The Renaissance Project – Background and Research

The Renaissance Project
Background, Research, and Planning
When planning out the costumes, the first thing I looked to was original sources. I scoured through paintings from the 15th century and found a lot of inspiration. I’d had a Renaissance board on my Pinterest page for a while, but I pinned more specific images to a new board specifically for Halloween costume ideas (you can also see that we had been originally intending to do an 18th century/pirate theme).
Now, when this whole thing started, there was a little over a month until Halloween. In the interest of time, and saving my sanity, I wasn’t too overly concerned with keeping things historically accurate. I know there are some out there to whom it matters a great deal and others to whom it matters not at all. I all somewhere in the middle, leaning towards the side of ‘favoring’. In my opinion, if it looks accurate (a.k.a. no exposed mechanically-done seams, fabric that at least looks correct, the right cut and shape, etc.) then I’m good. I just wanted to put that out there in case anybody is totally turned off by the fact that my creations will end up being about 80-90% accurate, so they can stop reading before they get really far in.
So, back to the background. We all picked personas that we would play for the night. My sister chose Caterina Sforza, I chose Lucrezia Borgia, my mother chose Vannozza dei Cattanei, and my brother chose Lorenzo de’ Medici. These decisions didn’t feature too heavily into the clothing designs, but it’s what I’m naming the outfits after. I decided to make all of the outfits from the same time and place, c. 1490 Florence, a particular favorite of mine.
Thought to be Lucrezia in a fresco by Pinturicchio, c. 1494.

The undergarments for this time period were relatively simple. For men and women, the garment worn closest to the skin was called the camicia, which is also known as a chemise or shift. It’s a loose garment made mostly of linen that is a lot like the ones worn throughout history, just fuller. Males’ were shorter than females’, reaching about to mid-thigh. They also had a split up the side and a collar. Women’s were longer (about ankle-length) and had wide necks that could be easily slipped over the head.
For women, a dress was called a gamurra. The style varied over the years, but overall the bodices were on the short side (think empire-waist with some extending down to the natural waist), the sleeves were detachable, and they laced up the front (but moved to the side as fashion moved to the next century). They were worn by ladies of every social standing and could be as plain or as fancy as the wearer deemed.

Also for women was the gionrea, an overdress. They were sleeveless and were worn by men and women, with the male version being shorter than the female. I had initially planned to make one for me, but I scrapped that idea soon into the research phase.

One accessory I whipped up was a pocket, or saccoccia, to go along with the Caterina dress. The pockets seemed to date form about the middle of the sixteenth century which was a bit late for us, but it was a necessary item.

A Renaissance Saccoccia by Anéa

A man’s outfit from this period was much harder to tackle for me. I’d been researching female’s clothing from this time period for years (just out of personal interest) and had it down pat before I even started. By the end of October, I had gathered that a man’s doublet was called a farsetto, and he wore either split or joined hose (split had been commonplace until about now when joined hose began gaining popularity). I found a few fantastic resources that really helped me.

Farsetto Construction of the Italian Renaissance by Elizabeth Jones

So up next in this series will be the actual outfits, so you’ll finally get to see what I’ve been talking about this whole time.

Post Zero: Master Post

Part One: Background and Research

Part Two: Caterina (my sister’s outfit)

Part Three: Lucrezia (my outfit)

Part Four: Lorenzo (my brother’s outfit)

Part Six: Wearing it All (Halloween 2014)

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