An important and ever-changing feature of women’s dress in Venice was sleeves. A clear distinction of the style of sleeves was present between the late fifteenth century and the beginnings of the sixteenth century. During the fifteenth century, sleeves were not as important as they later become. Sleeves of the late fifteenth century were often tied onto the camicia, or shift, and poufed out of the openings of the dress. Also, the sleeves were not always integrated into the gown. Often there was a sleeveless dress worn over the undergarment with sleeves attached.

The styles of sleeves changed in the sixteenth century. By the turn of the century, sleeves became an obsession, especially in women’s clothing. The size of the sleeves became large and was a distinctive feature of the gown. Different variations of the style of the sleeve also evolved. One style was the very large, angel-winged style with opening slits to reveal the camicia underneath it. Palma Vecchio’s painting Portrait of a Woman of 1520 displays this style of sleeves. There is the presence of elaborately patterned under sleeves that peek out from under the main sleeves, along with its brilliant use of color. Another style is the unrestrained, smaller, and less angel-winged sleeve. Women who wore this style usually wore under-sleeves often seen with slits or openings. Lastly, there was the style of the large tube-like sleeve that was cuffed at the bottoms with no openings or slits.

Jacopo Palma, il Vecchio, Portrait of a Woman, 1525  (

Return to title page

Leave a response

Your response: