Jessamyn's Regency Costume Companion: Florentine gentleman







started March 21, 2004

updated October 10, 2004

updated December 6, 2005

updated January 3, 2005

started December 6, 2005

started June 1, 2004

started April 13, 2004

Since my husband, David, has been attending my dance events, and plans to come with me to the one-weekend Renaissance Faire here in Asheville in May, he and I would like him to have an appropriate costume. Preferably a complement to mine: a 1555-60 Florentine gentleman's outfit.

Besides questions of what's period-appropriate, I also need to allow for the fact that David's in a wheelchair. For example, I don't want to make his trunk-hose too puffy, because it wouldn't be comfortable in the chair. I need to make sure that he has versatile, breathable layers so that he won't get too hot or too cold - he'll likely be wearing this outfit in various weathers, and his body doesn't deal well with temperature extremes - but long robes are out because they'd likely fall into his wheels. It can't pinch at the waist, because he has a medicine pump implanted above his right hip. And, overall, it has to look good in a sitting position.

I've been collecting appropriate portraits, and below are some of my favorites. The one on the far left and two at far right are not Florentine but Bergamese - but the details don't seem to vary much between the two, and Moroni painted in such beautiful, stylish detail he's hard to resist. Venetian clothes are quite different, so I've excluded them. (All images below can be enlarged by clicking.)

From left: Moroni: Portrait of a Man, 1560, Art History Museum, Vienna. Allori: two portraits of young men, Nat'l Museums of Berlin & Ashmolean Museum. Bronzino: Lodovico Capponi, 1550-1555, Frick Collection. Moroni: The Gentleman in Pink, 1560, Collezione conti Morosini, Bergamo; and Don Gabriel de la Cueva, Count of Albuquerque, 1560, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

I'm also interested in the clothes in which Eleanora of Toledo's adolescent son was buried (he was carried off by illness in the same year she was) as well as those of her husband, some ten years later.

Several details seem to hallmark these clothes. First, the color scheme: black, white, and various tones of red are almost the only options (I've seen a single Florentine portrait that included dark blue). Second, trunk-hose are fairly soft (unstuffed) and can be made with or without canions. Most wear a sleeveless jerkin over the doublet, either matching or contrasting; and although I don't show it here, I've seen a Florentine example in which it is the jerkin, rather than the doublet, that matches the breeches. The more stylish have a puff detail at the shoulder, all feature a row of small round buttons marching down the front, and all but one have a belt. When visible, the stockings and shoes match the trunk-hose.

Details that are more flexible: Collars can be ruffled or turndown, and blackwork is optional. The length of the doublet/jerkin below the waist seems flexible, and whether it consists of panes or a single flange. (I know that's not the right terminology, but I'm not near a reference, sorry!) Fabrics vary from wool to velvet to satin. Slashes, panes, piping, and narrow guards are all used as decoration.

So, where does all this leave me? Although I love the Moroni portrait at far right above, with a black jerkin worn over a red satin suit, I think I need to make some compromises. I don't want to make the trunk-hose from red satin, partly because satin wears poorly and will get crumpled up in the chair, and partly because I don't want to have to try to match reds in different materials - such as the hose and shoes. So those will all be black.

However, that splash of red is very stylish, so I think I will pair them with a red doublet, preferably satin if I can find it. I would also like to make a black jerkin so that David will have that extra layer available for warmth - and, admittedly, because it looks so sharp! For the shirt, I prefer turndown collars to ruffs. I will worry about the belt only if there is time. Oh, and the hat! Most of the gentlemen in these particular portraits are indoors and hatless, but the black "bonnet" (as Janet Arnold calls it) in the Moroni painting seems to be the standard type of this time and place, invariably made of a pile material such as velvet or tufted wool.

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Copyright 2004 by David and Jessamyn Reeves-Brown. All rights reserved.