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RH510 - 1470s-1500 Florentine Lady's Overgown

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Get the perfect Florentine overgown in one easy pattern!

Buy our full-size paper patterns with complete instructions and historical notes for 15th century Italian Lady's Overgown or Giornea as worn in Florence and the Tuscan region from the 1470s through the end of the century. Pattern includes closed as well as an open-sided giornea complete with embellishment suggestions.  Fits busts 30½"-48" and waists 23"-41". All Sizes in one envelope. Historical notes and embellishment suggestions included.

Partners perfectly with RH509 for the Upper Class Florentine look.

If you were an RH Member, this pattern would cost you only $20.45.  Become a Member now!

Suggested Fabrics:
light weight to coat weight wool, heavy brocade, embroidered silk
heavy linen or canvas for interlining (optional)
light linen or silk for lining

Yardage Requirements:
6 yds 45" or 4½ yds 60" wide

hooks & eyes or cord and closed rings (thread eyelets may also be used)
colourful ribbon or other embellishments as desired

Let us help you! At Reconstructing History, we want to see you wearing the best garments you are capable of making. Call us Monday through Friday from 9am until 4pm Eastern Time (or email us st info@reconstructinghistory.com) and we will answer any questions you might have.

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 giornea


The Florentine garment known as a giornea as worn in the final quarter of the fifteenth century, despite its name, was a garment worn on only the most special occasions, such as weddings.  The word giornea is related to the Italian word giorno, which means “day”, implying that it was a daily wear garment.  In reality, it was anything but.

Wealthy Florentine families were obsessed with showing off their wealth.  Never is this more evidence than in the paintings they had commissioned.  Ostensibly depicting an event from the Bible (like the Birth of John the Baptist or the Visitation), these paintings were really portraits of the commissioning family, painted in all their finery. 

In the detail at left, Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni is shown in a beautifully decorated brocade gamurra over which she wears a giornea of surpassing gorgeousness.  A large pearl jewel adorns her breast where the giornea closes in front.  As is typical of the period, her giornea is fairly unstructured and lacks side seams.

There is a real practicality to this giornea construction.  A Florentine family would purchase the best fabrics they could afford for their daughter’s wedding, sometimes even having it further embellished with embroidery and other surface decoration, and then made up by a master tailor (even though such a simple construction hardly needs a tailor).  After the honeymoon, the purpose of showing off the family’s wealth having been achieved by the wearing of the garments as well as the immortalizing in portraiture, the wedding trousseau would then we sold or pawned so the family could recover at least some of their expenses.  As mentioned earlier, giornea of this elaborate design were not daily-wear garments.  They were worn for the sole purpose of showing the family’s wealth at times of very special occasion.

In the painting reproduced at right, Lodovica Tornabuoni wears a brocade cioppa in a pattern strikingly similar to her relative in the previous example.  But that is not our focus here.  Our focus is the pale pink, subdued giornea worn by the female behind her and to her right.  We might make the mistake of assuming this is a servant of the family, but we would be wrong.  This is one of Lodovica’s female relatives, possibly even her mother.  She wears a dusky green gamurra with a pale rose giornea over it.  Upon closer inspection, we notice that her giornea is not unadorned but rather trimmed in gold at the center front and along the substantial hem.  It is closed on the sides and has sleeves.  Indeed one may argue that it is not a giornea at all but a cioppa, a sleeved overgarment that is beyond the scope of these historical notes.

The point I am trying to make is not the names of the garments, but the contrast between what the newly- or unmarried Tornabuoni wears and that worn by her older female relatives.  At right, the younger Tornabuoni wears a pink brocade open-sided giornea with leaf shapes adorning the side opening.  Underneath it is a white brocade or embroidered (or both) gamurra with blue skirts (an unusual arrangement).  The older gentlewoman on her right wears a gold gamurra with a teal underpinning visible at the front opening and a dark gold brocade giornea.  Her giornea is not as showy as the young woman’s, but it still indicates her wealth.  It has often been thought this is the patron’s sister and mother of Lorenzo de Medici, as very important person indeed.

From correspondence and other documentary evidence, we know that giorneae were meant to indicate the connections of the wearer.  Symbols associated with a certain family -- more subtle than heraldry, but yet unmistakable nonetheless -- were woven into or embroidered onto the giornea to show that the wearer was connected to the families to which those symbols belonged.  The jewelry worn in these portraits often called out those relationships as well.  In a oligarchy like Renaissance Florence, who you knew was almost as important as who you were.  Fashion was merely another way to demonstrate these relationships.

A beautiful example of the giornea 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 same one worn in her portrait in “The Visitation”, reproduced on the first page of these notes.  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)

Contemporary accounts are full of feminine complaints about the sumptuary laws that kept them from expressing their individuality and taste through their clothing.  Indeed, the picture shown to us by artists such as Ghirlandaio was not the picture of everyday life.  Nor was it the picture of a special celebration of the wealthy families of Florence.  It was a calculated message describing the political connections and influence of the family shown, all communicated through the most basic human language -- clothes.


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


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