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
I love the 'aglets' on the sleeves - they look a lot like
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
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
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,
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.
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.
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
As I used faux pearls, I will have to make sure I hand wash
Below Left shows the finished right sleeve pinned into
I decided to use buttons to atttatch the sleeves.
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
- I am happy with the fit of the back of this dress and the
amount of fullness.
- I will continue to use the handsewn eyelets.
underskirt gives more fullness
(above L) and a better silhouette than then original (upper R).
- The belt is looking better here (with a dip but I still have
to work on how to get this to sit better).
- I will have to make a tasselled girdle. This is more in
keeping with this timeline. (as seen in the Eleanora portrait at
- Next time I make one of these dresses, I will put the pleating
further forward. This will give a better line to the front of the
dress, which does not sit quite right, I feel.
- I must, I must make the proper partlet for this outfit!
- This is now one of my preferred style of Florentine.
- 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:
- Marc Carlson - Stitches used in Medieval Clothing:
- Arnold, Janet, Patterns of Fashion. Macmillan, 1985. London. ISBN:
- Vecellio, Cesare, Vecellio's Renaissance Costume Book, Dover
Publications,NY, 1977. ISBN: 0-486-23441-X
- goldsword dot com
- Web Gallery of Art: http://www.wga.hu/index.html