8/22/14 Men’s 15th C Italian Gonnellino   Leave a comment

Documentation for my first gonnellino, entered in open A&S at a couple faires in Meridies.

There are several variations of over jackets or over gowns used by 15th C men in the Florentine/Ferrara area. The young stylish men tended to favor shorter versions, with variations of sleeves (size, shape, slit open/enclosed, or none), skirt length (crotch to knee length), open/closed sides, necklines, and pleating options (where they start or none).

Photo by Jessi Moss.



Allegory of April: Triumph of Venus. 1476-84. Francesco Cossa. Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara

Allegory of March: Triumph of Minerva. 1476-84. Francesco Cossa. Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara



Procession of the Oldest King. 1459-60. Benozzo Gozzoli.  Chapel, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence.

Procession of the Oldest King.
1459-60. Benozzo Gozzoli.
Chapel, Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence.

From the Italian word for “skirt”, the gonnellino is a stylish short-skirted over gown or jacket worn over the farsetto (doublet).  It may or may not have slit sleeves to show the farsetto sleeves. The neckline tends to be curved in front and “V” shaped in the back to show the high collar of the farsetto. The Florentine example shows a split in the back to facilitate riding. The Ferrara examples show buttons to just below the waist, with possible seam below that. I left mine open from waist down in front and back to facilitate riding.

Neck, cuffs and hem are edged with fur, open sleeves appear lined, possibly with fur (as mine are). I choose brown fur edging to hide dirt from working with dogs and horses. White appears to be the preferred fur trim color, although there is one Ferrara example with (leopard?) spotted fur. Buttons are the same color as the body fabric. Florentine example indicates patterned fabrics were used as well as solid color.

In period the outer fabric was most likely wool, with a fur lining. My outer fabric is man-made, so I lined with wool for warmth.


In production: the top and skirt not connected and the fur not applied.















The fitted body with full skirt of the Ferrara examples strongly suggests a seam connecting the two. My gonnellino has 8 skirt panels sewn to the body with slightly more than the 1:4 bodice waist to skirt hem minimum ratio that appears to be common for women’s gowns of this period. Although I think 8 panels are reasonable to prevent stretching of the fabric, I think each panel was a little too wide, giving me a bit more volume in the skirt than seen in the artwork.


Herald, J. (1981). Renaissance dress in Italy 1400-1500. The History of dress series, 2. London: Bell & Hyman.

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.

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.

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).

Posted August 22, 2014 by studioloperyn in 15th c italian clothing, italy

12/09/2013 Late 15th C Italian Women’s Gamurra   2 comments

I created this documentation last year for open A&S faires, thought I’d post it here as well.

The gamurra is a women’s dress, usually laced up the front, with a well fitted bodice and an attached skirt. By the last quarter of the century detachable (and thereby interchangeable) sleeves are seen, sometimes in a different fabric. Popular fabrics were wool and silk, and could be solid colors or elaborately patterned. Contemporary accounts describe elaborate embroidery with pearls and other decoration (Herald).

Portrait of a Young Woman, c1475 Portrait of a Young Woman

Portrait of a Young Woman, Sandro Botticelli, Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence c1475

Allegory of September, Cosmè Tura, 1476-84, Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara2-1

Allegory of September, Cosmè Tura, 1476-84, Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara

Peryn sept2012 by Jeff Combs

Photo by Jeff Combs

I choose a light weight linen for this gamurra to stay cool in the summer. The bodice is four pieces, with a mostly straight front opening. An earlier version had a curved front opening that did not work well when corded. Skirt panels are square and the bodice to skirt hem width ratio is approximately 1:6. This gives the needed volume to the skirt to match period artwork. A 1:4 ratio would work for heavier fabric with a stiffer drape.

Allegory of April, Triumph of Venus , 1476-84, Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara3-1

Allegory of April, Triumph of Venus , 1476-84, Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara

Allegory of April, Triumph of Venus , 1476-84, Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara2-1

Allegory of April, Triumph of Venus , 1476-84, Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara

Box pleats appear in some artwork for Florence and Ferrara. I used stacked boxpleats to gather the large volume of fabric into the body. This dress was my first attempt with box pleats. The inner pleats show more than I wanted, so the next dress I made I recessed the inner stacked pleats, which hides them very well, but still gives the needed volume.

The hem contains strips of felted wool (as seen in the Eleonora of Toldeo burial gown) which give the hem volume (no underskirt is needed).

The bodice has an inner piece with 2 layers of light weight linen sewn in channels to hold narrow diameter hemp cording. I used more cords per channel in the front than the back. This gives the necessary support to achieve the correct bustline. I have been unable to find extant examples or contemporary discussions of this technique, but after reviewing Jen Thompson’s experiments of corded vs non-corded bodice stiffening I decided to go with cording. I can’t document the materials, but I can definitely document the look.

I made lucet lacing from heavy cotton embroidery floss. The skirt uses hook and eye to close instead of lacing. The hooks allow for a tight join of the fabric that won’t shift and it doesn’t pucker. The skirt is split a few inches below the waist to provide enough room to pull the tight fitting bodice over my shoulders.

Peryn Sept2012 by Fiona MacLachlan

Photo by Fiona MacLachlan

Birth of St John the Baptist, GHIRLANDAIO, Domenico, 1486-90 Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence2

Birth of St John the Baptist, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1486-90 Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni, Domenico GHIRLANDAIO, 1488 Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid2

Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1488 Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Lacing holes for the front opening are reinforced with a metal ring (evidence in 16th C Italian burial clothes suggest their use as reinforcement) and covered with cotton embroidery floss. Sleeve attachment rings are hidden, I have not found evidence for the hole going through the shoulder.

The front lacing is looped twice through each hole. This gives additional friction and prevents the lace from slipping, which allows for a tighter fit under the bust and a looser fit above. It is much more comfortable to wear than my two-side lacing dresses and the silhouette looks more accurate.

Allegory of April, Triumph of Venus , 1476-84, Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara3-2

Allegory of April, Triumph of Venus , 1476-84, Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara

Allegory of March, Triumph of Minerva, 1476-84, Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara1

Allegory of March, Triumph of Minerva, 1476-84, Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara


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. (Herald)

Herald, J. (1981). Renaissance dress in Italy 1400-1500. The History of dress series, 2. London: Bell & Hyman.

Posted December 9, 2013 by studioloperyn in 15th c italian clothing

9/18/12 Going for the bling factor   3 comments

It’s been an exciting few weeks with Foxes, Coronation and Red Tower! The black linen gammura is essentially finished and the pattern has proven to be very comfortable and look pretty good. This is my first attempt at front lace bodices and boy did I have a steep learning curve.

The pic on the right is version 1.0 from Red Tower last year with the curved front design (ignore the yellow sleeves, they have been retired!). This failed spectacularly and I learned that while curved front designs work well for non-structured bodices, they don’t for structured ones. Learn from my pain.

You can see that the black & gold overdress got tweaked as well. The front didn’t lay flat so I added a number of hook & eyes to the lower bodice.

I also added a 2″ tall strip of felted wool to the hem of the black gammura and tacked in place at several heights. I did this with the black/gold overdress last year. Wow, what a difference! This gives volume to the skirt without the need of farthingales! I got the idea from the Eleanora of Toledo burial gown, as described in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion.

I’ve also figured out a cool way to do the lacings so they don’t come undone.Put the lacing through each hole twice. The friction keeps it from moving so you don’t have to crank down so hard to keep everything in place! The lacing is lucet, something else I started doing this year. Pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Thanks to Alessandra for answering my newbie questions ;)

 On the left is the result from this year’s Red Tower. Yeah, it’s a year later than I wanted. The most awesome thing is how comfortable it is. My previous two side lace gammuras had to be cranked down so tight to keep the girls from slipping (right picture), and it still didn’t give me quite the right look. The new design allows me to tighten below to give support, but loosen above to give some breathing room. And it looks right!

I was really afraid that the camicia would be see-through with the front lace, but with all the pleats (arrangement of pleats seems to be a major theme of italian fashion) there’s too much fabric to be see-through. Awesome!

Notice how tall I look. 

I’m wearing my chopines I finished in time for Saltare (June) this year. They were a bit of a pain to do, but certainly bring on the bling factor. I’ve been learning how to walk in them. Basically I walk really slow and take tiny up and down steps, no rolling the heel-toe thing.

With the sleeves I made at the beginning of the year, I have actually made myself a whole outfit!!!! Yahoo! And when I wear it I feel completely useless. I can carry a mug and fan and that’s about it. If I change into shorter chopines I could dance. But in essence this is my “stand around and look pretty outfit”. Oh, and I am now putting pockets in all my outfits. They are so friggin’ handy I can’t believe I didn’t do this years ago. No more lugging around a bag just to carry a car key and some cash. The overdress even hides my phone!

Posted September 18, 2012 by studioloperyn in 15th c italian clothing, dogs

5/24/2012 A perfect day to dye   1 comment

Last Sunday we hosted a dye workshop at our house. Margavati had been wanting to try out some dye ideas and Domenica, who has dyeing expereince, was willing to help out. Then we opened it up to anyone else that wanted to come out so it became this cool self-directed experiment day. Everyone had a dye or two they were playing with and shared it with whoever wanted to try.

Indigo, cochineal, tumeric, dandelion, camomile, tea, madder. Wool, silk, linen, bamboo. There was quite a rainbow on the drying line. We set up a bunch of prep tables on the right side, where Ophelia, Murien and Jennifer wound mulberry silk, linen and bamboo into small skiens for dyeing.

We had both tin and alum for mordants. Domenica had some cool little disks to tie on the materials to track fiber, mordent and dye. After sitting in it’s mordent for awhile, it went into the dye bath. We ran a row of coleman stoves on the left side of the driveway for the dye pots. 

We learned that indigo didn’t need a mordent and neither did the tumeric. The tin with cochineal gives a spectacular scarlet red on wool if it’s the first thing to be dyed. The bath seemed to loose strength after that and the silks and later wool ended up pink. The indigo lost intensity after a while too, but Rhydderch had taken off the stove to dye so it could be it was too cool and oxygen returned to the bath.

The tumeric gave a surprisingly bright and intense yellow and was set with vinegar. Margavati painted a piece of cotton, then dipped in amonia to show how it turns orange. A dip back in vinegar and it returns to sunshine yellow. Science!

Domenica discovered that while egg whites are a great binder when block printing mordents, but they dry hard as a rock and refuse to liquefy with water. Luckily the blocks got washed immediately.

Indigo is always fun to play with as it changes colors during oxygenation, but we were finding that the dye wasn’t taking evenly. Best guess is we were crowding the fabric. With several applications we were getting deep blues. Ophelia experimented with over dyes: indigo-cochineal-indigo got a deep grape purple. Margavati tried tumeric-indigo and got a tie-dye effect with green/blue/yellow.

Domenica and Ophelia came out the day before and while Ophelia learned to fly fish with Rhydderch, Domenica finally got to meet my horses :) We spent several hours at the barn, including a training session with Picaro where I showed her how I use positive reinforcement techniques to switch his brain from instictive flight mode to thinking mode when challenged with scary objects. This is very useful for SCA events and games and also training her husband’s horse for Civil War events. I also taught her and Tammy the training game. It’s great way to learn +R, especially timing. The look on their face when they each got their first “good girl” is so much like Picaro and Nico when I’m training a new behavior. I couldn’t stop laughing.

More pics of the dye workshop are on my Flickr site.

Posted May 24, 2012 by studioloperyn in Oooo! Shiney!

3/21/2012 – Gulf Wars   3 comments

Gulf Wars 21 is done. We had a great time and I’m very proud of both horses for handling the war so well. I only rode Nico. Picaro wasn’t quite ready to stay settled with all the new scary stuff so I walked him in hand alot and introduced him to everything. Although he was frequently wide-eyed, he handled almost everything except Raven, the big black mare, when she charged down the tilt lane across from him. She’s pretty intimidating so I understand. The years of operant conditioning paid off. As soon as he stopped running he looked around for me, I held out my hand, said “target” and he came right to me. I have a personal theory that mares may be better for jousting because they are more bad-ass. Nico lays back her ears and makes nasty faces when we tilt.

Nico gets very excited at the games and I am challenged to keep her smooth and quiet while riding (while standing she falls asleep). I got lots of compliments on my riding and was asked if I am a professional rider :) One of my first period riding class students from the last couple years told me this year he’s taking riding lessons at home and is amazed at how effective leg yeilds are in controlling his mount during mounted combat, something I emphasize in my classes :)

The dogs ran in the Royal coursing on Thursday and did pretty well handling the crowds. Everyone wants to get a puppy fix, but they get overwhelmed easily so we try to give them long breaks. Very cute to see queens of the Knowne World sitting on the ground and cajoling a 15 lb IG to come say hi.

I entered my camicia in the GW Arts & Sciences open on Friday. Although I didn’t win populace choice I got a huge surprise: wonderful praise from Kass McGann of Reconstructing History, a professional who has done much more hands on research of the actual garments than I will ever be able to do!

12/28/11 The camicia is done, long live the camicia   Leave a comment

photo credit - Martin WhitenOver a year of research, patterning and handsewing has come to an end. The 15th C Italian camicia is done and made its debut at Magna Faire Dec 3rd with an 18/20 score (KA&S rules). One point off for documentation (needs some orgnizational tweaks and there was a comment on “excessive documentation”) and one for complexity.

I hope to address both of these by reworking the documentation (already in progress) and enter again at MidWinter. The documentation was a little rough for Magna Faire so I didn’t get a chance to explain the extent of the research and pattern testing I did on this project, which I feel increases it’s complexity (along with the super tiny seams!).photo credit - Martin Whiten

The extraneous documentation was background on who would have made the camicias in period (Frick goes into detail on the seamstresses who specialized in personal linens) and how many a person would own. I will move these to an appendix to avoid overwhelming the casual reader, but I think those interested in the subject matter will find this information interesting.

The display got alot of compliments, but I think for the Gulf Wars open I’ll need a break down holder for the camicia instead of bringing Beth (my dressmaker dummy), she takes up a whole car seat.

photo credit - Susan Farmer

I also finished my 15th C Italian over dress and wore it at Magna Faire. It was mostly done for Red Tower, but needed a few more hooks in the front to get it to lay flat.

I tried sewing the box pleats closed for 2.5 inches, like the dresses in the Ferrara Triumph frescoes, but it completely changed the look at the waist, instead of being full just below the bodice, it was tight. It just didn’t look right (pictures to come later) so I ripped it all out and called it done.

I had a great time talking costuming with Domenica, judging a 15th C Italian gamurra and overdress by Jac, and having lunch with my apprentice sisters (who gleefully rummaged through my sewing box).

Next up is a rework to the new bodice pattern for the gamurra (I over did the front curve with awkward results) for a red/gold patterned dress and matching sleeves. I’m hoping to get it done for 12th Night or MidWinter and get this friggin’ pattern settled so I can crank out a couple more gamurras.

After that it’s all about getting stuff done for Gulf Wars. We’re bringing the horses and I need to make barding (yes, I have barding, but most of it is the horse equivalent of cotton t-tunics and needs to go away!). I’m also planning some men’s 15th C Italian outfits and have a long-sleeved skirted jacket in the works. Eventually I’d like a 16th C Ottoman riding outfit for mounted archery…….

Posted December 28, 2011 by studioloperyn in 15th c italian clothing, documentation, italy

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12/2/10 The Patience of Griselda   Leave a comment

 So, the camicia will not be ready for Magna Faire.  I have come to terms with this. I am close to finishing the research and pattern trials and I am happy to say that I think I have a solid arguement for the pattern I have settled on (there being no extant 15th C camicias or patterns, it’s all conjecture). After being sick for almost a week I realized about 1am Tuesday morning that I did not have enough time to do this the way I wanted it to be done. It will be ready for Mid-Winter.

My research style tends to be 1) scan as much as I can find, read, absord and save; 2) muse, draw, develop theories and understandings, and scan for more specific info as questions arise; 3) once optimal mass is reached (I feel comfortable that I have found enough sources, found answers for my questions and synthesized/internalized the data ) I enter a head long,  downhill, relatively focused time of compiling what I’ve found, checking that I’ve pulled everything I need from the resources available, and pushing toward the final product. In this case it’s a pattern and then the garmet. Once I get to the step of cutting out the garmet and sewing it, I consider myself in the home stretch. The sewing is the easy, brainless part.

In revisiting Birbari last weekend I found a picture I had intended to followup on, but forgot about. The story of Patient Griselda. In panel II we see her in 3 states of dress (full, partal, and just the camicia). This is a wonderful find (and I am very grateful to the National Gallery of London for making this painting available online!).  I don’t know of another example where we get to see how the camicia looks both under the dress (at sleeves and neck) and also by itself, all in the same painting.

The trick now is to not loose momentum (there are so many attractive distractions!). I am ready for a full size mockup to figure out the size of the gores and gusset.

Posted September 1, 2011 by studioloperyn in 15th c italian clothing

11/12/10 Magpies   Leave a comment

I was asked at the beginning of this year where I get inspiration for my projects. Inspiration routinely hunts me down and tackles me. Inspriation is not the problem. My problem is focusing on a singular topic to move forward with. Career, house, family and animals take a large portion of my time, so when I choose to focus on one research area or project, I must ignore the others. This is difficult for a magpie.

To illustrate my point, visit the visual thesaurus and type in a word. If you choose a good word, such as “dress”, you will see a myriad of linked words. The magpie happliy clicks each of those words and then the links those words produce. This is how I research for enjoyment, as well as when I’m researching a project. The problem is only following the relevent link and ignoring the rest. Try it, I dare you.

And so in my recent research I have have found information on soft farthingales, yardages for garments, and facinating contemporary female writers who describe in their letters silk fabrics, elaborate dresses, and gold worked embroidery. But I have set myself a deadline, so I make a note and move on. If I want to enter this piece in Magna Faire I need to finish my documentation and begin hand sewing. Soon.

Posted September 1, 2011 by studioloperyn in documentation, Magpies, Oooo! Shiney!

10/28/10 My summer insanity   Leave a comment

So after many years of fussing with the shape and structure of my first two 15th C Italian gamurras (started with Period Patterns, but modified heavily)

 I took a head-long dive into creating 3 more this June for a newbie family (all 3 plus a camicia in 2 weeks, what was I thinking???)

Kerry’s red gamurra was the most challenging, it was corded (Katie and Anna’s are not), and I am extremely pleased in how it came out. (Construction photos and comments)

Anna’s blue dress was the first one I made of the 3. I just did a gamurra without the corded bodice. It was so neat to work with a smaller version of this style of dress and it being the first, I was testing the research and theories I’ve developed since my last dress. Based on the J. Arnold pattern documnetation (late 16th C) I added gores for fullness. The skirt panels are square (as seen in the wool/linen extant 16th C dress in Pisa) and were supposed to be 1:2 ratio of bodice width to skirt panel width (from the 16th C JA patterns) but I goofed because the dress was so small and I was thinking in adult skirt fullness — I DOUBLED the skirt panel width, giving me 1:4. I didn’t realized this until the dress was “on the body” and I marveled at how good the skirt looked volume-wise. Happy accident! I did the same for Katie’s green and Kerry’s red dresses, with very good results.

My big new addition was pockets. Why hadn’t I thought about this before for me??? There looks like an interior pocket in the EoT burial dress, so I inserted pockets in all 3 dresses (and plan to add them to mine as well).

Another big step forward for me on this project was experience and confidence in on-the-body patterning, especially for structured bodices. I have taught my 15th C gamurra/corded bodice class a couple times now and I’ve patterned the bodice for a handful of people. I’ve developed a system for keeping the pattern symetrical by cutting the pattern cloth first from a traced t-shirt. This gives a good starting place and valueable reference points while doing 3D fits.

Posted September 1, 2011 by studioloperyn in 15th c italian clothing

10/27/10 A 15th C italian camicia   Leave a comment

My current project is the research and construction of a late 15th C Italian camicia. After reviewing period artwork and 16th C extant examples, I think I have a pattern I can document.

The Healing of the Madman, CARPACCIO 1496

On to documenting stitches/seams, linen fabric and use. Hoping to be done in time for Magna Faire.

I’m also preparing to make a 15th C gamurra which will have a thinner diameter cord in the bodice than my two previous dresses. Hoping for support with a little more rounding and flexibility. If there’s time before Midwinter A&S I’d like to do a cioppa.

On other fronts, we are coursing the hounds at Castle Wars, please come support us! The trailer will have to wait until spring so no horses for me at this event, but hoping to bring them to Gulf Wars XX. And there is tons of clothes to make for GW! I really want a doublet this year, 15th C Italian? I’m tired of the cotehardies and t-tunics for riding.