1480s Florence – my Giornea

My finished Italian costume... done with the Fresco filter :)

My finished Italian costume… done with the Fresco filter ūüôā

In my previous post I shared some of my research/inspiration, and here’s what I finally came up with.

The mock-up

In addition to reading a few dress diaries, I was lent notes from a woman in the SCA who has also studied and created a late 1400s Italian costume along with the help of her mentor. Her notes include recommendations for adding the needed fullness throughout the garment, rather than just adding fullness to the sides of the garment.

Her recommendation is to shift the centre front to align with the v-neckline, and flaring out the side seams, rather than just flaring out the side seams. This was an easy shift, which made pattern-making very easy. To get fullness throughout the whole width of the garment I could have also slashed-and-spread from the hemline upwards, but that would also add extra width throughout the bodice as well, this option puts the fullness only from the lowest part of the neckline and down. It also means that the centre front (and back) can be placed on the fold of the fabric.

Doll version of the Giornea

Doll sized version of the pattern to see how it might look

Doll sized version of the pattern to see how it might look

The very first thing I tried was a super-quick mock up with scrap fabric for a doll. I ¬†didn’t measure anything – I just cut out a shape, tried the cut out, and popped it on a doll just to see what it might look like. It seemed to work, so I switched to a mock-up in my size.

Mock-up / muslin of my Giornea

Marking the pattern onto my satin-backed-crepe with chalk, ready to cut out.

Marking the pattern onto my satin-backed-crepe with chalk, ready to cut out.

I started my Giornea mock-up out of some navy blue satin-back crepe.  I used a regular bodice block, without moving the bust dart or altering for the waist dart.

With a very full bust, I found that I needed a dart, pleat, or gather at the bust point to make the sides hang correctly. I mocked this up with a pair of very large safety pins, and found that it was nearly invisible under the arm, but corrected the issue almost perfectly. Since that area is on the bias as well, I figure that some easing and gathering may have been possible – but it is completely my solution to the problem.

For next time:¬†Although my final version does fit very well, I think I’d also like to try a version where I start with a bodice block moving out the bust-dart; this might make the garment hang better from the bust without the gathering/darts/etc.

Next, belted or unbelted…

Wearing the Giornea with the front belted but not the back meant the back hung nicely like in the portraits, but with my full bust, the front seemed to fall forward and into the centre when unbelted. Although almost every costumer I followed included a belt on the Giornea, I noticed that most of my inspiration photos did NOT include a belt Рso how could I make my Giornea  hang properly when unbelted?
As a related note – I recognized that the front armsyce of the¬†Giornea appeared to be relatively smooth, hanging (or pulled…) smoothly against the body and into the underarm.

I safety pinned scraps of fabric to the underarms like ties, and first tied the front of the¬†Giornea behind my back… and when that worked well, I added ties to the back of the¬†Giornea as well, and on my mock-up, tied the back of the garment around, securing it in front. ¬†I was astonished that even with a very low front and back neckline, even with pushing the shoulders wider, the garment didn’t shift or slip when I moved around.

Is this a document-able solution – not even a little. However, with no extant garments, I think that it’s a pretty good solution to accommodate my body shape, to make a garment that looks similar to the portraits. (Which¬†are just paintings, and subject to the will and ego of the painter, his or her model/muse, and patron.)

Cutting out my Giornea in my ‘good’ fabric

For my¬†Giornea I chose a black, gold, and white synthetic brocade. I was really hoping to find a a silk option – but the silk fabric I did find in a pleasing colour-way was far, far out of my price range (starting in around $47/yard plus shipping) The brocade was a similar enough pattern that I could find locally to the general look-and-feel of patterns shown in paintings, although far darker and bolder than most of what I have seen (with a few notable exceptions, which keep me feeling happy with my choice of tones). The synthetic fabric is a bit shinier than I’d really prefer, but it has a nice soft hand that I like – it’s not exceptionally stiff (after washing that is) like some synthetic brocades can be. It still will stand “out” more than the satin-back-crepe though!

I bought the fabric at Fabricland ¬†(their website is pretty useless) but Joanne Fabrics online has something similar (for those of you in the US, or who don’t mind ordering from the USA) Fabric.com doesn’t currently have anything like it in stock… but might later. On Etsy, there are a few sellers with lovely similar (but different) brocades, though quite a bit more expensive than what I paid.

I cut the¬†Giornea with a lower neckline than I did with the blue satin, and once I had made up the first bits, I wished that I had left the¬†Giornea neckline at the original depth. I also added a bit more width under the arms (about an extra 1.5cm on each side-seam) which helped the overall look, and added a bit more width at the centre front under the neckline which I think was successful considering the brocade doesn’t drape the same way the satin-backed-crepe does. Another variation from my mock-up is that the fabric is narrower, which means instead of getting a full length and width out of the fabric, I had to add in a small triangle at the hem in order to keep the pattern vertical.

I opted to line the brocade with some thin linen. I would have liked to use the same fabric colour as I was using for my underdress (Gamurra) but I didn’t have enough of it, and I was not interested in ordering more with 4¬†weeks to go before I’d like to wear the outfit. (And a lot of hand-work yet to come too!) I used navy blue linen that I bought from Fabric.com for a really excellent price.

I went to a “Stitch & Bitch” after this step, and proposed some silk velvet for trim, showing off the brocade at the same time. Those who were there agreed that the synthetic brocade was a good choice, considering the price of silk¬† and one woman suggested that “even Laurels will agree that synthetic brocade is ok” given the difficulty in finding silk brocade in the right kind of patterns (ei: not modern flowers or paisley prints). They also agreed that the velvet would be a good choice, and one suggested cutting it on the bias to make application easier.

So next I sewed up the linen, made the linen ties, and sewed the sides of the garment – lining to fashion fabric, right sides together, pressed, and turned and pressed again. I also stitched the neckline and armsyce lining to fashion fabric along the allowance together, wrong-sides together.

Hand-sewing finishing the bias trim on the giornea - out of gold silk damask

Hand-sewing finishing the bias trim on the giornea – out of gold silk damask

Like the Portrait of a Woman by Ambrogio de Predis, I opted to bind the armsyce with gold silk. I used a silk jacquard in a gold tone for this. I originally bought a LOT of this fabric for something else, but I couldn’t find anything else in my “stash” that worked for this. I cut bias strips, and sewed them to start by machine, and did the finishing by hand. No matter how carefully I pin, I always am somewhat disappointed by totally machine sewn binding, and always am happier if¬† I just spend the time to finish the second side by hand.

Next up – hemming.

Cutting a 6 inch bias strip of linen from leftovers to hem the Giornea

Cutting a 6 inch bias strip of linen from leftovers to hem the Giornea

Since¬†a good portion of the fabric (both lining and fashion fabric) is on the bias, I started out by letting the dress hang out overnight. After that I tried it on, marked my ideal hem (it was a fair bit longer than I needed it to be), and then put it on my dress form to mark the hem. Again I tried it on to double-check the hem, and cut it off where I wanted it. ¬†I opted NOT to train this garment, because I’ll be wearing it in crowded areas, and don’t want unnecessary stepping on my dress (by myself or anyone else!)

Although the brocade doesn’t drape a lot, I still didn’t want to be tripping into my dress too much, and wanted to try a technique of “padding” the hem to give it extra “stiffness” so to speak – making it stand away from the body a little more. With the method I’d used to construct the garment and the lining, this also worked really well to finish the hem. I cut a 6″ wide strip of bias linen (the same linen as the lining) and sewed it to the right side, pressed a seam allowance/hem into the other side, and hand-stitched it to the lining. This also makes for a totally invisible hem.

I could have used a heavier weight of fabric for the “padding”, but using the same fabric means it’s pretty much invisible from a distance from the lining too.

Completed outfit showing off the Giornea, full length. Photo taken after event.

Completed outfit showing off the Giornea, full length. Photo taken after event.


In Fashion in the Middle Ages, the author states that velvet first appeared “as an extremely expensive silk fabric, in the late 1200s, although manuscript illuminators seem not to have depicted it much before 1450.” I originally planned to use the gold silk velvet I had in my stash, but the more I thought about it, the less excited I was about it. All of my inspiration paintings showed much lighter trim than the heaviness of velvet – and I do adore this velvet…

I ended up ordering a bunch of different trims from Cheeptrims.com. I was a bit nervous about this since I haven’t ordered from them before… I’ll talk about THAT in another post!

two different types of metal embellishments and small faux pearls

two different types of metal embellishments and small faux pearls

I ended up using a burgundy (which kind of speaks to the garment I’ll be wearing with it!) jacquard ribbon¬†just on the neckline alone. (I had thought of using a different one for the hem, but I didn’t have time to finish that off before I had to wear the gown.) I embellished it with alternating small gold squares (turned to form a diamond), small gold floral links, and small pearls. ¬†I did find that some things seemed to “catch” on the embellishments every here and there, so I’m really glad that I was knotting frequently – and will probably keep a supply of the embellishments in a kit with the outfit… just in case some replacements are needed in future.

The non-'Fresco' filtered photo of my full outfit (after the event) with the Giornea on top.

The non-‘Fresco’ filtered photo of my full outfit (after the event) with the Giornea on top.

I’ve blogged about the Reta in the portrait above before, read about how I made it here, and keep following my 1480s Florence category tag to see the other garments I’ve made and will be posting about soon.

My version materials summary

Main fabric – synthetic (polyester or poly-rayon blend) brocade in gold, black, and white (approx $15.00/meter)

Lining fabric – lightweight 100% linen in navy blue ($4.95/yard plus shipping)

Finishing fabric –¬† gold 100% silk jacquard ($15.00/meter)

Trim – 100% polyester jacquard ribbon – with metal and plastic pearl embellishment($0.33/yard)

Other photos

There were a few photographers at the event, and I thought I’d share some other views at the event I first wore this to. (Work in progress)

Beothuk of The Beothuk’s photo

From the back


6 comments on “1480s Florence – my Giornea

  1. […] older women were wearing in The Birth of St John the Baptist, which means I could wear it with my Italian costume as […]

  2. How did you secure the giornea? I read the description but I can’t work out how that would be.

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