Extant Italian Shifts (Camicie)

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Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

c1575 - 1600

"Woman's linen smock embroidered in purple silk and silver-gilt thread.

One of the acorn/pomegranate motifs on the sleeves. The purple silk is very flossy and the silver-gilt thread used for the outlines is very fine."

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For more information, more detail shots, and a pattern for this shirt, see:
Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion 4. Macmillan, London, 2008.
Buy it at @Amazon.com  or  @Amazon.co.uk

This scan is from Survey of Historic costume: A History of Western Dress. It is conjectured to be Venetian and dated to the late 16th century.

The description reads 

"Woman's chemise from the late 16th century, probably from Venice. The white linen garment is embroidered with lavender floss silk and gold thread."

The lines of embroidery decorate the seams. This is very similar to the lines of embroidery in the Vecellio woodcut.

Much as I would love to happily concur with the Met Museum's attribution of this camicia and claim this extant camicia in the name of Venetian enthusiasts everywhere, I disagree with the origin if this camicia being Venice for two reasons: neckline and cuffs. 

As we can see in period portraiture the Venetians loved to show off lots of skin around the neckline. With a couple of notable exceptions, only a very little of the camicia showed from under the dress, and thus camicia necklines had to be very large - much larger than this extant garment demonstrates. The cuffs are likewise not seen in Venetian portraiture. However, there is a possibility that this camicia originated in the provinces of the Veneto, which would make it technically "Venetian", but not from Venice itself. This point is more than a mere technicality, for clothing variations between those garments found in Venice and in those of her provinces are discernible. The possibility also exists that this is a camicia menat to be worn in bed, rather than under clothing.


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2001 - 2010 Anabella Wake (Known in the SCA as Bella Lucia da Verona) I hold copyright on all information on these pages, and on all images of clothing/costume that I have made. You are allowed to make one facsimile copy for your own use provided that this notice is included on each page. Please ask permission to copy, disseminate and/or distribute my work - I would like to know when and how you are finding this information of use.