Elaine Sears-Dennehy
(Lady Elaina Howys of Morningthorpe)

Massachusetts, USA
(East Kingdom, Barony of Smoking Rocks)


A Florentine Outfit in the Style
 of Pisa, 1530s

(Highlighted/bordered images are click-able for enlarging)

Elaine Says....


Dress Style of the 1530s

"Lucrezia is dressed in the style of the 1530's, with a gown devoid of decorations, characterized by the large puffed sleeves known as baragoni, beneath which emerge sleeves of a contrasting colour with decorative slashes."  (Moda a Firenze 1540-1580 - Lo stile di Eleonora de Toledo e la sua influenza, by Roberta Orsi Landini & Bruna Niccoli , page 30, portrait notation.)

At the beginning of the 16th century there was a move towards simplicity. Bodices were no longer tight down to the hips as in the 1400's. At the turn of the century waist lines started high below the bust. They then extended down to the waist length. and by 1560 were in a conical or elongated shape, but remained tight across the bust throughout this period. Front fastening gowns gave way to side and rear closure. The Italian women's gowns were softer, not showing the stiffness of the Spanish influence which dominated fashion of the time. 

"For the Italian women shoulder-puffs were merely decoration. It was only in the Spanish districts that the covered breast and high neck and large ruffs made any headway." (A History of Costume Carl Kohler Page 281)

Agnolo Bronzino, Lucrezia Panciatrichi, c 1540, Florence, Galeria degli Uffizi

The overall style of the 1530's period is perfectly captured in the portrait of Lucrezia Panciatrichi. This outfit is comprised of the following: camicia (smock, chemise), petticoat (underdress), partlet, and gown. 


Smock, chemise, camicia - depending on which language you use, it all refers to the same item. This is the first layer worn over the skin, and is normally made of vegetable fiber. The smocks were 

"usually trimmed with either drawn thread work, reticella, lace or silk, or silk and gold embroideries."  (Moda... page 124)

The partlet did not conceal the upper hem of the smock, which may be seen in many portraits of the period. There is a fine example of an extant embroidered smock in 'Moda a Firenze...' on page 124. This shows a square necked camicia. There are also numerous portraits of camicie showing gathered round necklines. A 17th century camicie, housed at the Victoria and Albert museum, was examined by Dorothy Burnham, and laid out in her book 'Cut my Cote'. This is a full smock gathered to a square neckline. This extant camicia is the most replicated of Italian camicie

I have made a square neck camicia of light weight, or handkerchief weight, linen. This camicia is not intended to show above the neck line, so it is unadorned. I have designed the petticoat to show behind the gown's neckline. 


To fit the gown properly you must make the petticoat first. The petticoat 

"began life as a garment to be worn underneath another more important one, the gown ... only partially visible at the sleeve, bodice and skirt..." (Moda...page 77)

The petticoat provides support for the gown, but can also be worn alone, with a long sleeve camicia, or with separate decorative sleeves.

My petticoat is made of cream linen. The bodice was cut using a pattern from Reconstructing History. The bodice is lined with fine white linen and interlined using a heavy white cotton broadcloth. In period bodices were lined using felt or stiffened linen, as noted by legendary author Janet Arnold in her book 'Patterns of Fashion, the cut and construction of clothes for men and women c1560-1620'. In this book she describes the construction of many extant garments she had examined. Here she notes on the funeral gown worn by Eleanora di Toledo: 

" The Satin Bodice was originally lined with closely woven fine linen ...Fragment of linen of a more open weave remaining beneath the stitching from the guards show that both front and back were interlined for extra support." (Moda... page104)

Eleanora's funeral dress was an example of a 1560's petticoat, but was typical of petticoats throughout this period. I chose the cotton broadcloth for it tight weave, supportive nature, and cost.

The bodice of the petticoat is side lacing, with hand sewn button holes, 20 per side. It is laced with handmade linen lucet cording. Linen thread is very good to use for lacing material, as linen does not slip during lacing. The skirt is cut using the layout documented, again by Janet Arnold, of the funeral gown of Eleanora di Toledo. The skirt was then pleated and sewn to the bodice. The front inner lining is drawn over the attached skirt and hand stitched down. This leaves a clean interior to the bodice, no seams show. The bodice neck was edged with cream and gold trim, so that it would just "peek" out, around the neckline, from under the over gown. 


Oh, the partlets in 'Moda a Firenze'! Those beautiful pearled nets, pleated veil and sheer linen material partlets, made with or without collars. They spoke of beauty and money. The beautiful partlet shown in the Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatrichi 

"was made of linen with numerous pleats running in different directions which had to be reconstructed and starched after every wash". (Moda... page 120)

Beautiful put not practical for me. I instead used for my inspiration the net partlet worn by Eleanora de Toledo in her 1543 portrait by Agnolo Bronzino. 

To create my partlet I used a sheer 'Illusion' material. To this I sewed a sheer embroidered gold ribbon trim in a grid pattern. At the intersections of the grid I placed an 8mm pearl. The collar and front edge were covered with gold braid. The side and bottom edges were encased with double width bias tape, this was done because ' Illusion' shreds so easily.

The Gown

Moda a Firenze entitled this dress as a Gown. The size of the sleeve top in this Gown would have prevented it from being worn with another over Gown or Zimarra (Coat). I determined an under Petticoat would have supported this gown. The support in the petticoat would provide a smooth look to the bodice.

The aristocrats of Florence had many beautiful textiles to choose from. But 

"the most costly and elaborate were destined to furnishing, to royal gifts, and trousseaux. while for the decoration of the garments embroidery on plain silk fabric was generally preferred." (Moda... page 183)

The fabric in the Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatrichi, is a heavy pinkish red satin, with dark velvet sleeves. This gown is devoid of embroidery. The sleeves tops, or baragoni, are large and gathered.

I constructed this gown using red taffeta. This gives the gown a very silky look. I attended Black Rose Ball (Barony of the Bridge SCA event) in this gown, and loved the swirl and flow while dancing. The bodice was cut to match the petticoat, only slightly larger. I needed to measure and cut very accurately for this. The bodice is lined with red rayon lining fabric, with a inter lining of medium weight red linen. The inter lining linen was first flat lined to the lining fabric, to give the lining more body. I choose a lighter interlining then used in the petticoat to ensure the dress keep a soft look. The petticoat is providing the support for the gown. The size and construction of the sleeves required that they be attached directly onto the bodice. With this sleeve configuration the gown would required a center rear entry. The gown is closed by a gold lucet cord laced through 38 hand sewn button holes. The front neck edge was hand trimmed in gold silk embroidery. I used back stitch and button hole stitch. I am tempted to more, but that would not fit with the period of this gown.

The most difficult part of this gown were the sleeves. I needed to determine the best method to construct the sleeves. The sleeves are composed of two parts: the baragoni or sleeve top, and the under-sleeve. I had three options: 
  1. a separate under-sleeves of plum velvet - tied to the petticoat with the baragoni attached to the gown
  2. a full length under-sleeve of plum velvet sewn and to the baragoni, both attached at the shoulders of the gown, or 
  3. a sleeve of one piece comprised of a partial velvet sleeve sewn to the bottom of the baragoni area. 

To determine which method would work best I made a pair of sleeves of cream linen with gold silk under-sleeve. These prototypes are constructed to be tie-on sleeves for the petticoat. The gold under-sleeves are a full length sleeve with a separate baragoni over, or method #2 except these were not sewn into the gown but sewn together at the top. I found that the two separate pieces, though attached at the top did not create the puff in the shoulder area I had hoped for. I stuffed the puffed area with netting, but it would hang down and flatten out. With the one piece sleeves the baragoni stays up or cannot slide down. Positive side effect, I can now use the petticoat as a separate dress with tied on sleeves.

For the gown I choose to make the sleeve via method #3. By making them one piece, when worn the tight lower section of the sleeve keeps the baragoni section up high. When making these baragoni I cut them fuller then recommended in Reconstructing History pattern, to get a big look. I chose not to slash these sleeves as in the portrait. I used Rayon/Acetate velvet, which does not take well to cutting, or to fabric fray stop, or liquids. I felt I had achieved the look I wanted without doing this. Decorative buttons with ribbons and aglets were sewed to the outside edge of the sleeves to imitate the sleeves in the portrait.

The skirt is constructed with cartridge pleats and hand sewn directly to the bodice. The portrait of this gown clearly shows the skirt was gathered this way. Since the taffeta is very light, I lined the pleat top with a double layer of 5.5 ounce red linen. Once the pleats were sewn onto the bodice, due to the fact the material and thus pleats were still thin, and the under petticoat was cream, you could see cream through the pleats. I did not like the look, so a 4 inch panel of taffeta was sewn around the waist as a privacy panel. 

The overall look and construction of this gown met my expectations and standards. I feel I achieved my goal of creating a more historically accurate gown. With each gown I have made, I find I get more and more authentic. 
There is just one drawback, I need a "Dresser" in order to get into this gown.

"Oh Husband, do you want to go to an event with me?" - Elaine
"Can't you just be a Viking? " - Bob smiling and laughing

The more I learn the less I know.

Lady Elaina

1) Moda a Firenze 1540-1580 - Lo stile di Eleonora de Toledo e la sua influenza by Roberta Orsi Landini & Bruna Niccoli 
2) Patterns of Fashion - The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c 1560 - 1620 by Janet Arnold
3) The History of Costume by Carl Kohler 
4) What People Wore When Consultant Editor Melissa Leventon
5) Cut my Cote by Dorothy Burnham
6) Margo Anderson Pattern - Pattern and Pattern notes 
7) Reconstructing History - Pattern and Pattern notes

And many thanks to this web site, its many contributors, artisans, and especially to web mistress Bella Lucia da Verona, aka Anabella Wake for the information, links and inspiration I find here.





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