Tag Archives: Ghirlandaio Cioppa

15th Century Florentine Gamurra & Cioppa (Part 1)

The gamurra is a basic, unlined dress worn by women of all classes in the 1400s (Frick 309). Prior to mid-15th century, the gamurra was frequently worn alone, however after the 1450s, the gamurra was typically covered by a cioppa or giornea, when departing the home and on formal occasions.

Cioppa is a general word for an overdress in Florence, Italy (Frick 306). Typically, the cioppa is considered to be a very full overdress with a deep V neckline. However, the young girl’s overdress in “Resurrection of the Boy” is best described as a cioppa, or cioppettina.

I began this project in July 2014, after being fitted for the bodice during Pennsic that month. Upon returning home, I jumped right into this project, mocking up the bodice and trueing the pattern.

The project was to recreate the red/blue outfit in Domenico Ghirlandaio’s painting, “Resurrection of the Boy”, 1482-1485.

Resurrection of the Boy by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Resurrection of the Boy, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1482-1485

I was inspired by the blue cioppa because it is different from most overgowns seen during this period. My interest was further piqued when I could not find any other examples of attempts to recreate this outfit, or a similarly styled cioppa.

A year or more ago, I purchased a periwinkle blue linen with intentions of making this gown. I’ve since learned that a noblewoman’s gown such as this would typically be made of silk, but I already had the fabric, so I went ahead with my plan.

I cut the bodice pattern out of the blue linen and thus began my project. I realized that I technically had a gamurra pattern with a center opening for lacing, not a closed front bodice for the cioppa. I decided to stitch the center seam closed, rather than wait for a rare chance to have another fitting with my friend, which could be months.

Cioppa bodice lining

Cioppa bodice lining and interlining

I cut an interlining from cotton duck, and laid it on top of my shell fabric. Then I folded the seam allowance of the shell over the interlining and whipstitched the shell to the interlining. I repeated this process with the lining and then whipstitched the two together at all edges.

Cioppa bodice

Cioppa bodice shell and interlining

Cioppa bodice

Cioppa bodice

When the bodice was all stitched together, I hand sewed eyelets along the side-back seams using DMC floss in a close match for color.

Cioppa bodice eyelets

Cioppa bodice eyelets

Sometimes, instead of working on the bodice, I switched to making a partlet out of fine handkerchief weight linen. I used the partlet pattern included in Margo Anderson’s Italian Ladies’ Underpinnings, without a shoulder seam. This was a quick little project.

After I finished the cioppa bodice, I began the gamurra bodice, which I should have done first, then fitted the cioppa over the gamurra. Hindsight. The gamurra is center front opening, so I stitched the side back seams, then did the same thing with the interlining for the shell and lining.

Gamurra bodice

Next, I picked out some nice round rings from the beading section of the craft store to use as lacing rings for the front of the gamurra, as seen in “A Young Woman” by Ghirlandaio, c. 1485.


Then I sewed them on.

After the lacing rings were finished, I did a test fit on myself and my dummy before beginning my sleeves.

Gamurra fitting

To draft my sleeve pattern, I used The Curious Frau’s instructions, which were precise and easy to use. Once I had a mockup, I cut away the bottom edge until it looked like the painting, and attached some cord to test the appearance. After I had what I wanted, I cut my red(ish) linen to the pattern and hand sewed a French seam to close the sleeve.

I use French seams so that there I have no problems with fraying. I have not researched the historical accuracy of its usage, and don’t intend to. This is my buy for modern convenience of the washing machine.

Anyway, I roll hemmed all the edges of the wrist opening and shoulder, then whipstitched the sleeve to the armscye with tiny stitches. The sleeve is stronger than I expected, but the stitches are very small and close together, so it’s in place securely.

Rolled hem sleeve

The lacings across the sleeve are made of lucet cord, as well as all of the lacings for the gamurra and cioppa. I used #3 DMC perle cotton that I had handy.

While working on the sleeves, I noticed that my newly finished 16th century camicia’s sleeves were too voluminous for this outfit. That lead to hand sewing a new camicia out of handkerchief weight linen, before I could move on in the sleeve department.

At this point, the cords were such a pain in my fingers to stitch down that I moved on to something totally different and didn’t finish the second sleeve until the night before the debut event, St Eligius.

(Continued in Part 2)


Brown, David Alan. Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo’s Ginevra De’ Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women;. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2001. Print.

Frick, Carole Collier. Dressing Renaissance Florence: Families, Fortunes, & Fine Clothing. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2002. Print.

Herald, Jacqueline. Renaissance Dress in Italy 1400-1500. London: Bell & Hyman, 1981. Print.

15th Century Florentine Gamurra & Cioppa (Part 2)

(Continued from part 1)

The skirt was made of all the remaining fabric. I took the 5 yard long rectangle of fabric and cartridge pleated it into place. I love cartridge pleating. It’s so soothing. When I cartridge pleat, I simply fold over the top by a couple of inches and pleat the doubled fabric. The hem was hem-stitched and then I had a dress! Well, a dress with one sleeve.

finished gown night before

Picture taken the night before the event

But at this point, I was able to make sure the cioppa bodice fit over the gamurra. It did. I then had to decide how to attach the cioppa skirt to the bodice. This had been bugging me for a while as the blue skirt in “Resurrection of the Boy” does not look, to me, like cartridge pleating, knife pleating or box pleating, the types of pleating known to be in use at the time. To my eye, the folds of the skirt and shadows looked like rolled pleats, which isn’t one of the three types mentioned above.

Resurrection of the Boy by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Resurrection of the Boy, Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1482-1485

I could not find any mention of rolled pleats in use during the late 15th century, or even the beginning of the 15th century. I have no idea when rolled pleats were first used, but there are many images that look quite similar to the appearance of rolled pleats.

Man and a Woman at a Casement by Filippo Lippi

Portrait of a Man and a Woman at a Casement, Filippo Lippi, 1440.

I decided to try rolled pleats and see if they looked like the painting. My goal was to recreate the appearance of a painting, and I did my best to achieve that goal, even if I had to cheat to get the proper look.

The skirt of the cioppa was again the remainder of the fabric, approximately 6 yards. I had sewed the skirt together with a French seam, doubled over the top, stitched in a felt strip for extra padding, repeated for the lining, then put it aside for several months until I reached this point. I didn’t want to attached the skirt of the cioppa until I had done so with the gamurra, in case it didn’t hang properly.

I began by using a BBQ fork (large 2 tined metal fork) to roll pleat the fabric. This is how it works: you slide the fabric between the two tines and twist. One turn will achieve a knife pleat, multiple turns will achieve a rolled pleat.

The pleats were way too big and using way too little material. I unstitched the felt strip and got a better result. After attaching the whole of the skirt, I decided that the pleats looked too big, not like the portrait, so I took it all apart. I tried repleating with the fork, but finally I decided to try a pair of pliers laying about nearby. This was harder to do, as it didn’t have nice straight sides like the fork did, but I was able to carefully create rolled pleats by turning the pliers 3 times in the front and 4 times in the back.

I then stitched the pleats to the bodice, sewing through the part of the pleat closest to the bodice with DMC perle cotton, then through the entire pleat to hold it in place permanently. This was much closer to the painting than the first try, however the pleats were opening up in the front. So I threaded more perle cotton and ran a permanent thread discreetly through the rolls about 4 inches from the top to keep them in place.

Attaching the skirt

Attaching the skirt

Now I had two dresses both needing a sleeve or two. I used the same basic pattern as the gamurra sleeve and just barely eked out the two sleeves from some scrap from the cioppa. I had to widen the wrist to be able to scrunch the sleeve above my elbow, similar to the inspiration painting.

Once the sleeves were finished I had to hem all 6 yards of fabric. My mom marked the hem while I was wearing camicia, gamurra and cioppa, leaving a train in the back. I hemstitched both the lining and the shell fabric seperately, to allow the lining to act similarly to a petticoat.

As a break from sewing the hem, I finished the gamurra sleeve. Finally, around 2 AM the night before St Eligius, I stopped sewing. Note that I did not say “finished sewing”. Nope, the last yard or so was finished in the morning, on the way to the event, like any good project is meant to be finished. 🙂

While I was feverishly sewing, my boyfriend kindly beaded my belt for me, my final piece in the puzzle. The belt was made from stretch bracelets, taken apart and restrung on wire. I chose these because of the triangular shape, which appeared to be similar to the triangular “reflections” in the girl’s belt in my inspiration piece.

The belt turned out a little big, and the cioppa adjusted my posture to a proper position that I am wholly unused to, but the dress fit great and looked wonderful. Everything was finished in time for St Eligius and I received nice feedback during the event.

Gamurra and Cioppa

Gamurra and Cioppa Photo by Ysemay Sterling

Gamurra and Cioppa

Gamurra and Cioppa Photo by Bifrost Studios


Brown, David Alan. Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo’s Ginevra De’ Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women;. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2001. Print.

Frick, Carole Collier. Dressing Renaissance Florence: Families, Fortunes, & Fine Clothing. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2002. Print.

Herald, Jacqueline. Renaissance Dress in Italy 1400-1500. London: Bell & Hyman, 1981. Print.