Extant Italian Drawers
(Brache or Calze)
Museo del Tessuto, Prato
of the Sixteenth Century - 1630
a while back I was intrigued by a quote in Carol Tucker's
(or Undressed) for Success" by Margaret
Rosenthal, Associate Professor of Italian at the
University of Southern California and author of The Honest
Courtesan, and now co-author and translator of
Clothing of the Renaissance World. The quote mentions "how courtesans wore
male-style clothing as undergarments - such as linen knickers,
embroidered with phrases such as "I want the heart."
At the time of reading the article it was unclear where these
drawers were located, if they in fact existed, or were
merely mentioned or depicted in a contemporary text or costume
later found a wonderful exhibition catalogue/book on the Venetian fashion industry via
my university library which shows the very same
drawers mentioned by Rosenthal. After much searching and
saving I found and bought myself a copy! Later still
the same pair of drawers appeared in Moda a Firenze,
and now they feature in the latest book in the Patterns
of Fashion series by Janet Arnold.
images of the complete drawers and one close up are
presented for you below. The embroidery design and
charted pattern is given at the bottom of the page,
with thanks to Claudette Pomroy.
breeches embroidered with the words 'voclio*
il core' (I want his**
heart) in double running stitch in blue linen thread,
here is incorrect - it is actually 'voglio'
**I believe the phrase
more correctly translates to 'I want the heart,
leg is bound with a blue ribbon (probably linen) and the
opening is on the inside leg."
more information, more detail shots, and a pattern for this
Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion 4. Macmillan, London, 2008.
it at @Amazon.com
della Moda a Venezia dal XIII al XVIII Secolo (The Crafts
of the Venetian Fashion Industry from the Thirteenth to the
della Moda a Venezia,
drawers are described in fairly good detail, but in Italian. I
have attempted to translate the description - my apologies if
it is unclear, or if I have mistranslated (if you have the
book and know I've made a mistake please do let me
In the following translation the original Italian
phrase or word is included in bold italicised
text where the meaning in unknown, or if the word was
not listed in my Italian/English dictionary, with my
guess at the meaning in [square brackets]. Other
non-bold italicised indicates the title of a book or
other work. )
Italian (Venetian?), second half of the sixteenth century.
Dimensions: waist 78cm; length 62cm; h.
[width of fabric?] linen cloth 75cm; lining= coarse thin
linen; ribbon 118cm.
of natural coloured linen
embroidered in blue thread in writing stitch in a motif of
branches with acorns forming lozenge shapes which hold in their centres
double-headed and crowned eagles connected horizontally with
words creating the impresa "I WANT/THE HEART".
the sixteenth century the spread of the use of the faldiglia
("verdugato") [farthingale] to widen the dress staccoto
[away from?] the body initiates the use of drawers of
linen and silk. The "man-style breeches" (Cesare
Vecellio, Degli Habiti antichi et moderni....,Venice,
1590) are worn instead by harlots and courtesans most brazenly
underneath the dress.
the collection Diversarum Nationum Habitus (Padua,
1589) by Pietro Bertelli, the figure of the Venetian courtesan
has a skirt which she raises to show the breeches and "chiapin"
[chopines - zoccoli] with high heels..."
the above was first published I received information from
someone who had attended the exhibition in 1988 to the effect
that the plaque describing this pair of drawers stated that
they were "found in a chest in an attic in the early 20th
century in Venice" and are thought to be a "wedding
a Firenze 1540 - 1580, Roberta Orsi Landini and Bruna
Niccoli, Edizioni Polistampa, Florence, 2005:
drawers, second half of the sixteenth century...
which were useful for keeping warm or going riding - these
are made of linen with silk embroidery and the legend 'voglio
il core' (I want the heart) - were generally used by
prostitutes who loved to adopt garments derived from the
male wardrobe or from that of Islamic women. While Eleonora possessed
only one pair in red taffeta, fifty years later many pairs
were made up in splendid gold brocade fabrics for Maria de'
Medici, the new Queen of France."
© Claudette Pomroy 2008, used with permission.
© Claudette Pomroy 2008, used with