A 1480s Gamurra in the Style of Caterina Sforza
Caterina Sforza lived from 1463 – 1509, primarily in Central and Northern Italy. She was a noblewoman with several titles, including the Countess of Forlì and Lady of Imola, and she was the daughter of the Duke of Milan. A well known painting by Lorenzo de Credi titled “Dama dei Gelsomini”, or the Lady of the Jasmine Flower, was painted in the later 1480s and is thought to depict Caterina.
I chose to attempt to replicate her clothing and portrait for an A&S project. I did not intend to copy it exactly, but rather to emulate it only with materials I already possessed. Therefore, my fabric colors are not identical to the portrait and the materials are unlikely to be the same as the ones worn by Caterina. Her camicia is likely fine linen although silk would be possible. It is hard to discern if the main blue dress fabric is wool or silk. It is difficult to tell if she is wearing a green or brown gamurra (supportive dress) with a blue cioppa (overdress), or a blue gamurra with a green/brown piece to pose as a stomacher. I think it more likely that she is wearing twodresses, but I chose to replicate it as just one dress. The red cording that laces the dress closed at center front and on the sleeves is probably plaited or fingerlooped/woven silk or it might be silk ribbons. The sash at the waist is most likely silk.
My camicia is linen, my gamurra and stomacher are silk, and the red cording and sash are silk. My dress is lined with light linen and interlined with linen canvas. During this period, a supportive dress would not use any boning in the bodice. However, I prefer to add some minimal light boning in the center front of my bodices due to my poor posture that creates a strong wrinkle line under my bust. Wrinkles might be period-accurate but I prefer to not show a large dent in the front! The main inside construction was done by machine, but it is entirely hand finished, all with silk thread. The skirt is two rectangles, knife pleated to the bodice. You can see skirts being gathered or pleated during this time and it is hard to tell in Caterina’s portrait which method her dress has. I also added a coral necklace and earrings, as coral is a popular material for jewelry during the Italian Renaissance.
If I wanted to make this outfit more historically correct, there are things that could be improved upon. Firstly, this should be a gamurra with a cioppa, but it would be rare occasions I could wear two dresses together. Her dresses might be made from wool, and while I can access and wear the lightweight wools used during the Renaissance, two layers of dresses in any material is too much for me heat-wise. I also enjoy how the silk elevates the fashion to be more fancy. I would like thicker silk cording or ribbons, which would be an easy fix. I need a finer linen camicia that is cut wider in the sleeves to give bigger poufs. And the main change is that the entire project should be sewn only by hand, but I have limited physical ability and time to sew by hand so I choose to hand finish only.
Landini, Roberta Orsi, and Bruna Niccoli. Moda a Firenze, 1540-1580: Lo Stile Di Eleonora Di Toledo E La SuaInfluenza. Firenze: Pagliai Polistampa, 2005
Frick, Carole Collier. Dressing Renaissance Florence: Families, Fortunes, & Fine Clothing.JHU Press, 2002.