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RH513 -- 1540s-60s Florentine Lady's Outfit

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Make Eleanore of Toledo's dress in your size with our pattern!

Buy our full-size paper patterns with complete instructions and historical notes for 16th century Italian Lady's Outfit as worn in Florence and the Tuscan region from the 1540s until Eleanore's death in 1562 and possibly as late as 1580. Pattern includes petticoat and overgown both with tie-on sleeves, side-back closure, A-line pleated skirts. Instructions for camicia (shift) also included.  Fits busts 30½"-48" and waists 23"-41". All Sizes in one envelope. Historical notes and embellishment suggestions included.


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Suggested Fabrics: 
light weight wool or silk taffeta
heavy linen or canvas for interlining 
light linen for lining 
linen for coif, camicia and partlet

Yardage Requirements:
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
(bodice only)

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

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:

Eleanor’s Influence -- Florentine Dress in the 1540s-60s

In the 1530s, Florentine dress had reached an extreme from which it was necessary to rebound. unmanageably huge sleeves attached to a bodice no bigger than a bust band characterized the styles of the 1530s as soon in Agnolo Bronzino’s famous “Portrait of a Lady” at right.

Enter Eleanor of Toledo, daughter of Don Pedro Álvarez de Toledo, viceroy of Naples. In 1539 she married Cosimo I de' Medici, the Duke of Florence, and became what many have called “the first first lady”. The costume and furnishings of the Ducal couple were chosen to project their power and wealth. Eleanor’s clothing as well as the portraits painted of her throughout her life was used to that end as well.

Probably the most famous portrait of Eleanor of Toledo is the 1545 portrait by Angolo Bronzino of her and her second son, Giovanni, who was two at the time. It hangs in the Uffizi Gallery today. Our reproduction below is missing a great deal of detail and I encourage you to seek out a picture of the original online on in a book of paintings.

The gown she wears in the picture is made from velvet with gold and silver bouclé effects on a silver ground representing the skill and richness of Florentine manufacturers. This gown does not survive but a piece of a very similar fabric is in the Carrand Collection at the National Museum of Bargello in Florence. The fabric dates to the 1550s. One source calls it “The richest every produced in the history of weaving.” This kind of display of wealth and Florentine craftsmanship is typical of the Medicis and Eleanor’s dress was a great part of the face that they showed to the world.

Although Eleanor was a Spanish noblewoman, she did not bring a great deal of Spanish influence to Tuscany. Shockingly, her wardrobe inventories do not include a single mention of that typical Spanish dress accessory, the farthingale. Instead, Eleanor is credited with creating what has come to be known as “The International Style”, a blending of different European elements of mid-16th c dress into a fashion that was popular all over Europe.

In her portrait at left, we can see the great differences between this and the Florentine style of the 1530s. While style displaying the beautiful fabric, the sleeves have returned to a more natural line. The bodice has shifted in both length and height, now coming to the natural waist at the lower edge and completely covering the cleavage at the neckline. This is reflected in many portraits of Eleanor, including the one by an unknown artist, reproduced at right. Her gown is made from a solid-coloured pink silk rather than a rich velvet brocade, but it is no less beautiful and rich. It is decorated with gold embroidery or couched cord. The shape of the sleeves and the bodice, as well as the hairnet and net-like partlet she wears are very similar to the Bronzino portrait above.

But what were other noblewomen of Florence wearing at this time? Bronzino’s 1540 portrait of Lucrezia Pucci Panciatichi, reproduced below, shows us one possible answer. Lucrezia wears a gown of deep rose-coloured satin with aubergene satin sleeves. The sleeves are adorned with jeweled decorative closures along the outseam, but the gown is otherwise unadorned. A small row of pinked piping edges the neckline and the sleeve heads are ruched attractively into puffs. The rest of the beauty is supplied by the glow of the rich fabric. Bronzino cleverly shows us the weight of the satin in the pleats at the waist of the gown. This gown is no less luxurious for its plainness. It also displays what might be perceived as an interim step between the Florentine style of the 1530s and the “International Style” Eleanor was ushering in.

Another portrait by a less proficient artist is seen at right, a portrait of an unknown young lady by an unknown artist of the Florentine school. Her tawny, unadorned gown has the same ruched sleeves with plain bottoms, high bodice with slightly curved natural waist, and cartridge-pleated skirts as Lucrezia’s, above.

In the 1550s and 1560s, Florentine style began to change. Bodices lengthened in front and terminated in a definite point. The pleated that had been equal all around the waist was now shifted towards the back and larger knife pleats seem to have become the norm. Decoration in the form of guards -- last seen in the 1520s in Florentine fashion -- reemerged tracing the edges of the bodice and hem and down the sleeves as it had before. But now the guards also striped the gown vertically from neckline to hem as well as outlining the triangular shape of the bodice in the front.

We have concrete evidence of these changes in Eleanor of Toledo’s burial gown and a gown believed to have belonged to one of her ladies-in-waiting.

Eleanor of Toledo’s burial gown is an ivory satin gown decorated with velvet guards embroidered with gold metal threads. She ordered its construction in August of 1562 and it was the last garment made for her before her death in a malaria epidemic in December of that year. It is shown in the illustration at right and can be seen in more detail in any of the sources in the bibliography below.

We consistently refer to this garment as a gown, but Eleanor’s wardrobe accounts use the word sottana, petticoat. Petticoat in this context is not a piece of under- clothing or a skirt. It means a simple gown meant to be worn under another gown. Petticoats were complete garments -- skirts sewn to bodices with sleeves that tied on -- and were worn around the house as such. When dressed for more formal occasions, a veste or overgown would be worn. This was either a fitted gown of the same shape or a loose gown or ropa of the type seen in other of Eleanor’s portraits.

The other extant example we referenced in this pattern is the crimson velvet dress shown at left. This is not mentioned in Eleanor’s wardrobe accounts, but Eleanor did have crimson velvet petticoats made for her ladies-in-waiting for the triumphal entry into Siena in 1560. This petticoat jives with that date. It is so similar in construction to Eleanor’s burial gown that it is believed to have been made by the same tailor, Mastro Angostine, Eleanor’s usual tailor. It was preserved on a statue of the Virgin Mary and was restored from that state by the staff of the Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Reale in Pisa.

The crimson petticoat is made from cut velvet with a bodice of crimson silk. It is decorated with guards of red silk satin ribbon with red and gold silk cords couched on it. The petticoat is lined with unbleached linen and the hem is stiffened with pinkish wool.

In all other ways, the petticote is a replica of Eleanor’s burial gown. But here, the sleeves are intact. The long fitted sleeves are closed by a small passementerie button. They consist of four vertical bands with small slashes in between. There are short strips of the same trim emerging from the shoulder area, and silk cords to tie the sleeves to the bodice. The sleeves are lined in dark red linen.


The Web Gallery of Art http://www.wga.hu/

L'abito della Granduchessa. 2000: Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Reale, Pisa.

Moda alla Corte dei Medici, gli albiti restauranti di Cosimo, Eleanora e don Garzia. 1993: Centro Di, Florence.

Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion: The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c1560-1620. 1985: Macmillan, London.

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 © 2011 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History


I am currently using this pattern with great success. I have not made this style of dress before, so it is lovely to not have to reinvent the wheel.

The ruched sleeve mocks up beautifully and looks just like the paintings. Kass has done it again!


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