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Il Costume al Tempo do Pico e Lorenzo di Medici
Aurora Fiorentini Capitani
Vittorio Erlindo, Stefania Ricci
Milan: Edizione Charta, 1994. ISBN: 88-86158-64-5
Translation of Farsetto Section, by Ornella Morelli, pages  84-90 with footnotes

This translation is for educational and research purposes only and is not an official nor authorized translation. I am providing this rather rough and rather literal translation for other costume historians who are interested in the garment called a farsetto in Renaissance Italy, but who do not read Italian. This source provides the most information I have found to date on the subject (and I am truly grateful!)

I have added question marks where the translation does not seem to make sense, or where I could not find a definition for an archaic word. I am also liberally including Italian words in my translation for people who may know a more applicable term, or simply become acquainted with some costuming terms in Italian, both modern and archaic. Where possible, I have tried to make it flow a bit better in English, but find that Italian is more flowery in description than I can do comfortably in English.

I would appreciate it if any written references (i.e. links, paper, etc.) to this translation note that this is an informal one and may have inaccuracies. Of course, the original source and proper acknowledgments to the authors should be given. I would not want this taken as gospel, and, as always, appreciate feedback. The definitive version of this document resides at

Comments on this translation relative to farsetto construction can be found in my Farsetto article


Over the shirt, custom dictates a "short robe over the loins (reni) and quite tight to the waist", at the time called farsetto in the Tuscan region and giubba or zupa  in other regions. The garment presents it the complex silhouette numerous morphological affinities with a modern tailed ? garment, (in particular, the jacket). The old farsetto  may be in the most common version, for example, the modern jacket that hugs the chest, adhering to the shape of the body, and the lower edge conforms to the roundness of the flank; both the aforementioned creations are charged, moreover, with exactly dividing the chest in half (in period, "middle split"), and depend on the reassembly of the detachment produced by buttons and buttonholes/eyelets ("occhieli") (named the "buttoned farsetto"). Such bottom appearance covers (the loins?) but then becomes shorter (rises again) in history of 15th century clothes (that so-called evolutionary course).

Giubba  and farsetto do not, in fact, take their own tailoring identity from the type of cut. Rather they get it from a structural manner (stretch/pull?) largely subordinate to the outline tracing and to the aggregation  (at that time "assemblage") of their parts. The principal characteristic of the garment, the attribute that underlines it from (its) first appearance, is the singular morphology made up, in fact of the "farcitura", or by a complementary element that enters the scene only in the concluding phases of the garment's manufacturing process, and that therefore does not modify in any way the initial patron? (Patron meaning client, or some reference to cut/pattern?)

The institutional and professional legal sources (Arts of the Giubbotieri, Giubbonai and Farsettai) do not speak of the shaping aspects and general construction, but focus completely on only this matter, facing (?) it principally under the usual and physical profile. Therefore here are the prescriptions on the "entrances and exits", the cabella? and passages of cotton wool/padding" (modern translation, not necessarily true cotton), and then the prohibitions on the use of improper materials like "belts (cimature),  veiling? (garzature), fur (other times pelame (skins/hides), stopa? (fabric = stoffa, tow = stoppa, or padding= stoppaccio)" or of skimpy measurements of "old and new padding". The "fitto apparato normativo"  (lease of normal apparatus/machines?) that controls times and manners of work, prohibiting "the beating of cotton at night" contains continuing information on material and procedures.

In the intricate system of provisioning and ordering, and also at the lexicon level, the farsetto construction (farcitura) completely provides a sense of the garment: the common denominator (FARC-) is, in fact, contained in all the installation processes of the farsetto: from the padding (imbottitura) (FARTUS), one passses to the quilted (imbottito) section (FARSATA), and from there to the structured and resulting garment by a system of quilted/padded elements (FARSETTO).

One finds the same etymological course through the dialect term "inzupar": "inzupatura"  from which derives the name giubba, giubbetto. Under the concise name of "farcitura" (imbottiture con guaina - paddings with casing, and imbottiture schietto -  straight/genuine padding; here the term schietto means "not invoiced or charged") that make up the farsetto in the whole of the finished product and in each one of the portions that compose it. The padding can be put in place all together on the wrong side (rovescio) of the fabric "interior" or be closed one at a time separately in the relative casing (lining?) of the single individually cut pieces. In both methods still, the material generally employed consists of the same measure of new stuffing or cotton wool ("bombice  or bombagio nova").  The technique of "empietura" (also "inzupatura" = filling) most widespread is that which bears the name "direct work" (lavorazione diretta). One achieves the insertion without other mediation (casings = involucri, linings = fodere, etc.) the worked padding being flocked ("a fiocchi")  in the cavity resulting from the fabrication process that forms between the exterior fabric and the lining (expected to be exclusively linen), that doubles it ("raddoppia") and refinishes it on the inside

The operation continues to the last part of complete saturation (?) of the garment, when the farsetto attains a marked effect of quilting or padding ("nit totum plenum" = "all full up"). Through sophisticated tequniques of maintenance managed maybe by the Arte dei Farsettai than by the Rigattieri (2nd hand clothes dealers whose work had to remain distinct: no one working in the farsetto workshops could "stand nor cut nor sew" near the store/warehouse ("fondaco") of the rigattieri), one is provided with a constant stream of repair and internal cleaning. Parasites are eliminated (ion this case moths and bedbugs) while softness and volume result potentially thanks to a continuing activity of replacement and reclaiming of the worn padding (usurate = wear and tear) and the inserting of fresh material ("rinfollatura o rimborratura" (borra  = flocks, stuffing, hair). As much to the practical symbolical values, the "filling" acts in one part like a protective layer to the body, in the other like a corrective model. It is put there in the first place to compensate ("a compenso") for insufficient warmth and for physiological and muscular inadequacies, and secondarily employed to achieve shape (pessore= thickness? ,volume, size), and for the shape imposed by fashion.

The first attribute of the padding is the specific accomplishment of guaranteeing the physical integrity of the garment: first of all protecting him (from the mishaps of weather, of falls - specifically from horseback- form illness (wounds?) and in general from hits and "offenses" of weapon thrusts))) and therefore intervening to correct some defects (though of literally in this age as "troubles" and "deformities") that could, in some way, cause damage ("render  doubts") to one's public image. In the second (attribute), the soft padding ("polpa soffice") included in the farsetto is called on to actively create the aforementioned "body of fashion".  In fact this remolds the shape of the chest and transmits the new shape (data) to the overlying garments that thus assume the lines of "ideal beauty". The social and functional direction of the garment is regulated on he double value (aesthetic and defensive) of the inserted wadding ("ovatatti"). Throughout the 15th century the farsetto enjoys the attention usually reserved for a prestigious and ceremonial robe, adapted to solemn occasions ("ai di solenni") and public meetings ("convegni"), that in tailoring residences can decorate itself with he justice and valor generally destined for creations of quality (for example, being "well made" and of presenting a lively bearing in parade); yet at the same time is worn with the ease generally accorded to a "worn and used" ("logor e usato") covering, with which it is possible to establish an intimate and prolonged custom that is practical and affective. One undresses in farsetto to be at home, to sleep, love, walk in the garden and finally to welcome one's new bride ("sposa novella") in the bedroom.  The importance that it provides in the medical/hygenic protection of the body is in keeping with the acts and occupations of civil life rather than the nuisances and exertions pertinent to enterprise and military discipline.

This the 15th century now identifies the farsetto as the everyday garment that is absolutely indispensable in work and leisure, and now as the unique support for armor. In this last role it is particularly adaptable in games of sport ("riding, weapons shooting and other acts of dexterity", and in the celebratory parades, or in true actions of war.

If the professional sources are full of items on the subject of farsetto making, the technical part, as discussed, would remain victim to a true conspiracy of silence were it not for a decisive exception: an account of ordinary bookkeeping, preserved in the Archives of the State of Florence (Archivio di Stato di Firenze) that references the act of inventorying at death the goods comprising the patrimony of the shop (bottega) of Antonio di Bartolo, of the farsetto trade, a citizen and artisan ("civis et artifex")  not otherwise identified, and tenant with a companion of a store on the Piazza de' Priori 17.

The estimates of liquidity relative to the mercantile profession (merchantantia) and items of trade kept inside the shop also reveal a stock of unsold goods, kept in some chests. The invoice lists all the different sets of worked garments that in respect to contemporary fashion constitute the proper (proprium?) items of the farsetto industry; it itemizes some bits of partially worked merchandise, and lastly shares some modest scraps of thread and pounds of stuffing, numerous remnants of "more stylish linen in bolts/pieces (pezza) and snippet , tiny residual cuttings from which "buttonings" of various colors (would be made), a few sets of utensils  ("cesoie" = shears and "affibiatoi" = buckles/fastenings), and various tools of trade (stadere? = steel/stands? and grappling hooks). Thus a wealth of information regarding the farsetto's structure springs from Bartolo's shop.

According to the document one arrives at the finished garment though the assembly of the twelve distinct sections "worked double with padding" (the scempie" - simple ones - in fact, bear the specification "unworked").  They assume respectively the technical names of "petto" (chest), "coda"  (tail), "manica" (sleeve),  "manichino"  (little sleeve). The outlined tailoring construction of the petti is completed each time by an additional padding of support that goes to the shoulder, defined vulgarly as "soup/broth"?  (brodone) and positioned along the contour lines to the "giro d'immanicatura" (today giro-manica, or armscye), being the cavity that allows the insertion of the arm into the empty space of the sleeve. "Four chest pieces (each?) of eleven farsetti furnished with linen and padding and with brodone" number the posthumous list of the dispersed fragments from the production cycle. The order of assembly emerges - unequivocably from the numerical correspondence of the elements; four back and chest pieces, two sleeves and two lower sleeves and from the topical implications found in the nomenclature. The term "chest" finds an immediate counterpart on the human body: the farsetto sections that bear this name, if correctly positioned, reconstruct the shape of the thorax, forming a body that envelopes it faithfully; while the "tail" in accordance with its name will constitute the rear part of the garment. Sleeves and lower sleeves distribute themselves as needed through their different dimensions along the arm and forearm. Once the entire piece/organism is set and cut, a pistagna ("track"?) of varying size is hung, formed like a border "low in the back and high on the sides", sometimes "sloped on the nape". A slight humping ripples towards the height of the nocchio (knot - neckbone?)and inlays it directly in the cavity of the garment's neckline: almost wherever it is named "collaretto" (little collar). 18

According to contemporary literary sources, the style of farsetto most in vogue during the century is further characterized by the strong constriction it provides, besides traditionally tight (stretto), also temporarily "short to the belly" ("corto al bellico")  and consequently "undressed" ("spogliato") and "shameful" ("dishonesto") almost to the limit of good taste and decency. Waves of design inspired by the daring form filled preachers' sermons leaving behind a fertile ground of colorful invectives, rich in specific descriptive details. 19 The "shortening" of the farsetto provokes expected repercussions also on the garment's terminology, introducing the diminutive farsettino and giubberello. 20

The partial underarm detachment of the sleeve from the rest of the body follows the overall constriction. It is a device of a sporting nature created to take advantage of the arm's mobility, even if it often results in an ornamental and ambiguous sense related to the pleasing contrast by revealing the alluring folds of the shirt (underneath)/

As to the material, a brief from the Tailors Arts of Pisa (Arti dei Sarti de Pisa) informs us that the fabric can vary uin a wide range of quality, from fustian to silk, in grades corresponding to the numerous "forms" that, as one has seen, the farsetto can assume.  Also the sewing thread corresponds to the prestige of the garment" "thread" (refe - unsure what type this means here) and silk for the rich examples, a generic thread (linen?) for the others. 21 The farsetto reveals itself again as a socially and functionally flexible garment capable of transforming itself from a common garment, for home and work, into sumptuous parade livery.

Endnotes (contained in original Italian text)

17.  A.S.F. Pupilli avanti il Principio n. 43, Hereclum Antonij Bartoli farsettail (1425 Indizione terza) cc170r. ev.

18. The parts called chest and tail have corresponding names in armor. The farsetto can be likened to it in many ways,  like a surrogate garment that like its predisposition to suppor it (armor), and going between armor and body. See A.S.F. Pupilli avanti il Principio n. 48

19. The richest anecdote about the "ribaldry" in which "sisters and sister-in-laws and relatives may gaze" due to the short farsettino  il bellico, and of its corruptive capability is from San Bernardino of Siena. You can see this particularly in preachings XXX and XXXVIII, 1936 pp. 665-668; 835. But the unscrupulous main garment in the wardrobe can also be dangerous for those wearing it. One can see the temptations induced by "being undressed at home in one's farsettino" in the same San Bernardino of Siena, 1958, I, XVI, pp. 226.

20. The farsetto appears by the name giubberello in the Medici wardrobes in versions addressing "arming for tournaments, both military and exhibition". YOu can see the description regarding the gear of Piero di Medici in E Muntz 1888, p. 23 and sgg (?). Also in 1469 Giuliano wears a giubberello: Giulian of Piero of Cosimo on horseback wearing an alexandrine damask giubberello brocaded with ariento ? with ties on the division of the arms". (B.N.C.F. Magliabechiano VIII, 503 Ricordo d'una giostra fatta in Firenze a di 5 Febbraio 1468 sulla Piazza di S. Croce - Record of a tournament held in Florence on 7 Feb 1468 at the Piazza Santa Croce) c. IIIV.

21. Crf A.S. Pisa, Com. div. B, Statuti n. 9, c.lll r.-8 v. e A.S.F. Pupilli avanti il Principio n. 43, c. 170 r. e v.

Feedback? I am interested in knowing what you think.
Comments, questions, corrections, and suggestions are welcome!

Io Parlo Italiano                  Yo hablo Espanol          Je Parle Francais                  Ich spreche ein bischen Deustch

Contact Liz Jones