Frithuric as a Moroni Painting
By Nobildonna Fiore Leonetta Bardi
This project was created for the Ethereal Seamstress competition
The intended items were:
- Una camicia di lino con ricamo bianco (Shirt with embroidery)
- Calzoni di lino (Linen underpants)
- Fazzoletto di lino (Linen handkerchief)
- Giubbone di Seda (Silk Doublet)
- Calzone Tedesco (Trunkhose)
- Cinta di pelle (Leather belt)
- Cinte da Gamba (Garters)
- Calze di lana (Wool knit hose)
- Capello Tedesco (German-style hat). – Codpiece?
The scope of this project was big and presented several challenges. First, I have never made menswear. Next, fine doublets, of the late 16th century in particular, are very constructed items. While I have experience with building Sottana bodices that employ some similar techniques, the goals for each garment are inherently different so the manipulation of the fabric must also be. I have some experience with translating period pattern books but this project was my deepest dive into the different tailors’ methods. I also had the scholarship of the curating team that wrote 17th-century men’s patterns which allowed me to see close-up, high-resolution photography of several extant garments and X-rays of the same. These books are really a game-changer for those of us who want that deep-dive but aren’t going to suddenly become curators ourselves. As a result, my knowledge about construction methods grew a lot in the process of creating the doublet and trunkhose in particular. Other challenges are detailed below.
The Trim on Moroni’s Cavaliere in Rosa:
This particular suit of clothes has an interesting trim effect. It appears to be a long-pile silk velvet. In fact, if you see this painting in person, the pile is rich enough to evoke fur. I consulted with a weaver of advanced skill who explained how one would begin to weave silk velvet. I did not have the right type of loom but attempted it on my inkle loom in any event. This failed possibly because of factors I can’t name because I am a novice weaver. In any event, I started to think that I could achieve the effect by learning to weave a fringe. This looked exactly like the trim I wanted to achieve and I had decided to use this method whether it was correct or not. More on this process here: https://fioredibardi.net/2021/02/08/velutto/
Then I was directed to a portrait of Sir Rowland Cotton. The portrait shows a garter with a trim effect very similar to that on the Moroni painting. Thankfully this garter has survived and I was able to study high-resolution photographs. These images show that this is in fact a fringe trim with silk fiber so my experimental archeology has at least one solid point in its favor.
I will complete this trim on my inkle loom with a base of 20/2 silk and a fringe of unplied spun silk which gives a nice “fur”effect as in the extant piece.
Deep Study of the Moroni Painting
Sometimes if you study a painting for long enough, it will speak to you. The source painting started hinting strongly at a different padding presentation that existed in the extant garments I was studying. I couldn’t get around it and respect what I was seeing so I decided to keep the materials the same but build a different configuration that more closing matches what I think I see in the painting. This is related to what I know about Moroni himself. He was really trying to get the fabrics, shapes, and even embroidery right in his paintings. He studied pattern books and painstakingly worked to show us the sheen of the silk and the folds in the drape of the fabric. As these elements were important to him, I trust what I see as deliberate and factual rather than artistic license. I would not have gone on this journey based on a Bronzino painting for example. More on this here: https://fioredibardi.net/2021/03/04/giubbone-pancia/
The final challenge and the one that defeated me (for this competition) was time. I will not finish my project and am calling the competition over for myself. In a way this was a victory. I am now moving which I didn’t know would happen when I entered the competition. It is also suddenly quite busy at work which is marvelous given how slow it has been all pandemic (I run my own company). Either of these should have caused me to stop working before now. However, past me would have already been interrupting sleep and pushing harder in order to finish. Past me would complete this competition with frustration, fatigue, and mistakes in the work. I just decided I don’t want to work like that anymore. So I will continue to work on this and the updates will appear on my regular blog (fioredibardi.net) at a reasonable pace with an actual break while I pack up my apartment.
Still, the documentation is done (because it is mostly done when I begin and I update as I learn new things in progress) so here it is.
Frithuric Ulman is a second son of a German merchant living in Italy as his lady-love lives in Florence. This garment is designed as one that will make him look respectable enough to meet Baron Bardi, his lady’s father. The suit is the height of fashion for the 1560s and fashion-forward for Florence where trunkhose don’t become popular until the 1580s. We can trace the peascod doublet from the 1560s through the 1640s in Italy and other parts of Europe. The choice of head-to-toe red silk taffeta is a declaration of wealth and no small amount of confidence. The hat (to be constructed) will be a German-style tall wool hat for which the block has already been constructed. Photos of an extant version can be found in Patterns of Fashion. Fashion was political in Florence and both Fiore di Bardi and Frithuric Ulman were involved in an intricate dance. Fiore is an illegitima with a generous dowry but both her birth status and the fact that she has an African grandparent complicate her standing in society. Her presence in Florence rather than in her mother’s court of Ferrera is meant to make a marriage easier for her to procure. Frithuric is not an ideal choice as he brings no wealth of his own but his intellect should appeal to Baron Bardi and the Florentine Camerata. If he presents well enough and acquits himself among the scholars, a marriage could be possible. Much is riding on this suit of clothes.
The materials have been listed here already: https://bbm.eastkingdom.org/2021/02/25/the-rough-outlines/ but there are a few items to explain further.
Most of the items are pretty easy to source, if sometimes expensive. I work in period equivalent fibers whenever possible but there is some guess work involved and we simply don’t know what some accounts of the features of fabrics in period really mean.
Still, for linen we have an easier time of it. We have extant garments and fiber finds such as detailed in the Crowfoot text. We can use magnification, count threads per cm, and observe the transparency and hand of the fabric.
Silk is trickier as even what we call taffeta in this day and age can vary greatly. I am looking for a taffeta with a crispness to the hand and that high sheen that can be seen in Moroni’s paintings. Note, that while silk satin has a high sheen as well, it has a more rounded hand and is typically heavier (perhaps thicker). The silk taffeta I acquired from Silk Baron was significantly thinner than previous purchases and as such required an interlining layer. I chose to interline with linen which is appropriate to practice in extant garments. A second layer of silk was another choice available but I was not up for that much copious consumption.
The interlining layers, particularly the open-weave wool and open-weave coarse linen, are guesses based on the fiber content and appearance of the fabrics in the extant pieces. These are different than the materials I typically use for Sottana construction and there is much I don’t know. I would love to see a magnification of the fiber and I also need to do a deeper dive into the types of wool available in open-weaves. Sadly, Pandemic — So a slow tactile trip through the fabric district will have to wait.
The needles. I intended to use a variety of needles for this project. They are period-equivalent in fine steel, bronze, and bone. As it turns out, I love my bronze needle and used it primarily. I do find that linen sews beautifully with bone and the fine steel needles are a breeze on the silk but the bronze has my heart. Especially how easily it sewed through the many dense layers of interlining. I did a little work in the middle with my modern Bohin needles and while they are lovely on the silk, they were defeated on the interlining by the bronze. I got mine from Medieval Crafts EU on Etsy in case you are interested.
The threads were mostly linen 80/2, 60/2, and 30/2 weight. I did use a red silk thread for stitching that will be visible on the outside and will do so as I finish the garment. All of the linen thread was waxed and pressed. The ironing was to make sure I worked the fibers smooth but I also wanted to make sure that there wasn’t any excess wax threatening to stain the silk as I sewed.
The synthetic baleen is my favorite non-period material. It is an extruded polymer and it doesn’t behave like plastic. It takes shape and direction based on body heat and continues to conform to the wearer. You can get there with reed but the synthetic baleen functions more like actual baleen.
I used modern scissors, S-curve, and T squares as well as modern pattern drafting paper, modern lighting, and my modern mind.
The Items and Methods
In the past, I have built shirts as basic shapes 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. I will decorate it with whitework and a small white tassel. If time allows I may also work some lace onto the edges.
The ties are braided white silk thread.
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 pattern of these is fairly simple but then, as now men had 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. 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.
These were quickly completed and I could move onto the remaining undergarment and the prep which I am allowing myself before the beginning of the competition proper. That is washing and pressing the fabric, fabricating a hat block.
The hose are a basic pattern of linen boothose from 1600 and 1640 but the basic shape is the same as a hundred years before. I studied these to adapt the stitching techniques for this pair. These hose are made of 100% wool jersey. The choice of this material came down to how to create a knit hose feel and function when I did not have time to knit hose. Jersey is not a period fabric for our time so this is a giant anachronism to replace knitting for this project. The completed hose fit well but I do not like this material so these will be replaced with knit hose as soon as time allows.
There is a more detailed entry (https://bbm.eastkingdom.org/2021/03/03/cutting-a-doublet/) on patterning and cutting the doublet which I will not replicate here. The doublet was the single most complicated item of clothing I have ever built. It is the only item I will complete in full before the 27th and represents ~50 hours of work. The interlining took a great deal of that time but the assembly of all of the layers, sleeves, and buttons are not inconsequential.
The trunkhose in comparison are quite simple. Once a working pattern was drafted the rest is just sewing. There is some padding and bombast to full the pants and I decided to use a doublet pocket and sew them in as I see in the extant pants. This is a new method for me and I am interested in seeing how my husband likes them. As he desires to carry his small personal items and also fit beverages in his pants, I think these will work out great. Updates again will follow on my regular blog.
This has been fun and while I cannot complete the project on this schedule, I am glad I started it and looking forward to finishing it in my new place after the move.
Ajmar Wollheim, Marta and Flora Dennis. At Home in Renaissance Italy. London: V&A Productions, 2006.
Anduxar, Martin de. Geometria y Trazas Pertenecientes al Oficio de Sastres. Madrid: Imprenta del Reino, 1640.
Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion: The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c1560-1620. London: Macmillan Publishers LTD, 1985.
Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion 4: The cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear, and accessories for men and women. London: Macmillan, 2008.
Braun, Melanie and Luca Costiliolo, Susan North, Claire Thornton, Jenny Tiramani. 17th-Century Men’s Dress Patterns 1600-1630. London: Thames & Hudson LTD, 2016.
Freyle, Diego el. Geometria y Traca Para El Oficio De Los Sastres. Sevilla: 1588.
Crowfoot, Elizabeth, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland. Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450. London: Boydell Press, 2001.
Monnas, Lisa. Merchants, Princes and Painters: Silk Fabrics in Italian and Northern Paintings 1300-1550. New Haven: The Yale University Press, 2008.
NG, Aimee and Simone Facchinetti, Arturo Galansino. Moroni: The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture. New York: The Frick Collection, 2019.
Orsi-Landini, Roberta, and Bruna Nicolai. Moda a Firenze: Lo stile di Eleonora di Toledo e la sua influenza. Firenze: Pagliai Polistampa, 2005.