Italian Headwear

My target year for living history persona is 1499. I am completely enamored with all of the northern Italian city-states of that period. Sometimes, I dress for a little bit later (1550 Venetian) and sometimes, I dress for an earlier time period (1412 Florentine). In italy the fashion changed with every decade. This entry will cover headwear for northern italy during the late quattrocento to the early cinquecento (1480-1520).

The velo (basic veil) was not common in northern Italy during this period. It is seen, but is usually worn only during mourning, to display extreme modesty, or by those serving the family.


Hair taping was “the” thing to do for young, single women. The hair would be braided and then laced with ribbons that tied the hair up.

Dress and Hair-Triumph of Minerva-inSchifanoia-byFrancesco_del_Cossa_1470

Turban styles were seen in Tuscany from the early 1400s to around 1520. The three paintings I’ve found that showcase headwraps all have white silk or linen embellished (i.e. with embroidery) of some type. The frayed and knotted ends of the fabric could be completely tucked in or left hanging out for flourish.


Sans covering is also popular in portraiture. The portraits depicting women with uncovered hair or hair down around the shoulders are depictions of single women, new brides, married women in the privacy of their home, Venetian women, or of women who are courtesans. Young, unmarried women in Tuscany and the Veneto did not have to cover their hair and Venetian women loved to flout their fancily dyed hair without the hindrance of a cover. Even when uncovered, the Italians strived to be ben acconciati or “well coiffed”.

caterina-sforza   sca

Scuffia, vespaio, or reta are hair nets or that hold the hair in place. Simple, functional ones of fabric and no embellishment are seen as well as gilded nets studded with pearls.

ieuseppe_daporto 1487 Veneto

The cuffia is similar to the English caul and is seen on Florentine women in the late quattrocento. Some deduce that the cuffia is really a trinzale worn tied over a bun instead of left hanging over a long plait.


Coazzone was a thick ponytail hanging down the back wrapped with scarf fabric, ribbons, and decorative trim (i.e. pearls). It, the trinzale, and lenza were all popular in Lombardy and especially Milan.

The trinzale, a fabric cap covering the back of the head, was often worn accompanying the coazzone. It was held in place by a thin jewelled string, a lenza, which lay across the forehead.

coazzone depredisbms 1493

BTW, the balzo led to the capigliara, made popular in 1509 by Isabella d’Este. There will be a separate blog post on those headdresses.


The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through World History 1501-1800, Jill Condra

Renaissance Dress in Italy 1400-1500, Jaqueline Herald

The Complete Costume Dictionary, Elizabeth Lewandowski


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