Abbigliamento is the Italian word for clothing. This introduction to clothing of the Quattrocento (1400s) was gleaned from Basics of from The Storia del Costume in Italia by Rosita Levi Pisetzky in 5 volumes and Dress in the Middle Ages by Francoise Piponnier:

  1. At night, a cuffia (cap) was worn to protect the hair that was tied with straps under the chin.
  2. A woman would wear a camicia (chemise/slip) made of lino bianco (white linen), but sometimes seta o cotone (silk or cotton) as her innermost garment. Her undergarments could also be made of hemp (canapé) if she was less affluent. There are arguments for and against the idea that bra-like or underwear-like items were also worn, but we do not have a concensus on those items and what they were called. I personally feel there are practical reasons for a woman to need some type of underwear, similar to men’s brache (linen boxer-like undershorts) to prevent chafing and to cope with her monthly menses. In the Cinquecento (1500s) Eleonora di Toledo owned several brache of different materials and colors.
  3. On her legs she would wear calze (stockings/socks) that were pulled up above her knee and held in place with garters (wool or linen).
  4. Over the camicia a woman would wear a gonella (dress) that is similar to the cotte or cotehardie of England and France, but not usually depicted with front laces. The shoulders were able to be partially seen, and the shape of the neckline was square or oval. The sleeves were fitted and could be tied or closed with buttons. Gonella came in many colors and could be embellished with decorative borders, pearls, or other notions. It would be made of fabric appropriate for the station of the wearer. Silk, wool, linen of varying quality have been written about.
  5. Scarpe (shoes) were also indicative of wealth. Simple styles were used for working class needs and more decorated and long toed styles were for fashionable events of the wealthy. Casual shoes called calcetti were used for moving about the house on a daily basis.
  6. Soppravvesti (overdress/overgarment) of the quattrocento were the pellanda or opelande (houppelande) and the mantello (cloak). The pellanda could have a high color and long dagged sleeves, or a modest collar and straight sleeves. They could be lined with lino (linen) or lana (wool) or frequently in pelliccia(fur). The mantello was usually a full or half circle of cloth with one opening that draped from the shoulders to the feet of the wearer. Women’s mantello could close on the right side with three to five buttons, or have a front opening with a button, cloth straps, or clasp to close it. A hood was usually not attached. Younger people, perhaps wanting to show off their gonella, also used a shorter cloak called a mantellino.
  7. On their heads, women wore veli (veils) made of white linen or silk. Older women wore the velo covering their hair and an additional veil attached below that laid across the underside of their chins, covering some of their cheeks.
  8. Frequently, instead of a veil, woman wore cercine (oll of fabric) in their hair that matched their gonella. For more affluent women this fabric (stoffa) roll was padded with cotton and called salsicciotti (sausages).The padded roll could be adorned with pearls or wrapped by braided hair ( trecce = braids). Other times women simply wore braided hairstyles with no velo, cercine, or salsicciotti.
  9. Cappelli were lined hats of wool and felt worn by men or women (especially cappello di paglia, which were straw hats) who worked outside, and cappuccio were hoods made of wool lined with linen worn by men and women for warmth. The cappuccio covered the head and shoulders, and the length of the becco or beak in the back was correlated to the rank or wealth of the wearer.


Gli Accessori (accessories)

  1. Cintura (belt) – Worn over the gonnella, cinture were made of leather (cuoio?) or fabric (woven wool or linen) and decorated with bronze, brass, silver, and/or gold.
  2. Borsa (purse or bag) – hanging on the belt was a bag made of leather or fabric where their belongings could be carried since their gonella and mantello had no pockets.
  3. Another type of accessory used to protect their scarpe (shoes) from mud and silt were pianelle (slippers) or zoccoli in legno (wooden clogs) worn over the shoes.

Clothing was a symbol of status or wealth, but even for nobility there were limits.

A statute of 1464 forbade women of Florence to own more than one overdress (cioppa or giornea) dyed with kermes (Herald 1981: 214). In 1456 women in Florence could only own two outer garments of silk, usually a giornea or cioppa (Herald 1981, 218). Sumptuary laws of Milan from 1565 seems to have allowed women to wear “male” head gears only in case of necessity – protection from weather, and in case of illness (Landini 2005: 158). Women in Venice in 1562 were forbidden to wear pearls more than twelve years after marriage (Fortini Brow 2004:7). In Florence this was permitted for only a few years after marriage and during the same time in which they were obligated to wear a veil (Moda a Firenze). Women in Florence were also limited to wearing only one string of pearls not to exceed 500 scudi in value.


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