Dress Diary – 1510's Milan Mongile

A while ago, I spotted what looked like an overcoat or loose gown on an early 1500's fresco and recently decided to try and make one. I eventually decided that what I was looking at was a 'Mongile'... then proceeded to beat my head against the brick wall which is the early renaissance mongile!

In spite of their popularity in inventories of the time in Milan, there's not a lot of information out there about them (for example, Leonora of Aragon owned 40 and Duke Galaezzo gave several to his 'little secret' in the 1490's).

They are defined in La Moda Italiana nel XV secollo, by Paola Fabri as an 'Open-fronted mantle, worn wide and floor-length, in use in the second half of the 15th century' and mentioned that while they often had sleeves (Maniche), they could be worn without them.

Jacqueline Herald in Renaissance Dress in Italy, 1400 1500 goes on to describe it as an item worn by both men and women and possibly being of monastic origin. Both agree that they were generally very elegant and often made of rich fabrics.

Both Herald & Fabri believe that they were of Spanish origin. As they seem to start appearing after the arrival in Italy of Leonora of Aragon and Spain's strong influence over Milan over both centuries as well as the 'monjile's' mentioned in Hispanic Costume that certainly seems to be the case.

These entries, and Hispanic Costume further indicate that these were often made of rich fabrics; those of Duke Galeazzo's 'little secret' were mostly made of gold brocades, though some may have been of silk, while Hispanic costume mentions an example made of blue velvet.

Fabri goes on to say that while they were originally only hip- or thigh- length, they eventually became floor length 'similar to a giornea' and that they are difficult to find reference to today...something I have found to be very true!

I have not been able to find anything more concrete or mention of the item in sumptuary laws of the time, however this is not unusual as Milan was not as strict in these matters as other city-states (Such as Venice).

I have decided to make my mongile with maniche to provide another layer of warmth. As I would be wearing it mostly in winter or in the morning when camping, it will be made with a wool outer and some silk to line it.

Going from the two frescoes I am using as inspiration, I have decided to make my mongile in the a mix of these two frescoes, a black wool outer with a deep v-neck, wide sleeves and light blue silk as a contrasting lining.


Looking closely at the frescoes, I can see that the sleeve is fully set into the arm scythe and fits snugly across the bust. They appear wide enough not to encumber movement in the skirts and the sleeves appear to be about the same width as those of the gamurra in both cases.

This is a basic sketch of the pattern I think most likely to fit the frescoes and information:

As the silk I have chosen is quite narrow compared to the wool, I will likely end up using gores rather than cutting the back and fronts as one piece bit will see how I go.

I've made a partial mock-up of the back and front of the mongile which seems to work, although it may still need tweaking:

Next is some more playing with the pattern and the making the real thing! :)

#Mongile #Milan #16thCentury #1510s #DressDiary #Italian

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