1490s overdress

Back to 1490s again.  Time to examine first principles of my goals and actually decide what I’m doing.


  • I want to make an overdress of some sort.
  • I like the idea and look of fur-lined sleeves.
  • I don’t really want to make a fitted bodice or a pleated skirt.
  • I want it to show off my gamurra.
  • I’d like it to be easy to put on, with a full front opening if possible.
  • Ideally, I want to be able to fight in it, should I choose to, so it should have good arm and shoulder mobility and not get caught on stuff too easily.
  • I don’t want to completely overheat if I wear it indoors; doing the fur as trim or as a partial lining may help with that as long as the shortcut doesn’t show on the outside.
  • If it’s going to be fur-lined (or just trimmed), it should probably not have open sides like a giornea.  That seems wrong.
  • I want it to be based on a garment shown in a document from the right time period.  If that garment is gold brocade with brown/tan and black leopard fur and worn over red, so much the better, because that’s how mine’s going to be and it’s good to back that up with documentation.

With all that said, I’m pretty sure I can’t have all of those things.  Here are my candidates for dresses from period pictures.


France, 1496-8, Epistulae Heroidum.


  • Gold brocade with brown leopard lining over red dress from late 1490s, win!
  • Front opening shows skirt underneath, can be closed if desired


  • Fitted bodice and shoulders will be a pain
  • Front opening only goes waist to hem (no front closure seam is visible in the patterned bodice fabric).
  • Enormous sleeves no good for fighting a guy in armor (right now my non-exaggerated glove cuffs get caught on his armor, so this is a real problem)
  • Skirt probably requires gathering/pleating, at least in back.
  • Covers all the interesting parts of the gamurra

Spain, 1490, Doña Mencia fa99b04c8ae67f0308a89b429125d36dde Mendoza


  • Open all the way down the front, but worn so that there’s some waist definition
  • Fur-lined/trimmed brocade robe from correct decade
  • Front and side appear to be unshaped, so should be easier to sew.
  • Shows off sleeves, center front of gamurra


  • No sleeves with big leopard cuffs
  • Arm-holes that don’t go all the way up to the shoulder may not have enough mobility for me
  • Belt makes front less shapeless, but adds a step to dressing.


Florence, 1486-90, Ghirlandaio’s “Birth of St John the Baptist”


  • Open front, open sides, no shaping, no shoulders or sleeves
  • Shows full sleeve, full center front, some of skirt waist at front and side
  • Ventilated more than closed-side garments
  • Shoulders unlikely to impair movement


  • This is a formal rather than practical garment, and it doesn’t look very wintry.
  • The front panels can move freely and may get in the way of stuff (or just look waistless).
  • No cool sleeves (but on the other hand, not having to make sleeves…)

Here’s a giornea variation that’s just one panel in front.

9225fa55c88076fb7857db176b15f1d4(left) Italy, 1505, Signorelli

Looks like a front-opening sleeveless gown, maybe with a fitted/shaped bodice.  However, it looks summery; I don’t know that I’ve seen fur-trimmed garments like this.

(right) Ferrara, 1488, Lorenzo Costa695d0a84a4d35f140f81b7c571b81a89

Several examples of other styles that look summery, left to right: short sleeved gowns with the skirt open or closed, cap sleeve gown that looks like the bodice fastens in front, and a sleeveless gown with a widely laced front and a contrasting center front panel.

The alternating-panel dress at far right is great.

There’s also a looser V-neck long-sleeve summer-weight overdress, in gold brocade.

14bfcbcfb8f0b5221cf7efeed61a5c3c(left) Florence, 1486, Ghirlandaio

One last lightweight overdress (dusty pink, on the left): big V neck, maybe opens in front, fitted sleeves, lots of skirt.  Seems more casual than a giornea, but not as much as the sleeved dresses worn with the front open.





Austria, 1490, Jean Hey

Fur-lined velvet gown, fitted in the body and sleeves, sleeve cuffs somewhat wider to accommodate turning them back.  (Other portraits exist of similar front-closing styles with the edge of the lining showing that have bigger sleeves, too.)

Margaret of Austria appears to have been very fond of this dress style– she’s ten in this 1490 portrait, so it seems unlikely the red velvet dress with white fur cuffs and trim that she’s painted in five years later is the same dress.  There’s also a portrait that has a similar dress with dark trim and bigger sleeves, though it may be a copy of the 1495 portrait.  In 1485, she had red brocade instead of velvet; there’s also this gold brocade dress in the same style.

It’s pretty, and shows off a little of the dress underneath, the bodice opens in front, and the sleeves won’t get in the way of much but there’s a lot of fitting I’d have to do.  (Also, those sleeves over the points with aglets on my gamurra sleeves would not be happy.)

Various other fur-lined gowns that don’t belong to Margaret of Austria

Here’s one with bigger sleeves and a matching cape.  And here’s a full-body view of a V-neck variant.

There appears to be a short-sleeve variant of the style, but I haven’t seen any high res images.  This page has two low-res ones– one with big lower sleeves (1480) and very fancy cuff and hem trim, and one with some kind of dagging or trim (1496-7) at the short sleeve cuffs.  Both are in reddish brocade.

There is also a wide V-front dress currently called “Burgundian” that seems to often have big fur facings and trim, and so may also be fully lined.  The linked blog has some analysis of period depictions, including a very useful picture of a woman wearing one that’s opened past her waist.  If you scroll all the way to the end, there’s a bonus: a fancy brocade over-dress with cap sleeves.

4536b6fbce24829c0c1cd202d76132b6Siena or Portugal, 1502-7, Pinturicchio

This might be my final one for today.  An unshaped cape with contrasting collar trim and those below-shoulder arm slits.  Open front, not full length.

This might be the best choice, except for the shoulder mobility question.

Some photos have much brighter colors.

Here’s a close-up of the shoulder and arm.

So… almost an answer.


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