1480s Florence – sleeves

(nearly) finished sleeve

(nearly) finished sleeve

In my 1480s Florence – Gamurra post I mentioned that I’d be blogging about my sleeves separately – since the sleeves themselves are detachable…


Birth of Mary detail

In The Birth of Mary portrait (detail), the sleeves, which match the dress, aren’t entirely visible – though in a larger version of the painting they’re a bit more clear. They appear to be attached to the gown permanently at the shoulder, but open at the sides and underarm. There’s a gap at the elbow where the camicia peeks through, and the wrist is long, and slightly flared. I think there may be false poofs along the lower side of the lower arm; a better resolution version of the painting may have helped.

Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni

Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni

In the Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni the camicia peaks through at the armsyce, and within the sleeves, and between the front opening and laces. The sleeves, which match the dress, may be attached at the shoulder, but are certainly only laced on at the front of the armsyce, as camicia fabric peeks through there. The camicia also comes through the sleeve at multiple places, though I suspect that if this is painted as the example actually was, this may be false puffs to be so even and.. puffy. There is a row of slashing down the outside of the arm, as well as the sleeve is open at the back of the arm and the elbow. (This appears to be a slash at the elbow, rather than a two-piece sleeve. The slashes appear to be held together with gold cord over red buttons – though on the outside of the arm there is the appearance of two red stripes under the gold cord… I wonder if perhaps there are two cords, wrapped around the button, tied off under the button and the “gold cords” are actually the tails of those cords?

The Birth of St John the Baptist

In The Birth of St John the Baptist the figure on the left has sleeves which appear to be attached at the shoulder, though this is mostly hidden under the over gown, and are slashed at the elbow front and back, and in several uneven rows along the bottom of the lower arm. The sleeves are the same fabric as the gown.

Sumptuary law and sleeves

In Katerina’s Purple Files, she writes about sumptuary laws in Florence. Namely, a law from 1439 stated that there was a limit to trim and embroidery for women’s dresses and gowns – limiting the decoration to the sleeves of an outfit. She stated that this led to fashion where the sleeves were the most decorated part of a lady’s outfit. This trend continued, she explains, into the early 1500s.

Tied-on sleeves

So far, all of my examples may have the sleeves attached at the shoulder, however not all of them are certainly that way, so I wanted to look for examples where sleeves are entirely tied-on instead. Looking on my Pinterest board, almost all examples of tied-on sleeves are from sources from Venice, MilanMilanParma, and Vincentine, rather than Florence. I actually didn’t have a single confirmed source showing entirely tied-on sleeves for Florence in my given time period.

… But I didn’t come to this realization until it was a bit too late.

I had really liked the Vincentine, example, and was mentally designing the dress around sleeves from that example – so I did a bit of a swap. Likewise, nearly every example I have seen from other costumers have had entirely tied-on sleeves, and having sleeves tie-on will give me the opportunity to swap out one set of sleeves with another.

Although most of the sleeves I saw from Florence were one-piece sleeves with a slit at the elbow, I thought sleeves like that may be more of a challenge than I was up for at the moment, so I opted to do a two-piece sleeve instead. I ultimately eneded whip-stitching the upper and lower sleeve together at the inside elbow though, so that it kind of has the look of two pieces, with the ease (and flexibility) of two.

My version

Initial mock-up

I made up a sleeve from an old bedsheet, marked it where I thought it should be cut for the elbow opening, and then made the sleeves out of silk from there on.

Both the top and bottom sleeves are lined edge-to-edge with white linen. While I could have lined the sleeves with red linen, I thought that since bits of the edges might show, that using white linen might “blend” in better with the camicia below.

Bottom sleeve

For this sleeve I transferred the curve markings to the white linen with red tracing paper, and sewed directly on my markings, rather than trying to cut out the curves first.  I left the cuff end open, and then turned and pressed the sleeve. I slip-stitched the opening at the cuff closed. I pinned the sleeve together and tried it on – it is very snug if the loops are edge-to-edge, but with some decorative elements to close them together I thought they would fit fine.

I drafted the sleeve with the seam in the back, rather than the underarm, to account for the openings where the puffs would come out.

Since the sleeves are easy to mix up, I did a really tiny (2 threads in the fabric) hand satin stitch “R” on the inside lining of the right sleeve and “L” for the left, so that I could keep them organized.

I’m including graphics in ‘slideshow’ format – if you’re interested in the different steps, just go through the slideshow!

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Since the sleeve would be worn over the camicia, I didn’t want to sew the curved edges together – the lower sleeve would be too tight. Instead I planned on using strings to create little bars… until I found these beautiful floral-shaped gold-tone links. I thought they vaguely looked like a Tudor rose, which isn’t correct for the area, but is a good design for the time period.

I started doing thread bars to attach the sleeves (and take strain off the links) then sewed the links on, finishing the lower sleeves.

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Top sleeve

Since the top sleeve won’t get as much ‘wear’ (it won’t rest on a table while I’m eating for instance like the bottom sleeves will) I wanted to decorated it even more…

The top of the sleeve with the gold "shell" added and trimmed with black bias

The top of the sleeve with the gold “shell” added and trimmed with black bias

I started with cutting an additional curved “shell” shape in gold silk (the same gold silk I’d trimmed my Giornea with) and sewed the sleeve fashion fabric together, and then sewed on the shell (it’s wide and goes over the seam) then looked for trim… I couldn’t find ANYTHING that I really liked to trim the gold with  – until I picked out some black satin ribbon. I liked the ribbon, but with the curved shell shape, I needed something that could go around the curve – and then I remembered the stained glass quilting fusible bias tape.

If I’d thought of it – I would have cut the gold “shell” with the pattern the same on either side and centered on one of the motifs. Oh well – next time!

I fused it to the sleeve, and then used DMC embroidery pearl cotton (in size 5, colour 815 – a dark red) to do a herringbone stitch over the bias tape. Then I further embellished this design line with tiny pearls on either side of the herringbone stitch.

I had some gold silk bias strips leftover from the Giornea trim, so with it made some piping using leftover cord from the Gamurra, I used the same embroidery cotton to wrap the piping so when it’s inserted, it will have a slightly stripped/candy cane stripe of red floss over the gold silk. I thought this would be a nice detail which will define the shape of the sleeve, but also add some extra texture and decoration to the sleeves – which will be seen all the time.

Whipping the gold piping with red embroidery thread

Whipping the gold piping with red embroidery thread

Once I basted on the gold piping, I cut out lining for the upper sleeve from white linen. As mentioned above, I opted to line it in white instead of red so it might blend in better with the camicia if seen.  I sewed the seam in the lining, and then put the sleeves right sides together and did the top opening, then pulled the material right sides out, adjusted the hems, stitched, trimmed, then bound with gold bias.

Below is another slideshow with steps from the construction not shown above.

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Once the sleeve was in a one-piece format (with the top and bottom sleeves whip stitched together) I added the lacing rings. These are three-hole “end bars” from Fire Mountain Gems –  sewed down one hole (that would normally accommodate the clasp of a necklace) to the sleeve through all layers (the fashion fabric, the shell-shaped gold fabric, and the lining) for extra support. The laces will go through the remaining two holes.  This is in the style of the painting of St Justina of Padua by Bartolomeo Montagna that I really liked for the sleeve attachment.

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.

Phot above showing off those sleeves!

One comment on “1480s Florence – sleeves

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