Get the perfect Florentine Outfit in one easy-to-use pattern!
Buy our full-size paper patterns with complete instructions and historical notes for 15th century Italian Commonwoman's Outfit or gamurra as worn in Florence and the Tuscan region from the 1470s through the end of the century. Pattern includes tie-on sleeves with multiple variations, center or side-back closure, gathered or pleated skirts, coif, partlet. Instructions for camicia (shift) and period hairstyle also included. Fits busts 30½"-48" and waists 23"-41". All Sizes in one envelope. Historical notes and embellishment suggestions included.
Partners perfectly with RH510 for the Upper Class Florentine look.
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light weight to coat weight wool
heavy linen or canvas for interlining
light linen for lining
linen for coif, camicia and partlet
Gown with matching sleeves: 6 yds 45" or 4½ yds 60" wide
Gown without sleeves: 4 yds 45" or 3 yds 60" wide
Constrasting sleeves: 2 yds 45" or 1½ yds 60" wide
Lining: 2 yds 45" or 1½ yds 60" wide
(bodice & sleeves only)
Interlining: ½ yd 45" or 60" wide
hooks & eyes or cord and closed rings (thread eyelets may also be used)
two-inch and three-inch wide strips of contrasting wool or colourful ribbon for guards, as many as desired
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Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:
Florentine Woman’s Clothing in the fourth quarter of the 15th century -- the gamurra
Thanks to the rise of Humanism in 15th century Italy, paintings were more detailed than ever before. Background features, clothing, furniture, even incidental items were painted with photo-realistic accuracy, giving us a window into the visual world of late 15th century Italy. The center of this school of painting was Florence. Florence was also a major center of the textile arts. So it is natural that we should look to Florence for answers about clothing of this period.
Florence had been a center of commerce since Roman times, and it reached its height in the 15th century, called “The Cradle of the Renaissance.” Unlike other Italian city-states, Florence was essentially a democracy (although clearly controlled by the Medici family for nearly 300 years). This spirit of egalitarianism could be observed in the number of merchant families who made quite substantial fortunes through trade. Florentine silks were prized and its wools the finest in the world. Dealers in wools and silks, as well as the guildsmen who used them in their work, rose in prominence in the 15th century like never before.
Florence like everywhere else had its share of sumptuary laws. Still, the rising merchant class sought to demonstrate its new-found wealth any way it could. Commissioning a portrait of yourself (or your new wife or newly-married daughter) from one of the city’s many talented painters was one way to show wealth without actually violating sumptuary laws (being painted in a gold brocade gown is not the same as owning one). The obsessive detail of these painters gives us a great deal of information on the clothing of the people of Renaissance Florence.
Sandro Botticelli’s 1475 portrait of a woman called Simonetta Vespucci that hangs in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence is a terrific example of this detail. Reproduced at right, the sitter wears a gamurra or simple gown in brown. Rather than being a drab garment, the fabric is luminous, indicating that it is at least a very fine weave of wool, possibly even silk. The gamurra is well-fitted through the bodice but the shape of the bust is evident, belying the use of a corset. The skirts are attached to the bodice with large box pleats. The sleeves are either pinned at the top of the sleeve head or sewn to the bodice only at the tops. The camicia or shift puffs through at the underarm and below the elbow. It is also visble at the center front opening of her gown. The bodice is laced closed with horizontal black laces, a configuration commonly called “ladder lacing”. The bodice is not pulled completely closed -- the camicia shows in a white triangle at the center front.
The sitter wears a coif with a sheer forehead cloth as well as a sheer partlet tucked into her gown. A black cord necklace is around her neck, but any pendant is hidden by her pose.
This portrait by Botticelli is probably the best example of the gown worn in various combinations by common women and as an undergown by the super-dressed-up elite. Costume historians claim that this gamurra was worn as everyday dress even by the most wealthy -- that they only wore the elaborate fashions of the day on very special occasions. We will see the same elements of the simple gamurra over and over in our pictorial survey.
A 1485 portrait of an unknown young woman by Domenico Ghirlandaio is reproduced at left. The sitter wears a green gamurra with a sheer partlet and cap. Unlike the previous example, this gamurra closes with cross lacing through a series of gold clasps. The black lace looks as if it is tied in loose overhand knots and not simply crossed. The neckline of the gamurra is also edged with gold decoration. The sleeves are sewn to the gamurra at the top of the armscye but open below to show the camicia. She wears a sheer partlet edged with a delicate pattern, possibly needlelace. Her hair is done in the style typical of this time period and covered with a caul behind. The sitter wears a coral necklace with an elaborate jewel and pearl pendant.
The woman at right, painted by Sebastiano Mainardi in 1490, wears a rich brown gamurra similar to that worn by Simonetta Vespucci in the first picture. It is glossy, like silk, but may be a fine wool. The neckline is trimmed with a black and white herringbone narrowware. Her partlet is sheer and bordered with a lovely needlelace. Her camicia shows about a half inch above the top of her gamurra which is lower than the other examples seen thus far. Her sleeves are sewn over the tops of the shoulder, but the angle does not allow us to see if the underarm is sewn as well. The gamurra closes at center front but we cannot see enough to determine the method of closure or the lacing pattern. She wears a caul and forehead cloth of matching material with the back of the caul wrapped with a red silk cord. A puff of white shows on the side of her head and her hair is styled in the typical way. She wears a necklace of faceted beads (not shown in the reproduction at right).
A beautiful example of the highest evolution of the gamurra is seen at left in Ghirlandaio’s 1488 portrait of Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni. Giovanna’s orange and black brocade gamurra is embroidered with white flowers and gold cross-hatches. The entire back seam of the sleeve is closed with gold toggles that allow the camicia to show through. The side of the sleeve facing the viewer is also cut open and closed with the same toggles. Poufs of camicia are shown between each toggle. Her camicia is also visible through the center front opening which is ladder laced with a black cord. Over it she wears a yellow brocade giornea, the showy overgown of the upper class. She wears her hair in the style of the time and a jewel on her breast is held by a black cord knotted around her neck. Coral beads and another piece of jewelry with pearls sit in the background.
This particular portrait is a wonderful example of how the Renaissance Florentine’s immortalized the height of their wealth: Giovanna Tornabuoni died in childbirth before this portrait was painted. The piece of paper on the wall behind Giovanna's shoulder states:
“Art, if you were able to represent the costumes, character and soul,
There would not be a more beautiful painting on earth.”
This quote shows the importance Florentine painters placed on replicating what they saw as accurately as possible.
(You can read more about this particular portrait here: http://idlespeculations-terryprest.blogspot.com/2007/01/giovanna-degli-albizzi-tornabuoni.html)
It wasn’t only the wealthy who had their clothing memorialized in paintings. Ghirlandaio’s “Birth of John the Baptist” from the later 1480s was commissioned by the Tornabuoni family and showed the family in the foreground, but the lesser characters in the tableau are also dressed in the clothing of Renaissance Florence. At right is one of the midwives from that painting. She wears an orange side-laced gamurra in a glossy fabric that may be silk but more likely a fine wool. Her sleeves are made from a similar material in green and the sleeve ends are decorated. Her camicia is only seen below the elbow. On her head she wears a caul with a shaped forehead cloth. Her hair is done in a style similar to those of the upper class women but less showy.
Another of the servants in the same painting is shown at right. Unlike the previous example, she wears no caul or forehead cloth, but her hair is done similarly to the woman in our first example on page one. She wears sleeves with trim at the ends and her camicia shows through in the same way as the previous example. Her bodice closes at center front but the laces are not visible. Her red gamurra is also trimmed with lines of gold like her sleeve ends. She wears an apron as befits her occupation of serving a tray of drinks. Although she is clearly a servant, one can definitely see the similarities between the gamurra of this woman and that of Giovanna Tornabuoni.
A Festive Attyre -- Florentine Dress 1474-1500 http://festiveattyre.com/research/earlyflor/portfolio.html
Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion: The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c1560-1620. 1985: Macmillan, London.
Birbari, Elizabeth. Dress in Italian painting, 1460-1500. 1975: John Murray (Publishers) Ltd, London.
Frick, Carole Collier. Dressing Renaissance Florence: Families, Fortunes, and Fine Clothing. 2002: The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
Landini, Roberta Orsi and Bruna Niccoli. Moda a Firenze 1540-1580: The style of Eleanor of Toledo and her influence. 2005: Pagliai Polistampa, Florence.
For more, purchase this pattern.
This information © 2009 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History