Florence Files:Portrait of a Florentine Noblewoman,  Remade & Updated
Recreated by La Signora Onorata Katerina da Brescia.

Original inspiration...

Revamped...and worn
Original remake...
The inspiration - an Italian portrait by Agnolo Bronzino, "Portrait of Florentine Noblewoman" circa. 1540. (L).I saw this dress and fell in love with it. My first interpretation can be seen far right (April, 2003)
I again updated this dress in May 2004, for a Royal Feast, adjusting the baragoni (puffy upper sleeve) and corset. (below)
After a few years more experience and research, I am going to again update this dress, using a more period sleeve pattern  SEEN HERE  (Immed R: final dress/ Far R: orgiinal sottana for the Ball).
Left was it's next outing, for a Royal visit. I had finished by boned corset at this time. The changes were needed to make this dress more in keeping with recent research I have done:
  • sew over the metal eyelets with silk thread   (done)
  • add snipped edging on neckline  (done)
  • Add felt edging on inside of  skirt hem.  (done)
  • Add a pintuck to the hem (done)
  • remake sleeves in more period pattern (done)
  • add trim on imbusto and skirt hem.  (done)
Luckily, I had some of the material leftover from the original dress. More info on FLORENTINE TAILORING.

The Short Version of the Remake:
Hem and neckline:
I made a strip from wool felt and covered it with a bias strip of leftover material. This was attached to the hem on the inside.  A pintuck was also added (this required undoing the entire hem and remeasuring, pinning and handsewing on the stiffening strip and edging (2nd photo). The neckline was undone and trim added. This was stabstitched in place, then clipped (3rd photo). Ties were also made from leftover material (far right).

Decoration (and latest inspiration):

I have managed to find two portraits that show trim on patterned material (which is very, very simliar in pattern to the original portrait used above!) Left: Michele Tosini's Portrait of a Lady, half-length, in a green silk dress with gold trim, holding a glove.  1560s?. from Christie's Auction house.  

Above Right: Florentine school 1570 'Ritratti di Dama" f rom  Abbigliamento e Costume Nella Pittura Italiana - Rinascimento. (thanks to Kathy for supplying me with this one).

I was lucky to have these, as most portraits show sottana made of plain material, even though there is written documentation that patterned materials were used. (La Moda and Medici Archives). Both also show contrasting coloured trim with gold detailing.

Sleeves: For this remake, I am using this pattern (left) based on the Red Pisa Dress discussions found in L'Abito della Granduchessa. Sleeve options can be found on the right: Firstly, the actual dress sleeve can be seen on the right.   Middle right is a Bronzino portrait of  Maria d'Medici, 1551.

  (This is my favourite).
Far right is another  Bronzino portrait, A Girl with a Book. I like the slashing and diagonal trim on this one too.

As this year, I am attempting to use 'stash materials' for most of my projects, I have trolled though my cupboards and boxes and found the trim below. Though not strictly accurate, it has a similar appearance to the portraits  by Bronzino (1: Eleanora, 1560, 2: Maria, 1551).
Both of these show the non-sinewave pattern... a bit of a stretch but at least in the right direction.

Above Far right is the new sleeve for this sottana, with slashes. The trim was all handsewn on. I opted for a very simple roll to the top of the sleeve.

The total look is best completed by the use of a 'boned' coset. There is evidence to suggest that Florentine women did use hard stiffened corsets after 1560's. As this sottana is a later version, I will be using my existing corset until I have a reed one made. This is also an 'easier option' than totally remaking the bodice with stiffened layers, as suggested by recent research. Slack, but it will achieve the desired look wthout totally remaking the entire imbusto with layers of felt and canvas.

Here are pics of the remade dress... I am still not happy with the waistline though.

I wanted the 'netting' look. I did cheat on this one, as I had some 'netted' silver material. I made up a new partlet pattern and this is the first trial. I am not totally happy with it, as it is a little large. I will have to remake it smaller. so it does not slide around so much.
Necklaces and girdle.
As this is a later dress, I will be using a 'jewelled look' to the girdle and necklace. I had alredy made a girdle. At the time, I had bought extra findings - just in case. I used these to make a mathcing necklace.  
(Necklace is still  in the making......)


  • Arnold, Janet. Patterns of fashion (1560-1620) Macmillan, 1985.
  • Alcega, Juan.The Tailor's Pattern Book, 1589 Facimile, Ruth Bean, Carlton, Bedford, 1979.
  • Bestetti, Carlo. Abbigliamento e Costume Nella Pittura Italiana - Rinascimento. Edizioni d'Arte. Roma. (sourced by Kathy Page - thanks)
  • L'Abito della Granduchessa; Vesti di corte di Madonne nel Palazzo Reale di Pisa. Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Reale, Pisa. 
  • Mikhaila, Ninya & Malcolm-Davies, Jane. The Tudor Tailor. BT Batsford.London. 2006. ISBN:0 7134 8985 5
  • Orsi Landini, Roberta & Niccoli, Bruna. La Moda a Fioenze 1540-1580. Pagliai Polistampa, Firenze, 2005. ISBN: 88-8304-867-9


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(c). K.Carlisle, 2009.