Recreated by La Signora Onorata Katerina da Brescia.
For earlier in the 16th C, my personal preference is for a
stiff lining of canvas (especially when in a shorter, high waisted
bodice). I have been looking into breast taping more recently and
plan on this for a 1525 outfit.
I have been looking at this portrait for some time. I
fell in love particularly with the partlet. Having made the
partlet, now I need the full outfit, though a little later
than my usual preference.
So to start its construction, I begin with it's
deconstruction, starting from the inside out: For
a look at contemporary materials, look at my research on
To corset or not to corset? (see
my underbodies diary)
Though corsets were in common use in (Tudor) England, they
were not as common in Italy at this time. Allori's portrait
does not, however, show the classic straight, rigid front
that is typical of a stiff corset (seen in Tudor and
Venetian fashions or indeed in the Bronzino's portrait of
Eleanor d' Toledo and her son). The silhouette was
slightly rounded silhouette, more consistant with the first
half of the 16th century Florence.
So where does this take us?
Methods that could give a similar silhouette are:
Portrait of Maria di Cosimo 1555-57 by Alessandro Allori.
- reed corset
- corded corset. (conjectured)
Corded corset? This is one theory. While there is an extant example
of a reeded corset, there is no extant evidence, as yet, for corded
corsets - but they do give a nice silhouette similar to that above.
For more information on this, try
If we look at Eleanora d'Toledo's burial clothing (Patterns of
Fashion), there is velvet (under) bodice. It is surmised that
this may have served as a form of 'corset'. There are no channels for
reeding or boning. It was possibly originally lined with linen and
most likely had an attatched skirt. Based on this, and as I am
intending on making an underdress (sottana) for this outfit (more on
this later), I will try a stiff canvas lining, first.
If this does not work, then I fear I will have to make a corset of
reeds. (speaks one who has made the 'corset from hell') If so, I will
make a small 'shift' to wear underneath as in
see also Florentine Underthings
Most obvious is the camicia. I currently have a hand-sewn linen camicia
and plan to make more. For now, I will replace the needle
lace and replace it with some lace I managed to find at
Festival. It is made of cotton and is a very good
machine-made approximation of bobbin lace. I bought two
types - a small simple lace for the neck and cuffs, and
another triangular one for the hem. (right).
I finished hand-sewing the lace to the camicia which
looks very similar to the portrait!
All conjecture on my part, as we cannot see them! Eleanor
d'Toledo (Maria's mother) had red, knitted
ones. I cannot knit and cannot afford silk, at the moment, so I
must content myself with red linen (allergy
to wool) stockings I have already made. I do however, intend to
remake my stocking pattern (when I get more time) to give a
triangular pattern at the ankle clocks - this being more like the
material stockings in Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd and
Eleanor's red stockings.
This is worn over the camicia and under the sottana. See my diary for details.
Though evidence we have is mainly from Venice, I so want to make some
linen drawers to go with this and other outfits.
From the portrait, it is obvious that there is an 'underdress' and
'overdress' to this outfit. I will be making a sottana with sleeves to
represent the underdress. I am hoping that stiffening it will give
the appropriate silhouette. This must have a low neckline or it would
show at the neckline under the blue dress (see above right) where the
camicia is visible under the partlet. This will be mainly based on
patterns from Alcega and Patterns of Fashion.
can be found here.
The problem is, when in a hurry, is that things get forgotten. I was
doing good time, with the sottana, feeling fairly happy with myself
and I had foiund some gold buttons (1/4 Florins) for the sleeves, in
my stash. Finally, I had finished the hand-sewn eyelets, thinking
'hey, these were easier than I remember!' It was then I realised that
I had forgotten to line the sottana body with canvas - argh!
After a few minutes of cursing myself, realising that "no" I could
not pull it all apart and restart...
So this brings me back to my original plan (which was abandoned
due to lack of time) of doign a set of 'underbodies' similar to that
of Elenaor Toledo (Maria's mum) found in Janet Arnold's Patterns
I favour the one-piece over dress rather than a two piece.
Other examples of a one piece overdress can be found. I will be using
a doublet pattern, from Alcega and attatching a skirt. I will need to
make a toile, as I have not got an up-to-date
The Final Outfit!
- pearl drop earrings, on a hoop
- partlet - embroidered and pearls
- simple necklace of round pearls
- jewelry chain with gems in setting and pearls
- girdle belt to match the chain
- hair jewelry of gems in setting, pearls
- Ah! gloves. These are typical of Italian gloves with a small
cuff which is a white(?) contrasting colour, trimmed to look like
tabs. These gloves applear to have outside stitching, possibly of
a lighter contrasting colour.
- ring on left 'ring finger'.
This is the final outfit as worn to the Lochac Midwinter
Coronation held in Innilgard in July, 2005. (I was sewing the hem all
day on Thursday. The event was Saturday). I could not afford the
neckchain, as I spent waayyy too much on the girdle as it was. At
least all of the material for the dress was out of my stash (with
most of it on sale yet!). The only other thing is that I am
definately not the same size as Maria, being oh, at least a few dress
What I have learned from this project
(or what I like:)
- I am happy with the way the back fits.
- making the pleats start more forward on the waist fits and
looks better than on the underdress.
(and am not happy with): Lots of things,
- I am not happy with the way the belt sits. This shortens the
bodice, ruins the line and ahem... makes me look even bigger. I
have decided, whilst I love this dress, this is probably not the
best garb for my body type.
- The collar: I have not made this high necked style before and,
not being a professional but mostly self taught seamstress, I had
no idea how to make the collar sit right. I am not happy with the
way it sits.
- I think the front needs to be lower, to show the camicia.
Scanned pictures of Maria d' Medici's portrait were
supplied to me by Mistress Oonagh O'Neill
- Ricci, Elisa. Old Italian Lace Volume 1. William Heinemann,
London. 1913 available on line:
- Kovesi Killerby, Catherine, Sumptuary Law in Italy 1200-1500,
Oxford University Press. NY. 2002. ISBN:0-19-924793-5
- Piponnier, Francoise & Mane, Perrine Dress in the Middle
Ages, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1997. ISBN: 0-300-08691-1
- Crowfoot E, Pritchard F & Staniland K, Textiles and
Clothing 1150-1450, Boydell Press, Woodridge, 2001 (ed) ISBN:
- Arnold, Janet Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, Maney,
Leeds, 1988, ISBN:0-901286-20-6
- Arnold, Janet Patterns of Fashion, MacMillan, London, 1985.
- 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
- Oonagh's Own: http://oonagh.actewagl.net.au/
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