An Italian’s View of Turkish Women’s Clothing
By Lady Isabella Mea Caterina D’Angelo
The lady on the left is wearing an Italian version of the
lady on the right’s coat. I used the
Italian and Turkish images as well as writings by other Europeans at the time
to create what a lady of the
The chemise is made of a linen cotton blend. This is partly because it was on sale at the fabric
store. However, this is also because,
according to accounts, Turkish women always wore cotton chemises. In
The cut of the chemise is based on the drawings by Europeans of Turkish ladies as well as the portraiture evidence. The sleeves are almost always depicted as being long and full. The Italian portraits of the Turkish styled coats show v-necked garments or the neckline is covered by the Turkish coat. According to one Italian observer during the 16th c, the Turkish chemise is “collarless”. 
coat is made out of linen. Although
silk was a more popular choice in both
material”.  Because of this, I lined the blue linen coat with thinner pink linen. I also added trim to the outside of the coat because, according to various European accounts, the coats were either embroidered or otherwise decorated along the edges.
Another reason I used linen for the coat was due to a
Muslim women to wear silk-bordered caftans, caftans from
'atlas', 'ala' baggy trousers, 'ala' cotton gauze and shoes that
Muslims wore, known as 'içedik' and 'bashmak', because their
buying them had made the prices rise. The quality and type of
fabric used for garments of non-Muslim women's dress were also
defined in another law issued from the Palace to the
judge. Another law that was decreed was that non-Muslim
women should wear 'fistan' instead of 'ferace', their baggy
trousers should only be light blue, and that they should wear
'shirvani' and 'kundura' instead of 'basmak' on their feet.”
So, Linen is a safe bet if you don’t feel like being subjected to Turkish Sumptuary laws. This law also defines that the trousers should be blue. A few European observes do note that all the Christian women wore blue trousers. The trousers with the outfit are not ones I have made. They were originally part of a linen pant suit that I re-dyed. I used these to go with the outfit rather than make a new pair because I wanted to focus on the more visible outer layer of the house dress than the underlayers. Despite this, the pants are only loose and do fit with the cross between the Italian bloomers and the Turkish trousers.
coat is made to be tight around the bust and waist but flow at the hips due to
both the Italian mindset and the written descriptions. Italian dresses are tight in the
bodice. The gowns are tight but meant to
go over corsets. The dresses can be made
to be tight enough on their own to uplift and constrain the breasts and waist
into the 16th century ideal shape.
According to a French traveler to Turkey in the late 16th c,
the women of Turkey “open the corsage to a modest degree, but they do not
confine the breasts as the French women do, nor push them up to make them look
bigger as do the women of Venice. They wear clothes not so much as to look
different, but to cover themselves.”  However, both art and extant evidence show
that the bodices to the gowns were very tight.
Rather than making two garments, I made the bodice to the coat tight. The coat is what would have been seen and
what an Italian lady would have seen a Turkish lady wearing. They would not, necessarily, have known about
layers and this looks to be born out in the Italian portraiture. In the various portraits of Italian ladies
sporting the Turkish coat, you can see the chemise and then the coat; no other
layers are visible. They may be wearing
a corset beneath the chemise, as appears to be popular in
I cut the coat to be tight as shown in extant garments and artwork from the period. This was one of the primary European artwork examples of Turkish dress I used:
The coats appear to support the breasts and are tight around the waists. The buttons only extend to the stomach/waist area. The sleeves can be short or long but look to be somewhat tight in the upper arm. In almost all Italian portraits, the sleeves to the coat are short and tight.
Because the outfit is an Italian’s idea of what a Turkish
outfit should be, a simple veil is worn over the hair. Hats were rarely worn in 16th
One of the major differences between the Turkish coat I
created and the Italian version in portraiture is the neckline. I did go with the necklines described in
various European accounts as well as the neckline seen above. The Neapolitans dressed more conservatively
than the Venetians. Because my persona is from
 Titan, Unknown date. Courtesy of http://www.geocities.com/oonaghsown/Titian_turkish_large.jpg
the 16th C, Barbarosa, a Turkish Pirate, controlled much of the
 IBID Page 19
 IBID Page 7
 Harem, codex Vindobonensis 1590 Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek Vienna.
 This is born out in the many depictions of Venetian and Neapolitan dress from various travelers artworks. The Venetian women are often shown with low cut bodices while the Neapolitan women have high necked bodices or even a v-neck bodice that covers most of the torso.