1. threading the beads on.
2.twisting so they don't slip
3. the finished aglet
4. all finished! (8x4 double aglets) per sleeve = 64 all up!

What you need:
-brass 28 guage beading wire, lots of beads (I used 8 per aglet couple), pliers (don't use your teeth to pull the wire taught!) I used an awl to wind the wire around for the sewing ring.
As I used faux pearls, I will have to make sure I hand wash the sleeves.

Below Left shows the finished right sleeve pinned into place.
I decided to use buttons to atttatch the sleeves. (above)
The top of the sleeve is folded over to give the 'puffs' as seen in Eleanora and her son (right and below)


Left, finally finished...

I was up hand-sewing on the linen lining for the sleeves and the aglets, with silk thread.

The button loops are hand-knitted cords.

As I was running rapidly out of time, I adapted an existing cawle. Later I will make another...
I sewed on faux pearls and garnets (that were a gift) along the band and faux pearls on some of the netting.

I will have to finish a netting partlet at another time; for now I have used a simple material one.

The dress itself, though is now finished!

and an updated photo from a recent CGA party, with the new girdle.

*What I have learned:


Humfrey, Peter Painting in Renaissance Venice, Yale University,. Hong Kong 1995 ISBN: 0-300-06247-8

Frick, Carole Collier. Dressing Renaissance Florence.: Families Fortunes & Clothing. John Hopkins University Press. Baltimore. 2002. ISBN: 0-8018-6939-0

Jones, Ann Rosalind & Stallybrass, Peter. Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory. Cambridge University Press. 2003. ISBN: 0-521-78663-0

Marc Carlson - Stitches used in Medieval Clothing:

Arnold, Janet, Patterns of Fashion. Macmillan, 1985. London. ISBN: 0-333-38284-6

Vecellio, Cesare, Vecellio's Renaissance Costume Book, Dover Publications,NY, 1977. ISBN: 0-486-23441-X

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