Linen undergarments were a reality for every 16th century person. Clothing was the single, most expensive thing in a household budget. The linen underclothes were the easily washable layer that protected the more expensive outer clothing from body oils and sweat. These were so ubiquitous that in Eleonora di Toledo’s guardaroba they were referred to simply as pezzi di lino (linen pieces).
I have entered an SCA competition called the Ethereal Seamstress hosted by the Barony Beyond the Mountain in the Kingdom of the East. The point is to finish a suit of clothes from the skin out in a month. I am competing as a Master and as such the competition allows me to build the foundation layers, but no actual accessories before the start date of February 27th. In practice the project preparation also involves gathering the materials, building a hat block, warping the loom, preparing the leather for belt making, and building the order of operations. As is my habit, the research was completed before the process began so the documentation will read as an annotated process paper.
The first item to build was a camicia. Men’s shirts in late-16th century Florence were made within the household or by hiring a skilled seamstress.
In the past, I have built shirts as basic rectangles with a standing band and perhaps a ruff. For this project, I wanted to use more specific methods for Florence where this outfit would have been built for Frithuric. This involved using a falling shirt band, with ties rather than buttons. This also involved making a longer more voluminous shirt as supported in the few extant examples and the limited paintings where shirts are entirely visible.
The collar is designed to emulate the decorated falling shirt band displayed in some Moroni paintings. Late in the 16th century shirts were still built with attached collars though there is some indication that detachable collars were coming into being with some examples of paintings where the sitter was obviously wearing two collars. The collar pattern was borrowed from Patterns of Fashion. I decided to build a shirt with an attached collar and a separate collar for use with a different shirt or for layering as needed. The attached shirt collar will be decorated with whitework and a small white tassel as in the original portrait. If time allows I may also work some lace onto the edges.
The calzoni were a bit more complicated. The extant versions of these are highly embroidered affairs that were unlikely to have been much used. The of these is fairly simple but then as now men have lots of opinions about the comfort of their nether regions. As these items were made at home, they were more likely to be adjusted for the personal preferences. My Lord’s preference are garments that hold one more securely which means more precision in the crotch depth and in the shaping the seat. This means leaving the basic box shapes with gussets we are familiar with. To this end I drifted into proportional patterning, the method I use for tailoring more structured garments. There is still more for me to explore here but as it is I have calzoni that fit him well completed and will dive more thoroughly into fitting these proportionally in the next set.
Once the camicia and calzone were completed, I could move onto the hose. These and the preparation of the foundations for building accessories will be described in the next entry.