Friday, January 13, 2012


Antea by Parmaganino Portrait of the Artist’s Sister-in-Law by Bernadino Licinio

Beautifully embellished linen aprons show up in a variety of portraits in 16th century Italy. We also have several extant pieces. One is voided work in red silk on white linen. One of my favorites is cutwork on white linen. One is gold and blue embroidery, and many have lace insertions. There is also an additional one with lace in the Met that is not firmly dated. The variety of embellishments and styles is rather exceptional for such a simple piece of clothing.

The first apron I made was white linen with extensive lace inserts hand sewn and I have really enjoyed wearing it. I was a little concerned that my original apron might be too wide to be correct for the period, however. While the extant aprons don’t seem to be particularly narrow, many of the portraits do show a very narrow apron. To differentiate from my first attempt I both went with a very narrow width, and added some color. I also chose not to handsew the second piece. I had a satin ribbon trim that had a cross stitch style design in orange and I thought it would go nicely with the colors of my dress. I placed it between strips of lace and then edged linen with it using the insertion stitch on my sewing machine.


  1. There's this one, too: I'm trying to find the citation, but I recently read that these aprons were often used during pregnancy to cover up any gap in the front of the dress when the wearer got too big for it to fit.

    1. It certainly sounds reasonable that they would use them for that sort of purpose.