15th Century Florentine Gamurra & Cioppa (Part 1)

The gamurra is a basic, unlined dress worn by women of all classes in the 1400s (Frick 309). Prior to mid-15th century, the gamurra was frequently worn alone, however after the 1450s, the gamurra was typically covered by a cioppa or giornea, when departing the home and on formal occasions.

Cioppa is a general word for an overdress in Florence, Italy (Frick 306). Typically, the cioppa is considered to be a very full overdress with a deep V neckline. However, the young girl’s overdress in “Resurrection of the Boy” is best described as a cioppa, or cioppettina.

I began this project in July 2014, after being fitted for the bodice during Pennsic that month. Upon returning home, I jumped right into this project, mocking up the bodice and trueing the pattern.

The project was to recreate the red/blue outfit in Domenico Ghirlandaio’s painting, “Resurrection of the Boy”, 1482-1485.

Resurrection of the Boy by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Resurrection of the Boy, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1482-1485

I was inspired by the blue cioppa because it is different from most overgowns seen during this period. My interest was further piqued when I could not find any other examples of attempts to recreate this outfit, or a similarly styled cioppa.

A year or more ago, I purchased a periwinkle blue linen with intentions of making this gown. I’ve since learned that a noblewoman’s gown such as this would typically be made of silk, but I already had the fabric, so I went ahead with my plan.

I cut the bodice pattern out of the blue linen and thus began my project. I realized that I technically had a gamurra pattern with a center opening for lacing, not a closed front bodice for the cioppa. I decided to stitch the center seam closed, rather than wait for a rare chance to have another fitting with my friend, which could be months.

Cioppa bodice lining

Cioppa bodice lining and interlining

I cut an interlining from cotton duck, and laid it on top of my shell fabric. Then I folded the seam allowance of the shell over the interlining and whipstitched the shell to the interlining. I repeated this process with the lining and then whipstitched the two together at all edges.

Cioppa bodice

Cioppa bodice shell and interlining

Cioppa bodice

Cioppa bodice

When the bodice was all stitched together, I hand sewed eyelets along the side-back seams using DMC floss in a close match for color.

Cioppa bodice eyelets

Cioppa bodice eyelets

Sometimes, instead of working on the bodice, I switched to making a partlet out of fine handkerchief weight linen. I used the partlet pattern included in Margo Anderson’s Italian Ladies’ Underpinnings, without a shoulder seam. This was a quick little project.

After I finished the cioppa bodice, I began the gamurra bodice, which I should have done first, then fitted the cioppa over the gamurra. Hindsight. The gamurra is center front opening, so I stitched the side back seams, then did the same thing with the interlining for the shell and lining.

Gamurra bodice

Next, I picked out some nice round rings from the beading section of the craft store to use as lacing rings for the front of the gamurra, as seen in “A Young Woman” by Ghirlandaio, c. 1485.

lacing

Then I sewed them on.

After the lacing rings were finished, I did a test fit on myself and my dummy before beginning my sleeves.

Gamurra fitting

To draft my sleeve pattern, I used The Curious Frau’s instructions, which were precise and easy to use. Once I had a mockup, I cut away the bottom edge until it looked like the painting, and attached some cord to test the appearance. After I had what I wanted, I cut my red(ish) linen to the pattern and hand sewed a French seam to close the sleeve.

I use French seams so that there I have no problems with fraying. I have not researched the historical accuracy of its usage, and don’t intend to. This is my buy for modern convenience of the washing machine.

Anyway, I roll hemmed all the edges of the wrist opening and shoulder, then whipstitched the sleeve to the armscye with tiny stitches. The sleeve is stronger than I expected, but the stitches are very small and close together, so it’s in place securely.

Rolled hem sleeve

The lacings across the sleeve are made of lucet cord, as well as all of the lacings for the gamurra and cioppa. I used #3 DMC perle cotton that I had handy.

While working on the sleeves, I noticed that my newly finished 16th century camicia’s sleeves were too voluminous for this outfit. That lead to hand sewing a new camicia out of handkerchief weight linen, before I could move on in the sleeve department.

At this point, the cords were such a pain in my fingers to stitch down that I moved on to something totally different and didn’t finish the second sleeve until the night before the debut event, St Eligius.

(Continued in Part 2)

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Brown, David Alan. Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo’s Ginevra De’ Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women;. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2001. Print.

Frick, Carole Collier. Dressing Renaissance Florence: Families, Fortunes, & Fine Clothing. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2002. Print.

Herald, Jacqueline. Renaissance Dress in Italy 1400-1500. London: Bell & Hyman, 1981. Print.



15th Century Florentine Gamurra & Cioppa (Part 2)

(Continued from part 1)

The skirt was made of all the remaining fabric. I took the 5 yard long rectangle of fabric and cartridge pleated it into place. I love cartridge pleating. It’s so soothing. When I cartridge pleat, I simply fold over the top by a couple of inches and pleat the doubled fabric. The hem was hem-stitched and then I had a dress! Well, a dress with one sleeve.

finished gown night before

Picture taken the night before the event

But at this point, I was able to make sure the cioppa bodice fit over the gamurra. It did. I then had to decide how to attach the cioppa skirt to the bodice. This had been bugging me for a while as the blue skirt in “Resurrection of the Boy” does not look, to me, like cartridge pleating, knife pleating or box pleating, the types of pleating known to be in use at the time. To my eye, the folds of the skirt and shadows looked like rolled pleats, which isn’t one of the three types mentioned above.

Resurrection of the Boy by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Resurrection of the Boy, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1482-1485

I could not find any mention of rolled pleats in use during the late 15th century, or even the beginning of the 15th century. I have no idea when rolled pleats were first used, but there are many images that look quite similar to the appearance of rolled pleats.

Man and a Woman at a Casement by Filippo Lippi

Portrait of a Man and a Woman at a Casement, Filippo Lippi, 1440.

I decided to try rolled pleats and see if they looked like the painting. My goal was to recreate the appearance of a painting, and I did my best to achieve that goal, even if I had to cheat to get the proper look.

The skirt of the cioppa was again the remainder of the fabric, approximately 6 yards. I had sewed the skirt together with a French seam, doubled over the top, stitched in a felt strip for extra padding, repeated for the lining, then put it aside for several months until I reached this point. I didn’t want to attached the skirt of the cioppa until I had done so with the gamurra, in case it didn’t hang properly.

I began by using a BBQ fork (large 2 tined metal fork) to roll pleat the fabric. This is how it works: you slide the fabric between the two tines and twist. One turn will achieve a knife pleat, multiple turns will achieve a rolled pleat.

The pleats were way too big and using way too little material. I unstitched the felt strip and got a better result. After attaching the whole of the skirt, I decided that the pleats looked too big, not like the portrait, so I took it all apart. I tried repleating with the fork, but finally I decided to try a pair of pliers laying about nearby. This was harder to do, as it didn’t have nice straight sides like the fork did, but I was able to carefully create rolled pleats by turning the pliers 3 times in the front and 4 times in the back.

I then stitched the pleats to the bodice, sewing through the part of the pleat closest to the bodice with DMC perle cotton, then through the entire pleat to hold it in place permanently. This was much closer to the painting than the first try, however the pleats were opening up in the front. So I threaded more perle cotton and ran a permanent thread discreetly through the rolls about 4 inches from the top to keep them in place.

Attaching the skirt

Attaching the skirt

Now I had two dresses both needing a sleeve or two. I used the same basic pattern as the gamurra sleeve and just barely eked out the two sleeves from some scrap from the cioppa. I had to widen the wrist to be able to scrunch the sleeve above my elbow, similar to the inspiration painting.

Once the sleeves were finished I had to hem all 6 yards of fabric. My mom marked the hem while I was wearing camicia, gamurra and cioppa, leaving a train in the back. I hemstitched both the lining and the shell fabric seperately, to allow the lining to act similarly to a petticoat.

As a break from sewing the hem, I finished the gamurra sleeve. Finally, around 2 AM the night before St Eligius, I stopped sewing. Note that I did not say “finished sewing”. Nope, the last yard or so was finished in the morning, on the way to the event, like any good project is meant to be finished. 🙂

While I was feverishly sewing, my boyfriend kindly beaded my belt for me, my final piece in the puzzle. The belt was made from stretch bracelets, taken apart and restrung on wire. I chose these because of the triangular shape, which appeared to be similar to the triangular “reflections” in the girl’s belt in my inspiration piece.

The belt turned out a little big, and the cioppa adjusted my posture to a proper position that I am wholly unused to, but the dress fit great and looked wonderful. Everything was finished in time for St Eligius and I received nice feedback during the event.

Gamurra and Cioppa

Gamurra and Cioppa Photo by Ysemay Sterling

Gamurra and Cioppa

Gamurra and Cioppa Photo by Bifrost Studios

———–

Brown, David Alan. Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo’s Ginevra De’ Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women;. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2001. Print.

Frick, Carole Collier. Dressing Renaissance Florence: Families, Fortunes, & Fine Clothing. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2002. Print.

Herald, Jacqueline. Renaissance Dress in Italy 1400-1500. London: Bell & Hyman, 1981. Print.



Stockings Research

Yesterday, I made a pair of stockings, but they were made from a pattern I drafted several years ago and turned out too big in the calf.

My Stocking

My Stocking

I decided that if I were to make a new pattern, I would research extant stockings and patterns drawn from those items. Below are the results of my research and design.

First up is a stocking from Cluny Museum, and a pattern for a similar stocking, both dated to the 14th century.

Cluny Museum Stockings

14th C Stockings at Cluny Museum retrieved from MedievalTailor.com

Baynard Castle Stocking Pattern

14th C Stockings; Pattern from “Some Clothing of the Middle Ages” based on Baynard’s Castle finds in “Clothing & Textiles”

Next, we have a 15th century pattern for chausses, from “Costume”.

chausses pattern

15th C chausses; Pattern from “Costume” retrieved from RenaissanceTailor.com

The 15th century pattern evolves into a similar 16th century pattern and further into a 17th century pattern with a taller clock, drafted from an extant stocking.

Textile Conservation stockings pattern

16th C stockings pattern from “Textile Conservation & Research”, retrieved from bayrose.org

POF stockings pattern

17th C stockings, Pattern from “Patterns of Fashion 4”

POF4 stockings pattern

17th C stockings, Image from “Patterns of Fashion 4”

Then there’s an image of a 16th century Venetian courtesan where you can clearly see the tall clocks on her ankles. I’ve decided that *this* is the appearance I’m trying to achieve.

Venetian Courtesan stockings

16th C Venetian Courtesan from “Diversarum Nationum Habitus”, retrieved from RenaissanceItaly.net

Looking back over the available patterns, they all have a seam beneath the heel that I am not comfortable with. So next I took a look at the modern costumers’ interpretations of patterns.

Melanie Schuessler Stocking Pattern

16th C Original Pattern by Melanie Schuessler

Katerina stockings pattern

16th C Original Pattern by Katerina da Brescia

Both of these patterns are modified to have a full sole without a seam. Both result in a clocked stocking. I decided to go with a pattern similar to Katerina da Brescia’s of Kat’s Purple Files, modifying the triangles to achieve a taller clock such as in the courtesan picture.

To draft my pattern, I used The Medieval Tailor’s instructions for step 1 and step 2 and drew my lines directly on my muslin. Then I cut out the muslin with plenty of excess, stitched the back seam and tried it on. Perfect! From here, I used a technical process of tugging the fabric around and guessing to come up with a pattern that was shaped like Kat’s (above). It worked, but I cut the length of the toe cover too short and ended up having to piece it to the right size.

So my pattern looks like this:

Kataryn Mercer Stockings Pattern

16th C Original Pattern by Kataryn Mercer

Kataryn Mercer Stockings Pattern

16C Original Pattern by Kataryn Mercer

I sewed it all together using a running stitch, then I folded over the remainder and whipstitched it down. So not quite a run and fell seam, but very similar. For the gussets at the ankle, I folded and whip stitched the top first, then the sides.

Stocking stitching

I haven’t finished the top edge yet, because I want to make sure both stockings are the same height, and possibly decorate the part that folds down over the garter, but here is my new stocking:

Stocking

My new stocking – side

Stocking

My new stocking – front

This stocking has been done for about a month, but I misplaced the pattern and my mother recently found it for me (exactly where I’d been looking, but somehow was blind), so I can make a matching left foot now!



Projects in the works (still)

I originally wrote this post back in January and I felt like I should revisit the topic.

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Projects completed:

Apron dress and underdress

Red sottana

2 Greek chitons

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Projects currently in progress:

Ghirlandaio cioppa and gamurra (deadline: October 25th)

Stockings (one finished)

Dutch cloak – need to take out lining, buy new fabric and re-line, then it’s complete. (No deadline, but it’s getting cold and I will need it soon.)

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Projects next on the table:

Veste – waiting for Margo Anderson’s pattern (possibly November??)

Tudor gown – bodice sewn, everything else to be completed, requires money to purchase additional fabric for forepart and sleeves

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Projects and ideas on the back, back, back burner:

Whiteworked Partlet – needs to be finished by February 22nd. Hem and embroidery.

Elizabethan corset – needs to be finished

1920s flapper gown – started, trim needs to be sewn down

18th century corset – needs to be finished

18th century pocket hoops – one hoop needs to be finished

Cotehardie – not started

sideless surcoat – not started

18th century chemise gown – fabric purchased, not started

Posted in Miscellaneous


Apprenticeship Ceremony

On January 25th, 2014, at Market Day at Birka in Manchester, NH, I became apprenticed to Mistress Vienna de la Mer. Below are pictures of the event, taken by Cateline la Broderesse.



My Heraldry

I have neglected to share with you my heraldry that has been approved. I am officially Kataryn Mercer, and my device is: Per pale Or and argent, in chief in fess three pine trees couped sable.

My heraldry

I am also using two unofficial badges:

badge

badge

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged


Projects in the Works

I have so many projects going on right now, I decided to write a post just to get them all out of my head, along with the relevant deadlines.

Apron dress and underdress – needs to be finished by January 24th. Hem apron dress and begin/complete underdress. Machine sewn so it should go quickly.

Red sottana – needs to be finished by February 22nd. Hem and trim at hemline.

Whiteworked Partlet – needs to be finished by February 22nd. Hem and embroidery.

Dutch cloak – maybe for February 22nd? Finish embroidery and needs to be lined.

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Elizabethan corset – needs to be finished

1920s flapper gown – started, trim needs to be sewn down

18th century corset – needs to be finished

18th century pocket hoops – one hoop needs to be finished

Tudor gown – bodice sewn, everything else to be completed, requires money to purchase additional fabric for forepart and sleeves

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Cotehardie – not started

Veste – waiting for Margo Anderson’s pattern, and possibly IRCC 4 (June 1 through September 30)

sideless surcoat – not started

gamurra – not started

18th century chemise gown – fabric purchased, not started

Posted in Miscellaneous


Doublet & Slops

Over the summer, I made a doublet and slops set for “Charles Brandon” at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire. This season was the first with a Tudor theme and I volunteered to do some costuming. The costuming director chose the fabrics and the design, and I used Margo Anderson’s men’s patterns to make a doublet and slops. It was tough getting so many heavy layers through my cheapy Singer sewing machine, but I pushed through and used a small amount of hand sewing in the really tough spots. The pattern went together with ease and looked good on the actor.

Posted in 16th Century, English, Wardrobe | Tagged ,