A quattrocento velvet gown with brocade sleeves

I have so many pretty photos of me in this gown that it is very hard to chose  which ones to put here. But you have to kill yur darlings, so here are the four I finally decided on.

When I  bought the turqouise fabric, which is a chenille brocade, as a wall hanging/table cloth in Nicosia in 2014 I was thinking of making a forepart and sleeves from it, but  the more I looked at it, the more I felt that it begged to become the sleeves of this type of Italian 15th century gown, seen on paintings from the 1460s and onwards.

The sleeves
All these paintings, most of them from the period 1460-1480, show women in gowns with sleeves made from another fabric than the body of the gown, and with rather striking patterns on them, usually a brocade, but in one example an embroidered motif.

Portrait of a Young Lady by Antonio del Pollaiuolo, 1465

Piero della Francesca - Portrait of a Lady 

Alesso Baldovinetti - Portrait of a Lady, about 1465

Piero del Pollaiolo 1470

Attributed to the Maestro delle Storie del Pane  (1494?)

Piero del Pollaiuolo c. 1480

 Based on general knowledge of medieval and renaissance manners of dress one would interpret this as a sleeveless over gown worn over the kirtle made form brocade. However, there are plenty of examples where you see the white shift through the front opening of the gown. Like on  this painting, the Allegory of April, the triumph of Venus, if you look at the woman in the lower right in a blue gown with black sleeves, and the woman in pink with red sleeves, holding a lute.

The sleeves in all the images shown above are gathered to a slight puff, which makes it less likely that they are tied in sleeves, which is common later in the 15th and in the 16th century. You also don't see any white fabric at the armscyes on these gowns, indicating that the sleeves were indeed sewn to the gown - the Italians just liked to have sleeves in a different colour than the gown in the late 15th century. 

A wonderful, clear image that really show this is this detail of the same fresco as above: The Allegory of the months by Cosimo Tura, from Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara.

Since there is no body in it you can clearly see that it is one dress, with sleeves in another colour than the body.

This image neatly leads me over to the next choice to be made about sleeves: cut in one or two. The portraits with brocade sleeves are usually cut so that you don't see the elbow. There are, however, clear examples of both styles. The sleeves on the triumph of Venus appear to me to have been cut in one piece, while the white gown with blue sleeves clearly have an upper part gathered to a lower part. 
Having looked at many more examples of gowns with contrasting sleeves, like the ones below, I decided to go for two-part sleeves.

Giovanni Cadamosto da Lodi's "Libro de componere herbe et fructi" from 1471

Fra Carnivale "The Birth of the virgin"

And there's lots more to be seen, both in contrasting colour and in the same fabric as teh gown.

The sleeves are not lined, since the chenille brocade (yes, I know, not a period fabric) is rather heavy. The openings on the lower sleeves are turned in and covered with bias tape and tehre are three pairs of holes on each sleeve through which a piece of orange cotton tape has been threaded and tied.

The body of the gown
The front of the bodice is lined in three layers of thin linen and has two strips of narrow plastic boning (5 mm) at the front, on either side of the hand made eyelets and two strips going diagonally from the waist towards the armscye. While this is not documented it gives good support and shape for me.
As you can see the neckline is high enough not to give any visible cleavage, though not nearly as high as the gown on the first portrait - I would feel strangled. My gown is more in line with the other portraits.

The skirt is 4,5 metres wide at the bottom and made from two main pieces with gores at the sides. Inspired by the skirts in the allegory of the months the skirt is quite long, making a nice puddle of fabric around your feet. 
The panels are gored, making the skirt ca 2,5 metres at the waist. The skirt is gathered by hand and then sewn to the bodice, also by hand, since this gives more control. The front opening is a slit in the fabric with the edges turned down and covered with bias tape.
The eyelets are made with heavy silk thread dyed in a weak madder bath, and , as mentioned, the lacing is made with a narrow cotton tape in orange.

The headwear
While many of the women in the images has their hair uncovered, except for ribbons wrapped around their braids, I felt that I needed more head covering than that. I am, after all, soon 50.

The Piero della Francesca portrait above shows a woman in a stiffened cap, probably what was called a cuiffa (yes, the same word as coif). I have written about different types of Italian 15th century caps here.

For this costume I chose to make an open version of this more constructed cap, based on this wonderful Florentine sculpture from c. 1475-1485:
Circle of Andrea del Verrocchio Florentine, 1435-1488 Samuel H. Kress Collection 1939.1.326 

Circle of Andrea del Verrocchio Florentine, 1435-1488 Samuel H. Kress Collection 1939.1.326 

I love that you can see the top and back of her head.

I chose white silk/cotton satin, since most of the "open caps" or whatever you should call them, in period art appear to be white, or at least light coloured.

Two late 150s-early 60s portraits by Paolo Ucello.

Portrait by Fra Filippo Lippi, ca 1445

I used heavy fusible interfacing for the cap, though I could of course have used buckram, or even paper or parchment too, but I have fusible interfacing and no parchment. The lining is linen.

This is how the pattern pieces look:

And the cap, from above.

Pearls along the front edges appear to have been common too, so I sewed two rows of white and peach coloured faux pearls to the edge of the cap.

I could have gone for just a veil too, but I thought that his looked prettier, and I wanted to be pretty. I did however add a very sheer silk veil, inspired by the Fra Filippo Lippi portrait above.

1 kommentar:

  1. The pictures of Circle of Andrea del Verrocchio Florentine, 1435-1488 Samuel H. Kress Collection 1939.1.326 are the ones I took in 2007! I got chided by a guard for sneaking around to take a picture of the back of the sculpture. I'm so glad they were helpful to you.