Glossary of Renaissance Dress and Textile Terms
transcribed here by (but not written by) Vangelista di Antonio Dellaluna
Copyright note: I have been writing publishers unsuccessfully for some time to discover who even owns the copyright to this book. Humanities Press was sold to another publisher, which wrote to tell me they did not purchase rights to this book. Undoubtedly someone does have it, but hours of research and pestered publishers' assistants haven't turned them up. Because the book is decidedly out of print, I feel it is a service to the costuming community to reprint just the glossary here. If you do have information about who owns rights to this book, please contact me!
Also, please don't copy this page to other sites. I don't mind it from the credit angle so much as I've noticed while cross-indexing the full glossary that this one has some typos in it. Some of them are face-palmingly bad; some are just irritating. I request you just link to this page, until/unless this site disappears off the internet. I fix typos when I find them, and add to the page occasionally--so a link will be the best, easiest way to make sure you don't get incorrect or outdated information.
For other clothing terms and glossaries, please see this link, which includes a partial transcription of the costuming terms from the 1611 Florio Italian-English Dictionary from Gary Lindahl's massive and enormously helpful website.
M/F: Male/Female. Some terms are unisex; others are gender-specific.
Quattrocento: The years 1400-1500.
Spellings are not hard-and-fast. "Sbernia" might be encountered as "Bernia".
For a listing of Herald's bibliography sources cited herein, please click here.
ADOGATO/ADDOGATO. Particolored with broad stripes of cloth. An inventory of 1414 registers a tunic addogata with green and monachino (Herald 209).
AFFALDATO. Arranged into neat folds. Particularly from the mid-century on, garments were cut with far greater precision of tailoring, the arrangement of folds from the shoulders down being a very important factor in defining the fashionable silhouette. The letters of Galeazzo Maria Sforza of 1475 include an entry for a 'zornea de la moscharole' which was 'tuta afaldata e non da petto'; this suggests that the bodice fitted smoothly, whilst the folds came from the waist (Porro, op.cit., p. 663) (Herald 209).
AFFRAPPATORI. See FRAPPATURE.
AGHETTO/AGUGELLO. See PUNTA.
ALESSANDRINO. A vivid violet blue colour, achieved by dyeing the cloth with oricello, a form of lichen, before immersing it into the vagello or dye vat (Herald 209).
ALLUCCIOLATI. The sparkling loops of silver or gold which stand out above the silk velvet pile (see VELLUTO) (Herald 209).
ALTOBASSO/ALTO E BASSO. See VELLUTO (Herald 209).
APPICCIOLATO/PICCIOLATO. A kind of silk, generally damask, possibly with a pattern arranged in stripes or detached flowers (Herald 209).
BALDACCHINO. A silk textile, possibly originating in Baghdad (vocabolario della Crusca). Baldacchino is not registered very often as a textile used for clothing, though an inventory of 1417 records a cotta of red baldacchino, and another of 1452 lists a gamurra pavonazza with sleeves of baldacchino (Polidori Calamandrei, op.cit., p. 126). Alternatively, the word baldacchino is used for a hanging or canopy (Herald 209).
BALZANA/BALZA. Trimming around the hemline of a gown, e.g. jewelled ornaments around the hemline of a dress, or a border of contrasting textile or fur (Herald 210).
BALZO (F). A large headdress, rising up in a rounded form from the forehead, completely hiding the female wearer's head (the hairline having been plucked back to create an artificially high forehead). The shape of the headdress is founded on an understructure, probably of willow, which is covered by a rich textile and alternatively by false hair of white or yellow silk, or by real hair (capelli morti). The balzo then may be decorated further with ribbon or braid. The fashion of balzo is peculiar to Italy, and to the first half of the Quattrocento (Herald 210).
BAMBAGIA. A linen or cotton textile used for interfacing garments. It is invariably sold by weight, rather than the length of braccia (Herald 210).
BECA/BECCA (F). Probably a belt of silk to which the hose are attached. A trousseau listed in 1493 included two beche of velvet, with gold laces (G. Biagi, Due corredi nuziali fiorentini, 1320-1493, Florence, 1899).
BECCHETTO. The long hanging part of the cappuccio which is sometimes draped over the arm or shoulder, or wrapped around the neck (see CAPPUCCIO).
BENDA/BINDA (F). A length of silk or linen veil used for covering, wrapping round or intertwining with the hair.
BERETTINO. A shade of grey, verging on black, favoured by Isabella d'Este apparently because it suited her complexion extremely well, but probably also because of her Spanish origins. In other circumstances, it was sometimes worn as a colour of mourning (Herald 210).
BERRETTA (M/F). Any form of cap or hat of rounded or semi-conical shape. Usually fitting closely to the head, the berretta could be brimless, or turned up around the edges. The woman's berretta was rather like a coif (cuffia) and was often decorated with embroidery, or was made of a silk textile such as damask or satin. The man's berretta could also be made of a similar silk textile; but it was made usually of felted woollen cloth, and was frequently worn with a hat badge (fermaglio). There were some berretta of distinguishing shapes, e.g. berretta ducale or the berretta alla capitanesca (Herald 210).
BIANCHERIA. A composite term for all white linen goods, personal and otherwise, belonging to a household. Biancheria therefore covers sheets and towels, as well as shirts, kerchiefs, coifs, collars and the occasional guarnello (Herald 210).
BIANCHETTA. A kind of white cloth, possibly woollen (Herald 210).
BIGIO. A shade of grey (Herald 210).
BOCCACCINO. A modest textile of cotton or linen used for linen sleeves (M. Giuliani, op. cit.), or for simple versions of garments, e.g. the black giornea of boccaccino recorded in a trousseau of 1459 (Polidori Calamandrei, op. cit., p. 126) (Herald 210).
BOMBASINA. A cheap cotton, or cotton and linen fabric, equivalent to fustian. It was regularly used for lining doublets and for interfacing. Bombasina has also been used as the name of a garment made of that fabric (Malaguzzi Valeri, op. cit., p. 225).
BORSA/BORSETTA. A purse, usually attached to the belt. Many were decorated with embroidery, sometimes with pearls or gems (Herald 210).
BOTTONI/MASPILLI. Buttons. With the advances in tailoring during the fourteenth century came the use of buttons for fastenings. Whiles being practical, buttons, like ribbons, cords and laces, became important decorative details on garments, sometimes being made of or covered with silk, or of silver or silver-gilt (Herald 210).
BRACHE/BRAGHE (M). In the fourteenth century, long balloonish versions of these were worn by laughable caricatures in the novelle related by Baccaccio and Sacchetti. As underpants, they are listed in the fifteenth century under entries for panni di gamba. More frequently, however, underpants are referred to as mutande (Herald 210).
BRAGHETTA (M). Codpiece; a kind of pouch devised to hide the genitals. Braghette began to be worn at the end of the century as doublets grew shorter and shorter (Herald 211).
BREDONE. A pair of bredoni appears in the letters of Galeazzo Maria Sforza. They are probably pieces which hang down from the back of the shoulders, perhaps vestiges of fuller hanging sleeves (Herald 211).
BROCCATO. Brocade, a textile usually made of silk, in which the patterning is introduced with one or more supplementary wefts. In a true brocade, the brocading weft is confined to the area of the pattern where it is needed, and then turns back on itself at the end of a motif, i.e. the patterning weft is not carried across from selvedge to selvedge. In the fifteenth century, the term is used in this strict sense; it rarely appaers on its own as a noun, but qualifies a description of the cloth, e.g. velluto chermisi broccato d'oro e d'argento (Herald 211).
BUSTO/PETTO (M/F). The top part of the main body of the garment, probably referring to the area from shoulder to waist. It was becoming more and more common in the Quattrocento for garments to have the bodice and skirt cut separately (Herald 211).
CALZE (M/F). Hose or stockings, usually made of woollen cloth, but also of silk. The men's calze are conveniently attached to the farsetto by means of laces and eyelets. There is no definite indication as to how the women's calze were supported, though a reference to a beca in 1493 provides a clue. Some form of harder footwear (botte, scarpe, stivali) is often worn over the calze. But when calze constitute the only layer of legwear, a piece of leather or felted wool would be attached to the sole of each foot.
CAMBELLOTTO/ZAMBELLOTO. Woollen cloth, probably quite hardwearing, originally made of camel's or goat's hair. A gown for wearing in the country, made of zambellotto is listed in the letters of Galeazzo Maria Sforza (Porro, op. cit., p. 129). In 1469 in Florence, it is recorded how a group of people jointly sent 'un cambellotto pavonazzo e broccatto pagonazzo e d'ariento per un paio di maniche' as a gift to a newborn cild (Strozzi, op. cit., p. 599). The exact meaning of the term is difficult to ascertain for there also in the fifteenth century examples of cambellotto of silk.
CAMICIA/CAMISA (M/F). The chemise, made usually of linen, but occasionally of cotton or silk. In the earlier part of the century, the camicia is a functional washable layer of clothing worn between the skin and the outer woollen or silk garments. However, as the Quattrocento progresses, the chemise, revealed through slits and slashes down the sleeves and the bodice, and around the neckline, becomes more decorated with embroidered bands around the collar and cuffs. There must have been regional variations also; e.g. men's shirts 'a modo di Firenze' (Strozzi, op. cit., p. 100).
CAPPA (M). A garment with sleeves, associated with the roba.
CAPPELLO (M/F). A hat with a substantial brim, often made of straw. Considerable quantities of straw hats were exported to France (and presumably elsewhere in the north of Europe) from the late fourteenth century (J. Evans, Dress in Medieval France, Oxford University Press, 1952, p. 51). These hats were sometimes lined with black silk or velvet, and trimmed round the brim with black or gold fringing (Polidori Calamandrei, op. cit., pp. 126-7). Such hats were probably used when travelling, and appear in paintings worn by riders and grooms.
CAPPUCCIO (M). A hood, often with a rolled brim round the crown of the head, which then hangs down. It is composed of three sections: the mazzocchio, the padded rolled base; the foggia, a shorter fuller hanging end; and the becchetto, the long end which is conveniently and effectively wrapped or draped over the arm or shoulder.
CAPPUCCIO (F). The women's version of the male cappucchio remains in fashion in the early years of the century. But generally, throughout the Quattrocento, the feminine cappucchio is simply the hooded part of a garment such as the mantello.
CHERMISI/CREMISI. Kermes. The word applies both to the dyestuff itself, the colour it makes, and woollen cloth dyed with kermes. Considered the best quality dye for reds available, yielding the greatest intensity of colour per ounce, chermisi came from the East, usually transported via Constantinople. The brilliant red dye was obtained from the dried bodies of pregnant females of the kermes shield-louse, Coccus illicis. The same insect found around the Mediterranean was also used for dyeing; it was not of such a good quality, however, and was known as grain, grana. Chermisi was used for the finest textiles. The most expensive silk velvets brocaded and decorated with a looped pile in silver and gold (broccati and allucciolati) were always dyed with kermes. In 1464, it was decreed by Pope Paul II that chermisi should be used as the cardinals' purple (purpura cardinalizia); for that had been a considerable decline in the dyeing, and therefore use, of purple murex. A statute of 1464 forbids the possession by women of Florence of more than one overgarment, cioppa or giornea, dyed with kermes.
CINTOLA/CINTURA/CINGOLA (M/F). The belt, worn by men and women, was used less as a means of drawing a gown into folds at the waist or the hips, than as an often lavish piece of ornamentation. Belts were invariably made of precious metals, sometimes incorporating jewels, and often with rosaries, strings of pearls, or metal ornaments hanging off them. Other belts, particularly those worn by women, were made of precious brocaded textiles, and finished with an enamelled or jewelled silver or gold buckle.
CIOPPA (M/F). A type of overgown. The word is used in Tuscany and the Naples region, and is the equivalent of pellanda (north of Italy) and the veste or sacco (Bologna and elsewhere). Towards the end of the century, the terms pellanda and sacco disappear, and are replaced by vestito, which refers to something rich and fashionable. The cioppa is a generous garment, often with long hanging sleeves, which appear in a variety of forms. It is worn by women over the gamurra; except in the case of a poor young woman who, in an impecunious state when she had to mend her gamurra, was forced to wear her cioppa directly over her chemise (camicia) (Strozzi, p. 548). In general, the longer, fuller, sweeping sleeves are worn in the north of Italy, whilst in Tuscany and the south, the sleeves of this overdress are more conservatively cut. The cioppa is often lined with fur or silk, depending on the season, the lining being turned back at the hem. Invariably, a richer or more valuable fur is used around the facings, whilst the majority of the cioppa is lined with more modest skins.
COAZZONE (F). A broad plait or roll of hair, often decorated with ribbon or braiding, which hangs down the back. It is sometimes worn with a trinzale.
CORDELLA/CORDELLINA. A cord, used for lacing up the opening of a garment or shoe, or for lacing in sleeves. The cordella often has a little metal point (punta/agugello) at each end, to stop it from fraying, and to assist the threading through the eyelet (maglia/maglietta).
CORNA (F). Literally, horns; meaning the horned headdress which enters fashion in Italy towards the middle of the century. The style originates in the gothic north of Europe.
COROZOSO. Colori corozosi were the colours prescribed for mourning. Many of them were worn daily as a matter of course. They were dull dark colours, shades of mulberry, blue, green and brown, as well as black.
COTTA (F). Probably the summer version of the gamurra, being made of silk rather than woollen cloth. Some cotte were quite elaborate, such as that which appears in 1466 in the trousseau of Nannina de'Medici which was a cotta of white damaschino brocaded in gold with flowers, with sleeves embroidered in pearls; and another cotta was of silk, with sleeves of cremisi and gold brocade (con maniche di broccato d'oro cremisi). As in the case of the gamurra, the cotta could have sleeves of a textile different from the main body of the dress. Whilst it was considered extremely informal to go out wearing a gamurra and nothing over it, the cotta could be worn alone on quite formal occasions in summer. The relative fullness of the cotta as compared with the gamurra is difficult to determine. Marco Parenti noted in 1465 that 18 braccia were sufficient to make a cotta of zetani vellutato di chermisi for his wife (Strozzi, p. 445). Because silk has less give than wool, silk garments probably needed to be cut more generously than woollen ones.
CUFFIA/SCUFFIA (M/F). A coif, i.e. a close-fitting cap or bonnet, sometimes covering the ears and with ties which pass under the chin. It may be made of linen, in which case it is either worn under other kinds of headgear, or worn alone at night.
DAMASCHINO. Damask, a monochrome figured textile with a ground of satin (warp-faced) and a pattern in sateen (weft-faced). The origins of this textile are commonly ascribed to Damascus.
A DIVISA/DIVISATO. Parti-coloured. The hose (calze) are often worn mi-parti, sometimes as fashion, sometimes as part of a livery.
ALLA DOGALINA. A description of sleeves, which, like those worn by the Doge and the highest-ranking Venetian officials, are wide all the way down.
DOSSI. Skins of fur from the back of an animal.
ERMELLINI. Ermine, a highly prized fur, rarely used to line an undergarment throughout, but rather reserved for areas -- necklines, sleeves, and hems -- where it will be shown off. All references to this and other furs are made in the plural, thus not merely indicating the type of fur, but the fact that many skins must be used to make up a substantial area of fur.
FALDIA (F). An underskirt of linen held out by means of horizontal bands padded with cotton wool or linen fibre. The fashion appears in the latter part of the century.
FARSETTINO (F). Related to the farsetto, doublet, of men's dress. A farsettino da donna with 16 silver buttons appears in the inventory of Riccardo del Bene of 1411. It was probably a kind of undergarment, the buttons of which would show, its collar rising above the neckline of the fuller garments worn on top. (Polidori Calamandrei, p. 128.)
FARSETTO (M). The generic term for a man's doublet, which is also known by the names corpetto, guibetto, zuparello, and zupone (guibbone). This type of garment is made by a professional farsettaio. The doublet is a close-fitting garment, stuffed and quilted. It has a low-standing collar and usually sleeves. Worn over the shirt, and beneath a tunic and/or other forms of overgarment, the farsetto offers warmth and protection, and defines the outlines of the torso, finishing around the hipline. The shape of the doublet varies from one decade to the next, depending on the fashionable silhouette. In the earlier Quattrocento, the doublet is nearly always hidden by some form of tunic or gown, the exception being for sporting activities. Later in the century, as clothes worn by the fashionable young become more and more revealing, the doublet is shortened and is generally much more in evidence, worn with a loose cloak or gown as opposed to a closed tunic with sleeves. It has been suggested by Levi Pisetzky that some form of doublet (the corpetto, giobetto, zuparello) were meant to show, whereas others (the farsetto, zupone) were always concealed. It is the richness of the textile from which the doublet is made which indicates the nature of the occasion for which it is worn, and implies the degree to which the garment is to be shown off.
FERMAGLIO. A brooch or hat badge, also known as a brochetta or medaglio depending on its form and use. A versatile piece of jewelry worn on the shoulder, on a headdress, the sleeve, or the bodice of a garment. Invariably made on a large scale, the fermaglio was effective from a distance. Some brooches bore figures or emblems in relief, sometimes with heraldic significance.
FILETTO. The very edge of a border or hem, which was sometimes trimmed with narrow strips of fur. A Florentine sumptuary legislation of 1471 allowed women's veste to have filetti, garzi, or orzi of fur. (C Mazzi, Provvisioni suntuarie fiorentine, 29 novembre 1464, 29 febbraio 1471, Florence, 1908, p. 10.)
FINESTRELLA. The opening at the front of the elbow of a sleeve, through which the arm passes, leaving the remainder of the sleeve to hang down independently. The contrast is shown between the textile of the main body of the overgarment and the upper part of the sleeve, and the lower arm, which reveals the textile of the closer-fitting sleeves attached to the layer of clothing beneath. Sometimes, if the sleeves of the overgarment are detachable, those sleeves hang loosely direct from the shoulder.
FRAPPATURE/FRASTAGLI. Dagged hems, i.e. edges of cloth which have been decoratively cut into scallops, leafy shapes, or some other kind fo pattern. A feature of both masculine and feminine dress, the frappature may be an eccentricity, criticized by moralists; but they are a sign of a sophisticated culture and indulgent lifestyle. Once dead as a fashion, vestiges of dagging and fringing are sometimes found worn as livery by young men and commonly by fools and jesters.
FRENELLO (F). A hair ornament -- a string of pearls, which is entwined around the twists of real and false hair and fine silk veil.
GABBANO (M). A heavy cape with sleeves, used especially for protection against bad weather, but also as an elegant overgarment.
GAMURRA/CAMMURA/CAMORA (F). The Tuscan term for the simple dress worn directly over the woman's chemise (camicia). In the north of Italy, it is known by the terms zupa, zipa or socha. The gamurra is worn by women of all classes. It is both functional and informal, being worn on its own at home, and covered by some form of overgarment such as the cioppa, mantello, pellanda or vestimento out-of-doors or on a more formal occasion. Following the contour of the body, it is usually unlined, and made of wool or occasionally silk. Earlier in the century, the sleeves are attached; but later they are more commonly separate, and often of a different, richer textile.
GARANZA. An alternative term for robbia, madder, a dyestuff obtained from the roots of the madder plant Rubia tinctorum. Like all red dyes, it produces a range of red through to purples and black, depending on the mordant used and whether it was under- or over-dyed with a different color (notably blue or yellow).
GHELERO. A type of garment frequently mentioned in the letters of Galeazzo Maria Sforza. It must have been an overgarment, because there are several examples lined with fur; and it did have detachable sleeves, for three pairs were ordered for a ghelero at the court of Galeazzo Maria Sforza (Porro, p. 642).
GHIRLANDA/GRILLANDA (F). Literally, a garland, which is worn as a headdress by women. It often takes the form of a padded roll, covered with some elaborate textile. Garlands of flowers or grass are worn by the young innocent beauties of whom the poets sing. Sometimes the ghirlanda is covered with gems or with feathers. A decree published in Siena in 1412 forbade all embroidery and pearls, except for a grillanda on the head worth a maximum of 25 gold florins (Giuliani).
GIORNEA (F). An overdress, open in front and down the sides, to allow the textile of the cotta worn underneath to show through. The giornea is quite often longer at the back of the hem, offering a sweeping profile in movement. It may or may not have detached sleeves. It is a summer garment, worn more often in Florence than further north, where the pellanda, with open or closed long sleeves, is more suitable for most of the year. Sometimes, however, the giornea is lined with fur, in which case it may be worn during the cooler months. It appears to be a garment normally worn by the young. In a law of 1456, the giornea is associated with the cioppa, both being garments worn directly over the cotta. It was stated that women were allowed up to two silk overgarments -- to be worn at separate times -- one for winter, the other for summer. It could be a cioppa, or a giornea, whichever was preferred, with one cotta for wearing underneath (Polidori Calamandrei, p. 44).
GIORNEA (M). An open-sided overgarment which, as with the women's version, takes the place of the fourteenth-century guarnacca. But it is shorter than the guarnacca, and is sometimes worn in a military context. It is worn directly over the farsetto or zupone. San Barnardino despised the giornea, likening it to a horsecloth trimmed with fringes down the sides and about the hem. The giornea often bears embroidered devices, such as the three zornee de raxo cremisino, embroidered with beautiful pearls and the symbol of a cloth, suggested by Ludovico il Moro.
GIOBETTO (M). See FARSETTO.
A GOMITO (M/F). A form of sleeve, bulbous in shape, but narrow at the wrist.
GONNELLA/GONNA/SOTTANA (F). The fourteenth-century term for the fifteenth-century gamurra.
GONNELLA (M). The fourteenth-century version of the veste or vestito, and in the fifteenth century, a relatively short form of gown worn by men. The gonnellino is a shorter version still, worn by younger men.
GORGERONE (M). The part of a suit of armor which protects the neck and shoulders.
GORGIERE (F). The equivalent of the French gorgerette; it is a silk or linen veil which covers the neck.
A GOZZO (M/F). Likened to a bird's crop, the sleeves described in this way are of a bulbous shape, fitting closely at the wrists. A common form of sleeve at the beginning of the century, by 1446 gozzo was so widely accepted that it alone came to describe a long sleeve; thus Lorenzo Strozzi's description of cioppe with gozzi a trombe -- the word maniche is understood (Strozzi, p. 29).
GRANA. Grain, the red dye obtained from the kermes (see CHERMISI) found around the Mediterranean. It was cheaper, being inferior to the chermisi imported from the East. As with other red dyes, grana was used as the basis of many colours and shades ranging from pink and scarlet reds through to purples and blacks.
GRIGIO. As a colour, it means grey. however, as in English, the word is also used to denote 'grey' cloth, i.e. untreated cloth.
GUALESCIO. A plain fabric, probably of silk, invariably used for lining, e.g. Marco Parenti's wife's cotta of zetano vellutato was lined with red gualescio (Strozzi, p. 445). In a sumptuary law published in Siena in 1412, it was stated that sleeves could be lined modestly with gualescio or panno lino, bocchaccino, or taffeta (Giuliani, p. x). In the Pucci inventory are listed horsecloths of gualescio, as well as men's sopravesti for riding.
GUANTI (M/F). Gloves. In the second half of the century, guanti di camoscio (chamois leather) are quite frequently mentioned. Galeazzo Maria Sforza ordered a pair for dancing, lined in scarlet. The gloves made in Milan were quite highly prized in othercities.
GUARDACORE (M/F). Possibly worn as a nightshirt, for the young Isabella d'Este possessed 'uno guardacore overo camisia da portare la nocte' of rosato cloth (Levi Pisetzky, La Storia del Costume, op cit, p. 285). The 1445-6 registers of the Court of Ferrara note that the Marquis Leonello ordered two braccia of cetanino (zetanino) raso crimisino to have a guardicore made for wearing in bed.
GUARNACCA (F). The term continues to be used in the fifteenth century, but is more commonly called a giornea. A statue issued in Perugia in 1445 permitted a guarnacca as part of a bride's outfit, provided that its value did not exceed 30 florins, and that if it were made of velvet or silk, it was not decorated with embroidery.
A GUARNAZZONE. A style of full sweeping sleeve found on male and female overgarments similar to those like wings (ad ale). This type of sleeve was worn by Bianca Maria Sforza for her wedding celebrations in 1493.
GUARNELLO (M/F). Both a kind of linen or cotton textile, and the feminine garment constructed from such a fabric. The guarnello probably has the same significance as a rascia. It is a simple, reasonably loose-fitting dress, similar to the cotta, but sometimes worn withuot sleeves. Guarnello, being cotton or linen, may be registered in inventories with the rest of the biancheria --chemises (camicie), towels and kerchiefs. The guarnello, rascia or saia is the standard form of dress for angels. It is worn by children as a simple, washable garment, and possibly also by pregnant women. There are also examples of guarnelli listed under items of male clothing.
GUAZZERONE. A border of a hemline, sometimes made from a contrasting fabric.
INDISIA. A type of lining material, possibly of wool.
INFERRIATO/A INFERRIATA. See VELLUTO.
LACCA. Lacquer, a resinous substance born from the branches of some trees in the Euphorbia family through the activity of certain parasites. It was imported from India and Indo-China. As a red dye, it was rather precious, and appears to have been used infrequently.
LENZA. A ribbon or braid tied round the crown of the head, and often decorated with a jewel over the forehead. (Example: Leonardo's La Bella Ferroniere.)
LISTA. A strip of cloth applied to a garment to give a bold striped effect, such as is found on the dress worn by Beatrice d'Este in the Pala Sforzesca.
LUCCO (M/F). A form of long gown worn in Florence, initially as part of official or academic dress, and subsequently in a more general context. It was open in front and fastened at the neck; it also had slits at the sides to allow the arms to pass through.
MAGLIA/MAGLIETTA. A metal eyelet or little loop through which laces are threaded, sometimes made of silver or silver-gilt.
MANICHE. Sleeves come in all forms of shape and construction. Although the sleeves of overgarments are sometimes short, or hanging open, the arm is always covered to the wrist. Even peasant women working in the fields had to respect this rule of modesty. During the early decades of the century, the sermons of San Bernardino and the sumptuary legistlations passed by the local government reflect disapproval of the devilishly monstrous sizes of sleeves, in an attempt to check the width of the hemlines. The sleeves of overgarments are invariably ample and long; whilst those of the clothes worn beneath (gamurra, farsetto, cotto, gonnella) fit the arm more closely. In the first half of the Quattrocento, the cut of the sleeve, like the cut of the rest of the garment, becomes more sophisticated; instead of being cut in one piece from shoulder to wrist or to helmline, the sleeve is much more finely tailored once the upper (often slightly gathered) and lower sleeves are joined at the elbow (see DOGALINA, FINESTRELLA, GOZZO, GOMITO, GUARNAZZONE.)
MANTELLO (M/F). Traditionally, a practical cloak worn over all clothes for warmth and protection against inclement weather, especially when traveling. It is draped over the shoulders and, in the case of the elderly and bereaved women, over the head. San Bernardino (op cit) alluded to the volume and drape of the mantello in describing the vast size of the sleeves of the ladies' cioppe: "You could say that the cioppa has one mantello on each side." Because of its simple shape, and since it is both a practical and a classless garment, the mantello is often used as a convenient theatrical prop for figures in paintings. The Madonna nearly always wears a mantello over a gamurra; it is significant that she often covers her head with a cloak -- a sober gesture -- being the prerogative of widows and older women. Saints, too, are invariably donned with mantelli; their appearance is thus related very closely to that of pilgrims. Although the cut and construction of the basic mantello barely changes, fashion demands that it be worn in different ways, e.g. turned back over the shoulder, or fastened over one shoulder instead of under the chin.
MASPILLI. See BOTTONI.
MAZZOCCHIO (M/F). A stuffed roll covered with fabric which is worn on the head. It forms the basis of the men's cappuccio, being the part of the hood which fits round the crown. By women, the mazzocchio is pinned to the hair, giving slight height and a rounded shape to the veil worn on top. The mazzocchio continued to be worn by veiled older women long after new taller fashions in headdresses had been introduced to the fashionable younger women.
MONACHINO. A shade of brown with a reddish tint. It is a modest colour, occasionally worn in mourning or by widows; it is also used quite generally for a functional garment not of great value.
MONGILE/MONGINO/MONZINO (M/F). A form of cloak with sleeves, possibly of monastic origin, which may have originated in Spain. It is worn open in front, and logn to the ground. Between 1478 and 1485, 40 are listed in the wardrobe of Leonora of Aragon, some described as 'ala moresca' (in the Moorish style), many without sleeves attached.
MORELLO. Literally, mulberry-coloured. It is equated in treatises on dyeing and painting with pavonazzo. A red dye formed the basis of morello and pavonazzo, the resulting quality being dependent on the type of dye used (chermisi, grana, garanza or verzino). Being a dark shade, morello is one of the colori corozosi worn by widows and those in mourning. It is also commonly worn for everyday civic dress.
MUTANDE (M). Underpants, confused with brache at the beginning of the century, listed amongst the biancheria relating to men's attire. However, there are no known documented examples of mutande to be worn by women.
ORLO. The hem of a garment. Corazza in his Florentine diary recorded on 12 November 1435 the boys of a brigata wearing fur-lined tunics with the hems turned back on the outside (con l'orlo di fuori) by a third of a braccio (see also FILETTI).
PANCIE. Skins of fur from the underside of the animal's belly, which are of finer quality than those from the back (dossi).
PANNICELLI. Cloths of linen, usually worn by women over the head and/or shoulders.
PAVONAZZO/PAONAZZO/PAGONAZZO. Literally, peacock-coloured. However, it does not mean peacock-blue or -green, but rather relates to the color of the peahen -- a brownish tint of red. Red dye forms the basis of pavonazzo, the quality of which depends on the type of dye used, whether it be cremisi or grano.
PEDULE. The protective sole attached to the bottom of each calza -- necessary when shoes or boots were not worn over the hose.
PELLANDA/OPELANDA (F). The word used in the north of Italy to denote an overdress; it is related to the houppelande of northern Europe. It is the equivalent of the Florentine cioppa (see CIOPPA).
PELLANDA (M). An ample overgarment, opening down the front, fur-lined, with full sleeves often cut into decorative hemlines (see FRAPPATURE). Towards the end of the century, the term pellanda dies out, and is replaced by the equivalent roba.
PELO DI LIONE. A tawny yellow colour, resembling that of a lion's skin.
PIANELLA. A form of shoe with a leather sole built up into a wedge, the foot being covered with a strap or band of silk textile. At its lowest, the pianella resembles a simple slipper or mule; however, it could also reach uncomfortable heights, for in 1480 in Venice the sole measured the equivalent of about half a metre (Molmenti, op.cit., p. 262). The fashion for tall pianelle was not just a Venetian one; for on his journey from Milan to Genoa in 1480 the Florentine Giovanni Ridolfi, commented with surprise on the Genoese women going about with no, or at least very low pianelle (senza pianelle o basse basse). (Levi Pisetzky, La Storia del Costume, op.cit., p. 219.)
PUNTA/AGHETTO/AGUGELLO. The point, sometimes of precious metal, which reinforces the tip of a ribbon or cord used for lacing up clothes. They pass through the eyelets (magliette) of silver or silver-gilt. The term comes to mean the whole lace, not just the metal tip.
RASCIA (F). A garment named after the textile from which it was made, rather in the way that the guarnello was.
RASO. Textile of satin weave (see ZETANO). As with zetano, raso may be used as a solid single-coloured textile; but it often constitutes the ground structure of a figured fabric, e.g. raso vellutato.
RENSA. Fine linen (probably originating from Rheims), used for the best quality biancheria.
RETA. A knotted net of silk or gold threads, which often incorporated pearls and sometimes other gems, worn over the hair.
RICCIO/RIZZO. See VELLUTO.
ROBA (M/F). Towards the end of the centruy, roba signifies specifically a garment lined with fur, completely open in front -- but closed in the following century.
ROSATO. A shade of red (probably pinkish) often made from grana. Probably, rosato became so associated with a particular kind of cloth that the word is often used on its own, to denote the woollen cloth of the same colour. The solemn rosato appearance of Leonardo Bruni is described by Vespasiano da Bisticci (op.cit.). Rosato was not as highly prized as chermisi, for in a Florentine embassy to the Pope, the eight ambassadors were closed in cremisi, but their 72 companions were rosato.
SACCO (F). An overdress with sleeves, similar to the cioppa. There are examples made from velvet and others of woollen cloth.
SAIA. Originally a type of woollen cloth; but alternatively, later in the century, saia may refer to a silk textile. The term often denotes a woman's garment, when it is probably related to the cotta and the gamurra; the 1464 Florentine legislation categorizes saia, cotta and gamurra together (see COTTA). A saia doppia is listed amongst the Pucci possessions of 1449, indicating that it was self-lined; because the entry specifies that it had sleeves of silk, this particular saia was probably made from woollen cloth. During the summer, Filippo Maria Visconti would wear a saio decorated in the military style; with it, he wore a lining of sable (zibellini) in winter, or a vaio or ermine in spring or autumn.
SBERNIA/BERNIA/ALBERNIA (M/F). A short cloak, worn slung over one shoulder a la apostolica. Some suggest the name is a corrupted form of burnus (Arabic). (Diario Ferrarese, 1494).
SBIADATO. Possibly a shade of bluish grey; or the cloth of that colour. Used in combination with blue (azzurro) or grey (bigio), sbiadato might comply with this tonal range. (Polidori Calamandrei, op.cit., pp. 131-2.)
SCARLATTA. Scarlet cloth; i.e. a woollen cloth, sometimes of a bright red scarlet colour.
SCARPE/SCARPETTE. Shoes are not mentioned very frequently in inventories. Perhaps they were not worn that often, for Lorenzo Strozzi remarked with delight at how in Spain he was wearing shoes, laced at the side of the foot (scarpette colle cordelline dalla latora, colle punte lunghe tre dita), thus removing the need to wear peduli on his calze. (Strozzi, op.cit., p. 29.) Shoes may be made of woollen cloth, perhaps with soles of felted wool; or they may be made of leather.
SCIOGATOIO/ASCIUGATOIO. A towel; it has as many meanings as it does uses. As well as being a hand towel, it could be a cloth to cover a chest, or a pillowslip; it was equally commonly applied to the linen veil, worn over the head, usually by older women and widows. These sciogatoi look rather practical, plain and dense, compared with some of the light silk veils worn by younger Italian women, or in Spain; the contrast is well described in a letter to Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi from one of her sons (Strozzi, op.cit., p. 29). The sciugatoio was attached by means of hairpins and ribbons, in whatever manner best suited the wearer, and then fell down over the neck and shoulders. Certain religious orders, and possibly some widows, drew the towel under the chin, thus completely covering the neck.
SCUFFIA (M/F). See CUFFIA.
SELLA (F). A saddle-shaped headdress worn by women in the middle of the century, probably influenced by fashions from north of the Alps. Like the corna, the sella usually suspends a fine veil of silk.
STIVALI (M). Boots. Footwear is not mentioned very frequently in contemporary documents. However, where stivali appear, they are often described as being made in a foreign style, e.g. a la todesca con le poncte, or of gilded leather (the gilding of leather being a specialty of Valencia, Spain).
STRASCICO (M/F). The depth of hem of a garment. It is difficult to determine exactly how the strascico was measured. In some cases, and perhaps most commonly, it refers just to the train of a woman's dress, often referred to as the coda di veste. At other times, it signifies the depth of the border about the hem. Several sumptuary legislations included clauses restricting the size of the strascico.
STRINGHE. The ribbons of laces which hang decoratively from a garment, like those attached to Beatrice's sleeves in the Pala Sforzesca.
TABARRO/TABARRONE (M). A heavy overgarment, often lined with fur.
TAFFETA. A plain woven silk, used for lining sleeves, and for modest silk dresses.
TERZANELLO. A silk cloth, not of high quality, sometimes used for lining.
TOGA/TOGATO. A procession of scholars of the University of Bologna in 1431 was led by rectors and public speakers dressed in splendid toghe. The use of toghe, or the wearing of a veste togato probably bears a conscious reference to dress in classical Rome.
TREMOLANTI. Small pieces of decorative metalwork, often incorporated with fringing and chains, e.g. on headdresses.
TRINZALE (F). A piece of fine cloth covering the hair which, in the case of Bianca Maria Sforza, covers both the back of her head and the long roll of hair (coazzone) hanging down her back, tied with ribbons and pearls.
TURCA (M/F). Corresponds to the tunica alla turchesca. Its name suggests an Oriental, possibly Turkish, origin. It is a long garment with sleeves, probably opening down the front, and perhaps with short slits at sides as well. On knighting a Genoese nobleman, Ludovico il Moro adorned him with a turca (Malaguzzi Valeri, op.cit., p. 233); it was probably an ample garment. In an inventory of 1491, Anna Maria Sforza is listed as possessing 'una turcha scarlatta fodrata de nocte'. It is not certain whether this garment was meant to be a closed nightshift to be worn in bed, or an open lined dressing-gown.
TURCHINO. A colour, possibly a turquoise blue.
VAGELLO. A dye vat containing a solution of reduction dyes (woad and indigo).
VAIO. A general turn for fur, used for lining overgarments but not often shown around the borders. For example, a cioppa may be lined with vaio and the more valuable ermine, the ermine being used around the facings down the front opening, around the hem and the sleeves, where it would show.
VELLUTO. Velvet, a textile with a ground structure of a plain weave, but which is characterized by a surface pile created by the use of an extra warp. In addition to plain single-colour silk velvets, there are many kinds of figured ones which incorporate a combination of weaves. Velluto operato is the general term for figured velvet. Velluto inferriato/a inferriata and velluto raso; voided velvet, in which the smooth ground weave contrasts with the apparently darker velvet pile: the pattern is traced in the voided areas where the pile, having been shaved away, allows the ground to show through. Raso vellutato/zetano vellutato: structurally similar to velluto inferriato, for the pattern is dependent on the contrast between a satin ground and velvet pile; but in this case, the pattern is reversed. Much of the ground satin is apparent, and the figured pattern is defined by the velveted areas. Velluto alto-basso/rilevato/controtagliato: two-pile velvet; the higher of the two cut piles absorbs more light and appears the darker shade. Velluto cesellato incorporates cut (tagliato) and uncut (riccio) piles, the cut being higher than the uncut. Velluto allucciolato: velvet which is highlighted by little loops of gold or silver, introduced in the weft of the textile, which stand out above the silk velvet pile. Velluto riccio sopra riccio/rizo sopra rizo: velvet in which the areas of looped gold or silver threads stand out above the silk pile; the effect is much more solid than in the velluti allucciolati.
VELO/VELETTO DA TESTA (F). A veil; many are listed in inventories, and may be of fine linen or silk.
VERZINO. Brazil-wood, an important source of red dye, obtained from the trees of the Caesalpinia family, introduced to the West by the Venetians through their trading with the East; the country of Brazil was later named after its large number of indigenous trees of the Caesalpinia species.
VESCAPO (M/F). Recorded in the north of Italy, it is probably the type of cloak (mantello) worn over the head.
VESPAIO (F). Literally translated, it means a wasp's nest. In fact, it was a netted headdress worn by women, often made of strings of pearls.
VESTE/VESTA. Either the term corresponds to the gonnella of the fourteenth century, in which case it is a man's gown with sleeves, made from a variety of textiles; or it applies more generally to a suit of clothes.
VESTIMENTO (M/F). Later in the fifteenth century, the term which replaces the words sacco and pellanda, a regularly worn type of overgarment.
VESTITO (M/F). A general term, particularly during the latter part of the century, for an overgown with sleeves, probably a heavier version of the veste. In the splendid trousseau of Bianca Maria Sforza in 1493, there was just one vestito; but it was an extremely precious embroidered one (di raso cremisino recamato) with a hem (bulzana) of embroidered raso turchino, and over the breast 80 little jewels with a ruby and four pearls in each one. Ludovico il Moro once gave 17-1/2 braccia of zetonino avvellutato morello to Messer Mariotto da Reggio, oratore, to get himself made a vestito and a zuppone (Malaguzzi Valeri, op.cit., p. 422).
ZAMBELLOTTO. See CAMBELLOTTO.
ZENDADO/ZENDALE. A very light silk textile of Oriental origin; but later, the term came to refer to textiles made from fibres other than silk.
ZETANO/ZETANINO. Satin, a plain fabric characterized by its smooth reflective surface. The term relates to the cloth structure, and not to the fibres from which it is made. However, it may be presumed that all satins in fifteenth-century Italian dress are of silk. Although plain satins were used in the fifteenth century, satin weave often appears as the ground of a textile figured in velvet, i.e. zetano vellutato (see VELLUTO).
ZOCCOLO (F). Venetian chopine, a tall version of the pianella.
ZORNEA. See GIORNEA.
ZUPARELLO (M). A form of doublet. At a tournament held in 1491, Annibale Bentivoglio was accompanied by 12 swordsmen wearing green satin zuparelli (Malaguzzi Valeri, op.cit., p. 42). Galeazzo Maria Sforza, who was of course responsible for clothing members of his court, supplied several zuparelli. His letters also include an interesting entry of maneghetti and bredoni (protective shoulder and hip pieces) to put on a zuparello d'armare. The correspondence between armour and fashionable clothing was very strong; it is therefore probable that the zuparello as armour and as everyday dress made from silk or cloth both followed the same silhouette about the torso (see FARSETTO).
ZUPONE (M). See FARSETTO.
This page last updated: July 10, 2009
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