The Florentine Persona
Women's Clothing in 15th Century Florence, Page 3
Women's clothing during this period was in general free-form and
flowing, but heavy! Here are some pictures I've gleaned and some comments
Warning: Slow Loading
||Domenico Ghirlandaio, Portrait of a Lady, 1475. Florentine
Another splendid Ghirlandaio. Starting with her hair, note that it's arranged
pretty much in the fashionable way for young ladies of this era, with a caul behind.
She wears a form-fitting red dress, with lacings visible on the outside front of the
dress. The dropped shoulders (fairly rare in this period) are detachable, with bits
of white visible at the seams. Her partlet is almost entirely sheer, and may be
outside the dress -- there is an interesting v-shaped mark down her bodice front and
across her shoulders. There is little way to tell what the sleeves look like, except
for being the same form-fitting sleeves we're accustomed to. She also wears a
Y-shaped necklace with a simple drop pendant, and may be wearing a ring on the first
knuckle of her right ring finger. Overall, she's quite a fashionable miss.
||Bastiano Mainardi, Portrait of a Woman, approx. 1480.
to see a much bigger version of this painting.
This, according to the Web Gallery
of Art, is the wife of a Florentine banker. Fashionable yet practical, learned and
appreciative of the finer things, her clothes reflect her personality.
Her dress is a very simple brown color, with honey-golden sleeves that are
slightly gathered at the armhole. Her partlet is amazingly detailed, with embroidery
everywhere in a simple white-on-white design. Tiny white buttons close it in front,
but not all the buttons are fastened.
One source informs us that the white thing on her head is a wig of pale blonde
hair. That may be so. I've seen mismatched hair on other portraits of very wealthy
ladies, particularly done to achieve the frizzy bits at the sides. Blonde seems to
have been considered a fashion ideal in this era.
She also wears a simple beaded necklace. The clear beads are very likely glass,
while the yellowish ones could be amber, citrine, or plain glass themselves. Though
that may seem cheap to us today, faceting of this nature would have been a fairly
new phenomenon in the 1480s.
While this is a garb page, one might wish to look at the items on the shelf
behind the lady. She's gone to considerable pains to show us how literate and
fashionable she is. A splendid book with red closing-cords and many multicolored
placemarkers sits behind her, as well as what appears to be a finely-worked brooch
with a ruby and four pearls in it.
Sandro Botticelli, Venus and the Graces Offering Gifts to a
Young Girl, 1483, detail. Florentine school.
Here we see another example of the middle-class Florentine dress, with an
interesting bodice variation -- it appears to be V-shaped all the way to the belt,
with a panel behind it for modesty, similar to a Burgundian-style gown. It seems
also to be trimmed along its V edges. The sleeves are very similar to other sleeves
we have seen, lacing at the wrist and open all along the underside of the forearms
to just past the elbow. It's a very simply designed dress.
The girl's headpiece is a sort of veil, with a circular top bit flowing down the
back of the head to about shoulder-length. The loose hair down the sides of her face
are a very common hairstyle at this time (see "Tuornabuoni", below, for more detail
on this hairstyle). Her belt is fairly wide and pale-colored, probably plain
||Domenico Ghirlandaio, Giovanna Tornabuoni, 1488.
I could talk about this portrait all day. Miss Tornabuoni is clearly a young lady
of high status, from head to toe. Her hair is arranged in a fashionable bun at the
back of her head, with thin wire wrapping it very similarly to the head-dress the
young Elizabeth wears in the movie of that title (Elizabeth, 1999), with one
encircling from nape almost to forehead, and another running almost straight up from
nape to the top of the head. Loose locks flow down along her hairline from temples
to nearly her nape, crimped fashionably.
She wears a fascinating dress and tabard arrangement. The dress looks like it was
woven with a pattern of red and black, and over this is sewn criss-crossing orange
ribbon. This is how the entire dress looks, incidentally, from top to bottom. Down
the sides and back of the sleeves, there are small slashes with white fabric puffed
through the slashes; at four places along the slash, a small crimson string bow ties
off the puffs. The slash along the back of the sleeve is longer, but works about the
same way. One can see the ends of the ties against the black background of her inner
tabard if one looks carefully. It doesn't look like there's anything special beaded
onto the fabric, but that could just be this portrait. A little bit of chemise puffs
out through the seam between the sleeve and bodice, as well.
Over the dress, she wears a sideless tabard. The tabard has a neckline cut out of
it, and settles over her shoulders. The design is of pale gold over a deeper, richer
gold. Is it embroidered or woven in? Difficult to say, but she looks like she had
the money to have it embroidered on. The v-neck is untrimmed. It is difficult to say
if the tabard is what those horizontal lines are meant to connect, or if they belong
to the dress beneath.
For jewelry, the subject wears only a Y-style necklace with a clustered ball
pendant. Note that she does not appear to be wearing any sort of belt over the
tabard; it flows loosely.
The tabard is not a common piece of clothing, even to this period (1488). One
rarely sees anybody but ladies of this age and status in them.
||Sebastiano del Piombo, Portrait of a Woman, approx. 1512.
Here we see a beautiful chemise, as the subject appears either about to cover it
up with a dress, or in the process of removing that dress. The material the camicia
is made of appears to be very thin, because it is so finely gathered, with a
slightly ruffled neckline decorated with what looks like a blanket stitch and a
narrow, patterned ribbon trim. The sleeves are truly voluminous. Either she has not
yet tied or buttoned them down to her wrist, or there are no such closures. For now
she has them just rolled back.
It's hard to say what the garment she's putting on is. The bodice doesn't appear
to be a corset, yet it doesn't look quite like the bodice of a dress. It looks like
it is sleeved, which does make one suspect it is a dress meant to go over her blue
corset to cover it. It is possible that the dress, which appears to have a deep
v-neckline, is meant to allow the blue corset to show through, with an effect
similar to that of a modesty panel.
The subject wears a couple pieces of jewelry: A simple golden chain that
descends, Elizabethan-like, into her camicia and disappears there, and at least one
gold hoop earring with a pearl suspended from it. Her hair is braided into a crown
at the top of her head, but it's hard to tell what is woven into it because of the
darkness of the background.
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The Florentine Closet
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This page last updated: July 10, 2009
All text copyright Vangelista di Antonio Dellaluna, except
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Images are presented here only as research aids.