Florentine Dress: 1475-1500

Although my main interest revolves around 16th century costume, it is still fascinating to do a little back-tracking and learn about where those styles came from and how the garments evolved over time. Italian women had been wearing a basic gamurra (a kirtle-like dress with a fitted bodice and full skirt) under the loose overgowns of earlier periods, but in the 1470's, we begin to see this simple, every-day garment worn alone as a symbol of modesty; an important virtue for a woman during this period in Florence. With only slight alterations, this same type of gown remains the at the center of Florentine fashions over the next 75 years. At this early date, most of the gowns are laced up the front and are shown with a variety of decorative lacing styles. Side-lacing is also seen in some examples, and the opening eventually shifts to the sides in most dresses after the beginning of the 16th century. The sleeves can either be sewn in, partially sewn in, or tied in at the shoulder, and they are typically fairly tight with slashes or separate pieces connected at strategic points to aid in movement. While a few paintings show elaborate brocades, the majority of these gowns are very plain with the only decoration coming from a thin band of trim around the neckline (which becomes greatly exaggerated in later periods) or possibly decorative metal lacing rings. One of the most striking features of this era is the unique hairstyle that can be seen in almost every portrait. It was quite fashionable to have a crimped fringe at the sides of the head with the rest of the hair taped or confined by a small cap.

Leonardo da Vinci: Ginevra de' Benci, 1474-1478

Washington: The National Gallery of Art

You can't see much of the dress in this chopped-off portrait, but the details are still nice - especially the small gold trim around the neckline, gold lacing rings, and the gold button on the neck-covering.
Antonio Rossellino: Portrait Bust of a Lady, 1470's

Berlin: Staatliche Museen

A good view of spiral lacing through rings.
Domenico Ghirlandaio: Lucrezia Tornabuoni, 1475

Washington: National Gallery of Art

This portrait shows an interesting "X' style lacing through decorative rings that is possibly made with two interlaced spirals (note that there is no horizontal rung across the top row). In this early example, the neck-covering is shown with the common v-shaped point over the bodice in front, but it is less tailored than later versions.
Domenico Ghirlandaio: Portrait of a Lady, 1480

Williamston, Massachusetts: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

The v-shaped line across the bodice marks the bottom of an amazingly sheer neck-covering. In a period that valued modesty in women's dress, these transparent silk fabrics provided a way for the wearer to subtly show her wealth without breaking sumptuary laws. Also note the tiny bow beneath her chin securing the embroidered cap on the back of her head.
Domenico Ghirlandaio: A Young Woman, 1485

New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This woman is wearing the same type of pointed partlet as the previous example, but the more opaque fabric makes it much easier to see. Although most of the gowns from this period would have been made from wool, this gown looks like watered or moire silk. And again, the diagonal lines of the "X" style lacing do not go straight across - they appear to be looped together in the middle.
Domenico Ghirlandaio: Portrait of a Girl, 1490

London: National Gallery

You can just barely see the bottom diagonal edge of this v-shaped partlet near the bottom of the painting. Her gown is closed with ladder lacing.
Sebastiano Mainardi: Portrait of a Woman, 1490

Berlin: Staatliche Museen

A slightly different style of partlet that still comes over the bodice, but is cut straight across the bottom. The trims around the partlet and the gown neckline are especially nice in this example. She is also wearing an interesting beaded necklace and possibly a hair-piece.
Fra Bartolommeo: Costanza de' Medici Caetani, 1480-1490

London: National Gallery

Similar to a few other examples, this gamurra is shown being worn over another garment which is visible between the gap at the center front opening. Although it is a bit difficult to make out in this small copy, the lacing is done in a herringbone pattern where the cord loops back over itself before continuing to the next ring.
Agnolo e Donnino del Mazziere: Portrait of a Young Woman,

Berlin: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

According to the book "Virtue and Beauty", the ties fastening the sleeves to the bodice have silver aglets at the tips, and they pass through metal eyelets at the shoulder.
NEW! Domenico Ghirlandaio: Giovanna Tornabuoni, 1490

Tokyo: Fuji Art Museum

I've been hesitant to post this one because the attribution of the artist and sitter seems somewhat questionable to me. Plus, it looks a little too much like the previous painting. Who knows... maybe the previous one is a copy and this is the original. But I do think there's something fishy going on with these two portraits.
Circle of Sandro Botticelli: Portrait of a Plainly Dressed Lady, 1490's

Florence: Palazzo Pitti

A very austere style with a pleated skirt instead of the more typical gathers.
Andrea del Verrocchio: Bust of a Lady, 1480's

New York: The Frick Collection

The gamurra is show here with a giornea, a sleeveless overdress that is open at the sides and in this case, is fastened at the bust with a beautiful leaf-shaped clasp. Florentine women would typically wear some type of overgown with their gamurras when going out in public, and the cool tabard-style giornea was a popular choice for summer wear.
Domenico Ghirlandaio: Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni, 1488

Madrid: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

The gamurra and giornea combo becomes truly spectacular when made from rich brocades! Giovanna died in childbirth at the young age of 20, so this posthumous portrait is a bit unique because it shows her wearing the elaborate finery typically associated with betrothal and marriage. After a woman has been married for a few years, it was more common to see them in the modest gamurras that were worn at home.
Domenico Ghirlandaio: Visitation (detail), 1485-1590

Florence: Santa Maria Novella

Another full length painting of Giovanna Tornabuoni created from the same preparatory drawing as the one above. This is a great example showing how Florentine donors portrayed in religious works would typically be depicted wearing accurate, contemporary styles of clothing.
Domenico Ghirlandaio: Birth of the Virgin (detail), 1485-1490

Florence: Santa Maria Novella, Cappella Maggiore

The most interesting figure of this group is the girl on the right, identified as Lodovica Tornabuoni. Although the styles differ, both her gamurra and overgown are made of the exact same fabrics as those worn by her sister-in-law, Giovanna Tornabuoni (seen in the previous 2 images). Lodovica was only 13 or 14 at the time of this painting, and her long, loose hair was probably symbolic of her maidenhood.
Domenico Ghirlandaio: Birth of St John the Baptist (detail), 1486-90
Florence: Santa Maria Novella, Cappella Maggiore

I love the delicate floral brocades or embroidery on the woman's dress on the left! Note the 3-dimensional leaf-shaped pieces that are attached down the edge of the giornea opening.
Domenico Ghirlandaio: Birth of St John the Baptist (detail), 1486-90
Florence: Santa Maria Novella, Cappella Maggiore

A servant wearing a dress of the exact same style as that worn by the upper classes. The only difference would be the quality of fabric and richness of the accessories.
Domenico Ghirlandaio: Birth of St John the Baptist (detail), 1486-90
Florence: Santa Maria Novella, Cappella Maggiore

A wonderful view of side lacing, and again, you can see that the cap is tied beneath the chin.
Domenico Ghirlandaio: Annunciation of the Death of St. Fina (detail), 1475-1477
San Gimignano: Colleggiata

This picture is from the early part of this period, and the two seated women are shown wearing the typical gowns, but with much bulkier and less tailored head and shoulder coverings.
Domenico Ghirlandaio: Resurrection of the Notary's Son (detail), 1479-1485

Florence: Santa Trinita, Sassetti Chapel

Some more beautiful full-length gowns, and the v-shaped neck covering appears again on the kneeling woman in pink and possibly the woman in cream and red.