The Realm of Venus Presents...

he talian howcase


Sunny Buchler

(Constanza de Mendoza)

Cleveland, Ohio, USA
(Kingdom of the Middle, Barony of the Cleftlands)

Costumer and SCA participant

A Florentine Outfit in the Style of 1515


Sunny Says....


 My name is Sunny Buchler, and I’ve been playing dress-up all my life; I started doing historical costumes in the SCA 15 years ago and the addiction has only grown since then! My undergraduate degree is in costume design and I have designed many plays; I did some graduate work at the Motley School of Design in London, but right now costuming is a hobby rather then a profession.


I am completely enamored of Jen Thompson’s 1515 Florentine  and she made it incredibly easy to crib from her work by posting a gallery of Florentine images that she found, her analysis of the style and construction shown in those pictures and her dress diary recording how she recreated it. So I thought it would be a “quick and easy” project to do, since I could skip the research intensive step, and I wanted to try hemp cording for myself to see how it works with my figure. (Famous last words, those…it took me off-and-on 6 years to finish this project!)

The Florentine pictures that most caught my fancy were:

Bacchiacca: The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist (detail), 1520

Andrea del Sarto: Birth of the Virgin (detail) 1513

(Both images from

 Plus there was this fantastic brick red wool flannel and goldenrod yellow flannel that was in the “remnants” section at my local fabric shop (Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley, CA). There was only 4 yards of the red available, but it was 50-something inches wide, and it was just screaming my name!


Once I committed to the project (i.e. bought the fabric) the first thing I did was to make a mock-up of the bodice, using cotton muslin and jute cord because that’s what I had available. Like Jen Thompson, I started by blowing up the bodice pattern for Eleonora de Toledo’s burial dress from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion [below left].

The pattern I ended up with doesn’t look a thing like Eleanora’s bodice (the yellow lines were the pattern, I think) [below right].

(Image from )

These changes are do to (1) changing the side-back lacing to be truly side lacing and (2) Based on this bodice Eleanora was a small, and not very curvy woman – I am not small, and have more then a 10” differential between my waist and bust (almost all of which is in the front…)

 Once the fit was worked out in the mock-up I cut the outer layer in my red wool, and 2 inner layers of linen. I sewed the two layers of linen together and put hemp cording in between them – just like Jen Thompson describes in “Everything you ever wanted to know about boning with hemp cord, but were afraid to ask”. I used 1/16” cord, because that’s all I could find at Michaels or JoAnns. 

After the linen layer was all finished, I trimmed the seam allowance and hand sewed the outer fabric onto the inner layer – whip stitching the seam allowance of the outer red fabric to the lining layer. [Left]

I got the idea of connecting the fashion fabric to the lining layer in this way from what Danielle Nunn-Weinberg said about constructing her 1530s Florentine. The little black dots on the inside are the ends of the threads tacking the black velvet guards (ribbons) onto the neckline.

I didn’t put in the hand done eyelets until after I attached the skirt to the bodice, as I carried the eyelets down the skirt like can be seen in these early Florentine dresses:

Domenico Ghirlandaio: Birth of St John the Baptist (detail), 1486-90
(Image from

Cosimo Tura: An Allegorical Figure, 1450s


I spaced the eyelets for spiral lacing following the instructions from Jen Thompson’s article “The Zen of Spiral Lacing”. One of the unexpected benefits of carrying the lacing into the skirt is that the bottom end of my lacing cord does not have to be tied off, the cord doesn’t come loose, and I simply tuck it inside the skirt.



I cut the skirt roughly the way the skirt was cut for Eleonora de Toledo’s burial gown – roughly since what I cut was triangles and rectangles with the top edge flat, and blown up to have approximately the same waist/hem ratio on my figure as it did on Eleonora’s (only approximately, as I didn’t quite have enough fabric to have the same ratio, but I tried).

As a side note – this skirt is absolutely ideal to dance in (especially galliards)! It moves beautifully!


For the guards I used the layout on the yellow dress in Bacchiacca’s The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist [right, bottom] - although the spacing of the guards on the bodice ended up a bit narrower then I’d intended, more like the red dress in the same picture. I used store-bought poly-velvet ribbon for the guards, and hand-stitched them on. Putting on the guards made me realize that the bodice’s neck-corners aren’t as neatly angular as they ought to be, but a little fudging with the guards has mostly rendered that unnoticeable.

My only regret now is that the poly-velvet of the guards attracts lint like nobody’s business; I need a lint brush every time I wear this dress. If I’d gone with the silk velvet ribbons I probably wouldn’t have this problem… but I was feeling broke at the time, and the shade of black of the poly-velvet ribbons looked better with the red wool then the black of the silk ribbons did.


(Chemise, Shift, etc.)

For the camicia I used the pattern Jen Thompson presented,  with the minor alteration that instead of a round neckline I tried for a rectangular neckline (trapezoidal, actually, following the size of the dresses’ neckline, which is wider in front then in the back) so it would reproduce the look in this portrait:

Andrea del Sarto: Portrait of the Artist's Wife, 1513-1514
(Image from )

To get the shape, I mitered the corners of the neckband, which I can’t document in the portraits… but I can’t determine what way the rectangular-ish neckline was achieved, so it’s a guess. Unfortunately I made the shoulder parts of the neckband just a tad too long, so it requires a fair amount of fussing to get the look of the above portrait. I easily can get the camicia showing at either the shoulders or the front/back, but getting all four takes someone helping me.

Front neck band

Sleeve neck band

 As Jen Thompson did, I used smocking to create the tiny pleats in the chemise. At least I think it should be called smocking (but I’m not sure…):

· I ran the smocking threads (using a smocking machine, which made life much faster than doing the dot-and-hand-sew method!)

· I gathered the pleats up, and sewed them directly to the neckband (rather like miniature cartridge pleating)

I didn’t remove the gathering threads – instead I knotted them and left them in place. Nor did I add the decorative smocking stitches which hold the gathers in place and allow you to remove the gathering threads without affecting the gathers. So, I’m not sure if what I did is technically smocking or not. One thing to be aware of, is that the front and back neckband pieces are shorter in length then the sleeve neckband pieces, while the sleeve pieces proper are narrower then the front and back sections of the camicia. This means that the smocking/pleating over the shoulders is noticeably looser then the pleating at the front and back.


I made two pairs of sleeves, a red wool one matching the dress (from the remains left over from cutting the skirt – I managed to be incredibly fabric efficient for this project!) and a gold wool one which contrasts beautifully. Currently I prefer the contrasting look, but there are some images where the sleeves match the dress (see The Mute Woman) although more frequently the sleeves contrast with the dress.

Again, I used the pattern that Jen Thompson suggested. I adjusted it slightly to fit me. 

Raphael: The Mute Woman
(Image from )

I lined both sleeves in plain white linen, because I’m allergic to wool, and wanted the added layer of protection between the wool and me. I wasn’t quite sure how to handle the lining, so I did it differently for the gold sleeves vs. the red sleeves:

For the gold pair I used the modern bag lining technique; sew the lining up separately, sew the fashion-fabric up separately, and join them together at the armhole (sewing right sides to right sides so you can flip them out all pretty) and hand-attach the lining at the wrists. The problem is, that doing this means the lining bags out from the sleeve, which is especially silly looking with the brass rings attached to the lining (for the ribbons to attach though) So I stab stitched along the top edge of the sleeve (which for some reason shows a lot more then I had hoped/wanted) I am not keen on the stab-stitching showing... but it does stabilize the top edge. The elbow still acts a little odd 'cause of the lining bunching separately from the fashion fabric, but I’ve learned to over look this. 

For the red pair I started by sewing the lining and fashion fabric together at the wrist and the armhole (right sides together) flipping it right sides out, and then sewing the back-of-the-arm seam (whip-stitching the seam allowances as my seam finishing). This solved the elbow bunching issue, as the linen and wool now move as one over the elbow, but the lining still pulled away at the top; so I undid the armhole seam and whip-stitched the wool seam allowance over the top of the linen, the same way I did for the bodice. This works fine for the drape issue, but it's rather awkward sewing, with lots of slits and triangle slits cut to make the seam allowance lie flat. 

Yellow sleeves

Red sleeves

Yellow sleeve, interior

Red sleeve, interior

I need to look at more of the Elizabethan sleeves to see how the linings were handled, but I couldn’t find a place where Janet Arnold specifies how it was done… (Although hopefully if I read Patterns of Fashion more closely, it would show up). Possibly I should’ve used eyelets instead of brass rings to thread the lacing cords through, which would have been a different way of solving the issue with the red sleeves.

 Sleeve Points

Initially I tied my sleeves onto the bodice using ribbon, as that seemed to me to be the most common choice in the pictures. Unfortunately the ribbons all frayed badly, and made it very difficult for my friends to lace the ribbons though the eyelets in the chemise or the lacing rings on the sleeve and armholes. Therefore I’ve switched to cords with aglets on the ends, which I bought from Historic Enterprises. There is one picture that seems to show aglets on the end of the lacings:

Cafaggiolo: Plate with Maiolica Artist (detail), 1510
( Image from )


I bought 3 yards of black silk twill from Thai Silks to make a sash from; I made a 12" poste - the width comes from Daria Montferrante (Kamilla van Anderlecht in the SCA)'s research.  

From what Kamilla said in her class at Pennsic a few years ago, the poste would have selvedge edges on both sides, but I had to fake it with only one side having a selvedge edge, given modern fabric widths. 

After I finished the edges I rather messily pleated the ends together as small as I could get them, and attached the ball and tassel decoration. The ball is a thread covered bead (the biggest one I could find at JoAnns), decorated using the covered button technique described here. The tassel I bought at JoAnns, and wrapped yellow thread around it for more decoration.

Bacchiacca: The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist (detail), 1520

Pinturicchio: Scenes from the Odyssey (detail), 1509

Shoes & Socks

My shoe choice varies the most when I wear this outfit, but the shoes I bought to go with it are china flats, because they seem very similar to the shoes shown in the Pinturicchio painting. 

The socks I bought from Historic Enterprises.



I’m wearing a coral necklace that my mother-in-law gave me. Somewhere I read that coral was a prized jewel in the Renaissance, and you see orange/red necklaces in the pictures on the right.

I shouldn’t be wearing the pearl drops, but I forgot to take them off for these pictures… There don’t seem to be pictures of earrings in Florentine portraits from this time.

1513 Andrea del Sarto, Birth of the Virgin (detail)

Bust of an Old Woman

(Images from )


For my hair I decided to copy the hairnet in my inspiration picture. 


The Bacchiacca picture could be a hairnet, or it could be a braid bag; the Florentine pictures don’t show a hairnet from the back, and there are non-Florentine pictures that show both styles in a netted form: [below and right]

Sodoma: Great Cloister (detail), 1505-1508 (from Siena)

Pinturicchio: The Betrothal of Emperor Frederick III and Eleanor of Portugal (detail), 1502 (the artist is from Siena, but the women depicted are from Portugal.)

So, I went for easy and bought my black hairnet from Lacis. The hairnet in the pictures were probably netted rather then crocheted, as I’m told you can’t document crochet this early… but it looked close to me. Unfortunately my longer-then-waist-length hair caused the snood to fall off my head within 10 minutes of wearing it, so I had to add plastic hair combs to it, in order to keep it in place.


Judgement of Solomon (detail), 1500-1520

1505-1508 Sodoma, Great Cloister

Post Project Thoughts


Generally, I'm pleased with this outfit; I really like how the corded bodice works for supporting my D (and in some brands DD) chest. I think cording does a good job of recreating the silhouette, even if it is un-documentable. 

· I think I may have made the skirt slightly too short. But it's a very convenient length... 
· An apron would be a very useful addition (as I keep trying to wipe my hands on my skirt…)
· I’d like to play other hairstyles:
1. An encased braid like the one on the left

2. A braid bag, like the one from Pinturicchio’s The Betrothal of Emperor Frederick III and Eleanor of Portugal [Above]

3. A loosely tied pony tail, like the one on the far left.

· I gained weight since I finished the main dress; the sides are painful to lace completely closed, and the armholes may need to be cut slightly larger in front. The first time I wore the dress, I did end up with a bruised shoulder from how tight I had made the armhole/shoulder strap (in order to hold my bust high). I fixed the bruising problem by letting out the shoulder straps slightly, but I still might need to cut the front of the armhole bigger due to my weight-gain. 



You can contact Sunny at Sunny_buchler (at) sbcglobal (dot) net  and can also visit her at Liverjournal.


Would you like to be Showcased? E-mail me!


(Copyright Information: As author I, Anabella Wake, known in the SCA as Bella Lucia da Verona, hold copyright on all information on these pages. In addition I hold copyright 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.)