• Collection de Documents inédits sur l'Histoire de France Premiere Série, Relations des Ambassadeurs Vénitiens

    Excerpts from the diaries of Venetian Ambassador to France, Jerome Lippomano, and his description of French women's dress.

    Author: Jerome Lippomano
    French
    Published in 1577
    Renaissance Clothing and Textile Terms
    1500 AD - 1599 AD

Citations

Sono le donne di Francia strette oltremodo in cintura: di modo che, dilettandoni elle con le faldiglie, verdugallo e altri artificii, di gonfiare le lor vesti dalla cintura in giu, riescono piu leggiadre. Communemente portano la pantofola bassa, e la scarpa, calzando politamente.

Il cottiglione che a Venezia chiamano la carpetta, cosi tra le nobili come tra le borghesi e sempre di molto valore e di molta vaghessa. La robe che va per di su, non si guarda, se bene e di sargia o di scotto; o questo porche le donne quanda entrano in chiesa si ginochiano per tutto, e seggono per terra. Portano sopra la camicia un busto, o giubboncino che sia, ch' esse chiamano corpo imbettito, che fa loro la vita piu disposta; e s'aitaccano per dietro via; che rende la prospettiva della donna piu propria.

Translation:

The women of France are extremely narrow in the waist; so that, delighting in faldiglie (underskirts stiffened with reed or rope), farthingales and other artifices, their garments swell and fall very gracefully from the waist. All wear low pantobles, and shoes, lightly shod.

The petticoats that are called carpetta in Venice, among the nobility as well as the bourgeosie, are always richly decorated and very stylish. The robe they go forth in is of good serge or scotto (canvas?) because the women, when they enter the church, kneel, and sit on the ground. Over the smock they wear a bodice, or giubboncino that they call "quilted bodies" that makes them well-formed; it fastens in the back; and renders the view of the woman most excellent.

Notes:

Falda: a underskirt of linen held out by means of horizontal bands padded with cotton wool or linen fibre. The fashion appears in the latter part of the century. Faldiglia: as above. also a frock or gathered garment. --Dress in Renaissance Italy 1400-1500

This book, written in 1838, contains a french translation of the italian. It has some anachronisms (it translates "faldiglie" as "panniers", for instance) but is by and large accurate. The english translation of the french translation of the italian was cited in Nora Waugh as the earliest mention of corsets:

"French women have inconceivably narrow waists; they swell out their gowns from the waist downwards by whaleboned stuffs and vertugadins, which increases the elegance of their figures. Over the chemise they wear a corset or bodice, that they call a “corps pique” which makes their shape more delicate and slender. It is fastened behind which helps show off the form of the bust.’

An alternate translation, from "History of Fashion in France", is:

"French women have very slender waists; they swell out their gowns from the waists downwards by stiffened stuffs and vertugadins, the which increases the elegance of their figure. They are very fanciful about their shoes, whether low slippers or escarpins. The cotillon (underskirt), which in Venice we call carpet't'a, is always very handsome and elegant, whether worn by a bourgeoise or a lady. As for the upper dress, provided it is made of serge or cescot,' little attention is paid to it, because the women, when they go to church, kneel and even sit on it. Over the chemise they wear a buste or bodice, that they call a c corps piqué,' to give them support ; it is fastened behind, which is good for the chest. The shoulders are covered with the finest tissue or network ; the head, neck, and arms are adorned with jewels. The hair is arranged quite differently from the Italian fashion; they use circlets of wire and campons,' over which the hair is drawn in order to give greater width to the forehead. For the most part their hair is black, which contrasts with their pale complexions ; for in France, pallor, if not from ill-health, is considered a beauty."

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