1480s Florence – Getting started – Inventory

So before I start sewing, I need to figure out what I need to make!

Looking at the paintings as well as the other dress diaries, it looks like for this costume I’ll want:


This is the layer worn closest to the skin – a chemise, smock or shift.

In The Birth of Mary portrait (detail) the camicia is only visible at the armscye at the front, and is white.

In The Resurrection of the Notary’s Son, the white camicias are visible at the armscye and sleeves, and possibly the neckline, but it’s hard to tell.

In the Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni the camicia is only visible through the lacing of the Gamurra and where the sleeves lace onto the Gamurra as well through the sleeves. There is also a tiny hint of the camicia at the cuff of the sleeve.

Lynn McMasters made her camicia out of cream silk, and recommends that “the trick to getting a good puffs on the chemise is to make the chemise sleeve wider and longer than a regular sleeve”.

Kristiina Prauda suggests that “many of the portraits show very thin almost transparent camicias”. While she used a cotton blend, she recommends fine linen. She made hers with a square neckline, gathered with thread and held in place with a strip of narrow machine-made lace. She opted not to cuff or gather the sleeves.

Camicia in the style of 1485

Premysl Polasek made her camicia in white silk with embroidery around the neck and wrists.  The full garment can be seen here, while the not-quite rectangular construction for the pattern with the square neckline is here.

The Canton of Black Icorndall offers a camicia pattern which uses largely rectangular construction for a square-necked camicia based on a speculative 1485 design.

Bella from the Realm of Venus has a similar cutting layout for a 16th Century Venetian camicia, and is replicated at the costuming diary.


This is the undergown, but is also worn just as the gown itself. (Ei, the Giornea isn’t necessary.)

Birth of Mary detail

In The Birth of Mary portrait (detail), the underdress has a (natural, or just barely above natural) waist seam, pleated or gathered (?) skirt attached a the waist (the photo is unclear). The bodice laces closed with ladder-lacing (black cord) in close, close, far, close, close pattern. The bodice appears to only have side seams, and there is a wide v-neck/opening where the bodice laces. The neckline seems low, wide, and round. In the large detail, it looks as though the sleeves are a different colour, but looking at a different photo of this – they’re the same fabric.

In the Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni the Gamurra is less visible because the woman is wearing a Giornea over it. I’m presuming that the sleeves are detachable and will discuss them below. The front opening is ladder-laced, and the width between the lacing appears to be even.  The top of the Gamurra is bound in black trim, and the lacing is dark brown. The camicia peaks through at the armsyce, and within the sleeves.


I’m not sure what else to call this, but **1** of the portraits shows a different colour under the front lacing than the camicia at the sleeves.

In The Birth of Mary portrait (detail) the camicia is white, and is visible at the underarm-front, however the bodice of the Gamurra laces over something that is dark – almost as dark as the black lacing cord.


This is a tabard-like overgown. In The Birth of Mary portrait (detail) this  garment isn’t worn, but I really LIKE this garment, so I might make one anyways.

Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni – Domenico Ghirlandaio. (1489) Florence

In the Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni the Giornea appears to have an open centre front – however it could also be a very low V-neck.  The garment is completely open at the sides, and is worn un-belted. The garment is sleeveless. The same outfit seems to have been recreated in the Visitation painting.

In the Resurrection of the Notary’s Son the woman on the left is wearing an over-garment that has a v-neck down to the waist. It’s sleeveless as well.  The skirt is very full, with what looks like additional gathers/pleats creating fullness at the back of the skirt. The woman in the pink on the right seems to have one of a similar cut, though she has a clear band at the waist which might be a belt, or showing the distinction between the solid bodice and the gathered skirt.

In The Birth of St John the Baptist the figure on the left has a sleeveless Giornea is pink with a gold print of small flowers. There’s also a gold band around the neckline. The garment is sleeveless, and appears to be open at the front, or again has a very, very low front neckline to the waist (which is hidden by her arms).  The edges of the back panel appear to be dagged quite ornately. The middle figure has a similar garment, though the sides are unseen. The garment hangs as though the neckline is low to the waist, and not worn open at the front.  The garment also has elbow-length sleeves.


These are tie-in sleeves, which tie into the Gamurra.

In The Birth of Mary portrait (detail) the sleeves seem to be attached only at the shoulder – as the camicia is visible at the front. The sleeves are the same fabric as the bodice and skirt. In the larger view of the Birth of Mary (Wikipedia) the sleeves are narrow through the bicep and forearm, and slightly flared at the wrist. They are one piece, with a small opening at the elbow where the camicia pokes out.

Another figure in the same painting shows a one-piece sleeve without an opening, with contrast cuffs. A third shows a looser single one-piece elbow-length sleeve with a tight contrast wrist-length sleeve under it.


In the Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni the sleeves are very detailed – there is an outside-bicep slit which has loops or ties over it, possibly secured with buttons and loops? The back of the bicep has the same kind of slit with buttons and loops through which the camicia pokes through. There is also a very large slit for the elbow.

  • Bernadette made her sleeves match the Gamurra. They tie on at the shoulder. She used a brass button as the catch for black grosgrain ribbon ties where the camicia peaks  out of the sleeves.
  • Kristiina Prauda made two-part sleeves, with a top half covering the bicep and a lower half covering the forearm. The back seam is left open to allow the camicia to puff through.  The two parts are stitched together at the inside of the elbow, and the sleeve laces onto the Gamurra. Her sleeves are reversible (as is the dress) and the regular sleeves match the guards on her Gamurra, but not the body of the garment.
  • Jen Thompson said that Florentine women didn’t have the dangling sleeve ties that are seen in other parts of Italy during the 1480s, so the cords on her sleeves are sewn in. She started with a one-piece sleeve with an open back seam, and then changed to a two-piece sleeve.

Reta – Head covering

Very few of the portraits show any sort of head-covering, but I’ve found that this really adds to the ‘completeness’ of an outfit, so I want to include one. There are plenty of veils and things, but that doesn’t interest me. Instead there are a few net headdresses that I thought I’d look at.

Small fitted angled headdress

In The Birth of Mary portrait (detail) there is one of the few head-coverings that I found. This appears to be three black strips outlined in gold connected by gold netting. This is close-fitting, worn back on the head, with bangs crimped to the sides of the face, and a long, low ponytail.

  • Jen Thompson suggests that loose hair was worn by “unmarried maidens” however the small fitted cap is seen on the Birth of Mary portrait (on 14-year-old Lodovica Tornabuoni) but also  on older women as well – suggesting that loose hair was not JUST for the unmarried. She made hers using three parts, with gold tatting thread over gold tulle, trimmed in gold gimp.

Large draped headdress

I’ve opted to make the small fitted headdress – but I thought I’d also include some of the examples for larger headdresses which seem to be less fitted.

  • Lynn McMasters calls her recreation a Reta – this hs a netted headdress in gold braid with pearl trim on all edges. It also has a headband to hold it in place.
  • Premysl Polasek made a similar headdress in gold braid net with pearl edging. It is held on with a red/orange ribbon headband.
  • Kristyna Lagova made a gold net headdress which appears to be edged with gold beads. It’s held on with a red ribbon headband.


There is very little jewelry seen in the different paintings from Florence.

In The Birth of Mary portrait (detail) the large pendant is square or round, with little balls (pearls?). The pendant is hung on a very fine cord, or perhaps chain?

In the Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni the  wearer has two visible rings – one is on the pinkie and is gold with a large setting holding a small (white? pale pink?) stone or pearl. On the other hand she wears a gold ring above the knuckle on her ring (?) finger. The stone on this is square, and black, or perhaps dark red?

In the same painting the wearer has a lasso-style necklace. A thin black cord encircles the neck, and then at the centre front a single cord hangs down from the hollow of the throat to between the breasts. The pendant is a rough figure-8 with a significantly larger bottom circle. In the top circle there is a white rectangular gem. On the lower circle there is a red stone – perhaps pear-shaped? The pendant is gold-tone, and is outlined in small black beads.  Three very large pearls hang from the pendant.

In The Birth of St John the Baptist the main figure has a pendant on a black cord – the cord appears to be wrapped twice around the neck. The pendant is gold, vaguely teardrop shaped, possibly with a red oval stone in the middle.  From the bottom of the teardrop hang three teardrop pearls. One in the middle is large, while the two on either side are smaller. She also wears two small visible rings, one on the pointer finger above the knuckle. The middle figure in the portrait also has a double-looped black cord necklace, though the pendant isn’t visible. She also wears fine gold rings.

  • Jen Thompson s costume includes a gold pendant she crafted from cheap earrings which is worn on a black cord and includes three hanging pearls, similar to a painting.

Fazzoletto – optional

Fazzoletto is the word I found for a partlet – though I didn’t see a partlet on any of the portraits I was looking at – they did come up when I was looking for garment inventories…

  • Jen Thompson tried one pattern, and then designed her own. Likewise she tried using silk gauze – but then gave up on that as well. She ended up making a variation using very fine tulle to accomplish the look from the portraits she was looking at.


The Birth of Mary (Wikipedia)  shows:

  • Two-tone damask
  • one-tone jaquard
  • solid fabrics
  • Possibly shot-fabric (solid)

The Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni shows:

  • two-toned damask
  • multi-toned brocade


The Birth of Mary (Wikipedia)  shows:

  • Salmon/rose pink with sage green
  • Gold and white
  • Sky blue
  • Old-gold with rust and mint
  • Green-shot with gold (?) with rust (?)
  • Black

The Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni shows:

  • white and yellow worn with pink/black/white.

Next up…

Now that I’ve looked at the different elements of the costumes, it’s time to actually start designing things and making them up… stay tuned!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.