The Partlet, colletto, gorgiera or coverciere.
By Lady Ydeneya de Baillencourt
The partlet is the most interesting item when it comes to female fashion. It started as a rather plain shawl-like piece of garb, often of very fine silk. Some were worn on top of the bodice, some underneath.
The former seems to have been common in the early Renaissance, while the latter became more common in the mid to late 16th century.
Partlets in Italy are thought to be a response to sumptuary laws, for example a 1464 decree from Florence ordering women to cover their generous neck openings, however the very fine silk used for the earliest partlets didn’t cover up a woman – if anything, it drew attention to the chest area rather than concealing it.
Throughout the 16th century partlets became more ornamented, embroidered, pleated, braided. They were fastened under the arms and bust or at the waist by ribbons or chords. Late in the century they also got collars and/or ruffs, eventually, the fashion evolved into free-standing ruffs typical for the 17th century.
3. An extant 16th century linen partlet showing a collar with ruffle and decorative stitching to the front.
4. 16th century Portrait of a Lady – Scipione Pulzone showing a partlet made of lace
Paintings from late in the 16th century from England, France, Holland and Germany show dark wool or velvet partlets often worn over the gown for warmth.
In this class we will look at a simple partlet, and how to create a pattern to fit the individual and how simple it is to alter this pattern to cover many varying styles of partlet.
To begin to make a simple partlet, we need to measure across the shoulders from point to point.
This will be the finished width of the partlet, so you will need to add whatever turnings you desire.
Now measure the length of the partlet, i.e. usually from the bottom of your shoulder blades at the back, over the shoulder to under the bust line. Keep note of the separate measurements of each side, front and back to the top of your shoulder, we will need these in the next step.
This is the length of the partlet fabric, again add whatever turnings you use.
Cut a rectangle of fabric to these measurements.
Measure and fold the fabric at the shoulder line using the front and back measurements noted in the last step. Mark this fold using chalk or pins or similar.
Now unfold the fabric and fold it in the opposite direction, i.e. lengthways, and cut the front up this fold until you get to the shoulder measurement marked in the previous step. This will be the front opening and you will now cut the neck opening across the shoulder mark so that you end up with this:
Now is the time to try the pattern on, and it will help if you have someone to pin the shoulders for you. Pinch the fabric on the shoulder until it sits neatly and the seams sit onto the shoulder, and pin.
This will stop the partlet front rising up and sitting off the shoulder. You can sew these lines as seams and trim the excess, this will give you shape similar to this:
Congratulations you have made a simple partlet pattern that you can add a collar to or trim the front to a V, to create whatever style of partlet you might like.
To create the later more fitted wool or velvet partlets a more fitted pattern would be used, and that’s another class entirely but I have included a link to a website below if you are interested in making this style.
Not so simple fitted partlet:
Landini, Roberta Orsi and Bruna Niccoli (2005) “Moda a Firenze 1540-1580, Edizioni Polistampa Pagliai, Florence
Frick, Carole Collier (2002) Dressing Renaissance Florence: Families, Fortunes, and Fine Clothing, Johns Hopkins University Press,