On a recent trip to Mood NYC, I was fortunate to have skilled help in the wool department looking for blue wools. After selecting a lovely dark herringbone twill, I was introduced to double-faced wool satin. I had never heard of such a thing. It is a dense and soft, worsted with a 61″ warp. I think in reenactor-speak this is a true wool broadcloth, what might be called doe-skin as it has an incredible drape and sheen to the fabric — what the Florentines might have called Panno Alto or Panno di Grana. It is Royal Blue perhaps close to what 16th-century Italians called Cianco — a brilliant blue or azure as described in John Florio’s 1598 dictionary, World of Wordes.
In any event, I found myself in possession of this glorious fabric and have several outdoor events to attend this winter so it is being put to use immediately. But, what to make? A sottana would be easy to imagine though there were none of wool listed in the Eleonora’s Guardaroba. She wore wool in outer layers primarily and never wore bright colors (blue is listed only once and is azurro) Her daughters’ closets were a different matter featuring bright colors and many wool garments including doublets and dresses without bodice. As an aside, emulating the dress of the Medici court to the extent her funds allowed would have been an imperative for Fiore even in a garment such as this one — more suitable for home, errands or even hunting than for court itself.
The sottana senza busto (translated dress without bodice) is a description that always tickles my brain. Why not just say saia, falda, or vasquina? All words to describe skirts alone and which are in fact used in the guardaroba. Wouldn’t those be more straight-forward than naming the garment, a dress without bodice? Unless they mean something else that was obvious to them and not so to us.
This is what I believe. I think that these are either structured like English open-busted kirtles, a supported sottana without sleeves that is not finished for outdoor wear, and/or a sottana without the interlinings that give it structure. I suspect that Sottana senza Busto meant any and perhaps all of these things depending on the need.
There are some hints in portraits such as this one of Eleonora di Toledo pregnant. The artist renders a line for the bodice that is clearly not rigid as her other bodices appear to be. It is unlikely that artistic license would have led the artist in this direction given the painting style of the time. Also, I don’t think Bronzino painted this image. It appears to be by an artist attempting this style, possibly even from Bronzino’s own studio. That fact alone allows one to believe that the adjustments Bronzino might make for his patron, are missing from this rendition.
And of course there are portraits of women wearing doublets and skirts such as this one by Moroni in which we can only speculate what is happening underneath the doublet as it is obscured by the outer garment. The doublet itself seems to have structure but is not rigid as we see the curve of the breast clearly at front and sides. Should we infer that there is nothing but the camicia and colletto underneath? This is where the creator of 16th-century garments ends up most of the time, in speculation and extrapolation. Trying to decide what the artist has rendered and studying the existing pattern books until the lines start to dance on the page. Eventually, you just need to come to an educated guess.
My decision for this garment is this, a structured bodice which would remove the need for stays to support and provide the desired conical shape (visible in the Moroni painting above). Unlike the sottana bodice I might design for an outer garment (or even one that would be visible), this bodice will have no point and make little attempt to create the optical illusions of a small waist. They will not be seen in any event.
The interlining will consist of: tela saldata (made by me of linen canvas hardened with rabbit hide glue — hand-made by another SCAdian), wool felt padstitched to medium weight blue linen, another layer of blue linen to protect the outer layer of wool from the tela saldata layer. No sleeves will be made. Once completed I will padstitch the skirt all the way around the bodice rather than leaving a flat area in the front. This fullness will show off the wool well and help the doublet create the optical illusions preferred by this period. I have not decided whether I will line the skirt as it isn’t necessary and the skirt will already put much weight onto the bodice. I will wear this underdress with a single underskirt and a hip roll.
The Giubbone will be cut from Freyle’s 1588 pattern Jubon para Mujer. It’s interlinings will be linen canvas with wool felt padding at shoulder and back, lined with the same blue linen. If I have time I will make buttons for it but that may have to wait. It will likely have a skirt or tabs of some kind as I intent to wear it without a Ropa much of the time. Though as I think on it, I do have enough navy blue wool and faux shearling for a cape.
Plans are made. Patterns are drafted. And, as of yesterday, the interlinings are cut and the clock has begun on this project. I have one week.