The Florentine Persona
Women's Clothing in 15th Century Florence, Page 2
clothing during this period was in general free-form and flowing, but
heavy! Here are some pictures I've gleaned and some comments about
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||Andrea del Verrocchio, "Bust of a Young Girl", about 1470,
I chose this bust to show numerous details of a young girl's attire.
First, notice her underdress. It appears heavily embroidered and patterned, with a
laced-up bodice. The lacing is what is called "ladder lacing", criss-crossing behind
the fabric where you can't see it so all that shows is horizontal lines.
Over the dress, the girl wears a tabard that clasps in front with what appears to
be a standard, if fancy-looking, cloak clasp. The tabard is trimmed extensively
along its edges with what appears to be textured braid. It's a very simple, clean
look, augmented further by the choice of a simple, Princess-Leia-style hairdo.
||Leonardo da Vinci, Ginevra de'Benci, Detail, 1474.
This charming painting is of what is clearly a young lady of the upper
class. She wears a brown dress trimmed in light, honey-brown satin ribbon it
appears. Her hair is held back by means of a caul -- one can see the lighter shade
of it at the back of her head. Her partlet is made of the sheerest fabric (which is
why I think she's upper-class), joined in front by a tiny button or pin. It is
tucked securely under the dress bodice. The bodice reveals spiral lacing in one of
the clearest examples we have -- but note how the seamstress forgot to stagger the
holes, so one side of the bodice is higher than the other!
So what's that black
thing? Probably a stole or scarf of some sort. Other than this stole, she wears no
jewelry of any kind.
As a side note, the bushes behind her are juniper bushes - a
clever play on the girl's name, Ginevra.
||Domenico Ghirlandaio, The Death of St. Fina, 1475. Florentine school.
You wouldn't believe it, but this young lady is the patron saint of a
Tuscan village because she was so sick all her life. Finally she died, and everybody
thought this was a very fortunate and fine thing indeed. Here we see middle-class
Florentine garments. Fina herself is dressed very plainly, but still we see a tiny
bit of camicia poking out through her lower sleeves. Her dress is very simple in
design, with apparently no supporting garments or underskirts. Her hair is totally
Her handmaids can be far more easily discerned. The one on the left wears a
forest-green dress with a clearly delineated waist at nearly the natural height,
with a round, scooped neckline. The bodice has a nice curve to it, lacing up the
front with ladder lacing (like the maid's next to her). The sleeves are made of a
different colored material, and like most lower sleeves, doesn't close completely.
The gap near the elbow particularly is dramatic. These sleeves fasten only at the
wrist and halfway up the forearm, allowing lots of camicia to show through. As
usual, there's a thin rim of white above the wrists and above the bodice. The maid
wears a simple veil over her head, with a sort of shawl over her shoulders. It's
hard to say what the white bit near her right hip is -- a handkerchief? A pouch? The
triangular end of her shawl?
The maid on the right wears a very similar gown, in muted blue with crimson
sleeves. We do see a tiny flash of shoe under her dress, enough to tell she's
wearing some very simple style of shoe.
||Domenico Ghirlandaio, Lucrezia Turnabuoni, 1475. Florentine school.
This is the mother of the famous Florentine prince, Lorenzo de Medici. A
powerful woman in her own right, she instilled Lorenzo with human qualities. Here,
she is depicted in middle age wearing clothes suited to a woman of her rank. A plain
black dress edged in golden-brown trim, first of all, with a wide-set front lacing
backed by a crimson modesty panel that forms the only color in her entire outfit.
One can also see the outline of a white chemise above the necklien of the dress. The
sleeves are difficult to make out, but seem to be fairly thick and close-fitting.
Her partlet is made of nearly-sheer fabric and rests over her shoulders and down
the front of the bodice, concealing nothing at all. The same fabric covers her
head-scarf, with a black ribbon trim across it.
The head-scarf itself may lace under the chin, or may not actually go down her
jawline as it seems to (other portraits with this effect are the result of
mismanaged restoration). No lacing is visible under her chin, if so. She's fairly
bundled up back there, so it is hard to see exactly how the scarf is wrapped around
The lacings on the front of her bodice do bear special mention, as they are
criss-crossed like shoelaces. That is fairly rare to see in portraits, but an
interesting effect against the crimson panel behind it.
||Sandro Botticelli, Lady Smeralda Brandini, 1480,
detail. Florentine school.
This unusual dress was chosen for its interesting trim and fabrics.
First, check out the underdress. Unlike other camicia we've looked at, this one's
very high-cut in the neckline, and looks almost smooth. It is embroidered around the
top with what looks like blackwork. The lower sleeves are as puffy as we're used to,
but they end at the wrist with smooth bands of white-embroidered fabric. Overall
it's a very understated garment.
Over this camicia, the model wears a scarlet dress. Little of its bodice
or skirt can be seen under the very dramatic, nearly-sheer overdress, but its
sleeves are the standard too-narrow ones. They close in an interesting series of
bands, three at each wrist, and one halfway up the forearm. The edges of the sleeves
look like they, too, are trimmed in a narrow band of brownish-red stuff.
The overdress is made of some sort of nearly-sheer fabric -- very lightly
woven linen, or silk, perhaps. It is trimmed in much thicker and heavier
golden-red-brown trim, around the neckline and down the front where a seam would
presumably be, and along the outer dress's sleeve edges. The bodice of the overdress
is very closely pleated or gathered along the scooped neckline, flowing down over
the body without a discernable waistband, belt, or seam.
Men's Garb, Page 1
The Florentine Closet
This page last updated: July 10, 2009
All text copyright Vangelista di Antonio Dellaluna, except
where otherwise noted. All portraits are understood to be copyright-
free and are presented as research aids only.