Italian Renaissance Fashion

An age of artistic endeavors, inventive innovations, and of some of the most premier fashions in clothing, the Italian Renaissance was a birth of art, knowledge and of course, style - Italian Renaissance Fashion introduction. “Toward the end of the 14th century AD, a handful of Italian thinkers declared that they were living in a new age. The barbarous, unenlightened “Middle Ages” were over, they said; the new age would be a “rinascita” (“rebirth”) of learning and literature, art and culture. This was the birth of the period now known as the Renaissance” (History. com).

The Italian Renaissance was one of the most revolutionary times in world history, not only did it have some of the greatest inventions and art but the clothing, hairstyles, and makeup were absolutely gorgeous. The Renaissance had some of the most beautiful attire of the time period, from the long decorated gowns, to ruffled sleeves, high collars, and the infamous tights. Ultimately it seems during the Renaissance, fashion was determined by class, rulers of the age, and to accentuate the male and female human form no matter what shape or size.

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Renaissance clothing was often extravagant depending on the person’s status within the community. The richer one was the more elaborate and decorative their hair, makeup, and clothing was. The middle class had nice quality garments but could never usurp the higher class’s outfits in design or color. As for the poorer class, their garbs were usually plain, maybe even tattered and made out of simple linens and the dullest colors. “Although poorly enforced, sumptuary laws in Europe from the middle ages to the 18th century dictated the color and material of a courtier’s clothing.

To separate the growing middle class from the nobility, these sumptuary laws imposed dress codes according to rank, gender, wealth, religion and even virtue. Breaking dress codes also came with much harsher penalties. ” (Beccia). The punishments for wearing the wrong clothing or colors ranged from jail time, fines, to fatally, the guillotine. One of the biggest influences in Renaissance clothing was the rulers of each time. “As the period went on, men’s garments became more pleated while women’s necklines became lower and lower.

Many can look at the fashions of the Renaissance and categorize them with the rulers of the time” (M. , V. & M. S). Catherine De Medici, part of Italy’s famous Medici family during the Renaissance period was said to be a trendsetter of the corset. “Although the origins of the corset are unknown, we can thank Queen Catherine de Medici for its rise in popularity” (Beccia). Catherine is also the contributing factor to the creation of the high-heeled shoe by means of a cobbler who created her footwear to dazzle the French Court with. He produced a creation that would cast a spell over the entire French nation when he removed the clunky wooden soles from Catherine’s shoes and replaced it with a slender padded four-inch heel” (Yaffe). This creation would be known to be one of the greatest in women’s fashion that is still glamorized and worn in today’s modern society. Catherine wasn’t the only one at work on fashion during the Renaissance however, Richard III and Henry VII were said to have an influence on certain aspects of clothing during the Renaissance.

During Richard’s reign, men began wearing more patterned clothing and the codpiece was often worn by the kings, though it was especially common. Henry VII however, really started the development of large puffy sleeved garments and padded clothe, mainly to conceal the fact he was growing larger with age. Not only did Henry wear this style but also enforced it into his court, “To show their respect, Henry’s courtiers started wearing padded clothing too, and a new trend was born—fat clothes! ” (Beccia).

Henry is also notoriously known for expanding on the codpiece in his attire, “Never one to seem small, Henry began padding his codpiece and his court followed suit. Soon, the once inconspicuous codpiece became a ridiculous bulge” (Beccia). This led to a slight expansion on the wearing of a codpiece and to the term “family jewels” because of the decor involved with them. The rulers of the time unquestionably influenced the style that others would follow, because after all, who wouldn’t want to look like royalty. The human form was a highlight of the Italian Renaissance’s art and fashion.

They wanted to capture the beauty not only with a brush but also in the clothing worn. “Renaissance dress makers considered the human form in two parts– hips and shoulders. The clothing was made to fit the wearer, yet on the outside it was padded to show the body in a completely different form than the natural one” (M. , V. & M. S). Women seemed to highlight this period’s beauty with their cinched waists, embroidered gowns, and curled gathered hair while men’s doublets tended to make them seem taller in stature, broader in the shoulders and with thinner waists.

Men had four parts to their clothing whereas women had the chemise, camicia, and their gowns. “The role of the chemise was to form the shape of the dress and in the later years was shown at the neckline and sleeves of the dress, and therefore had to be decorated and fashionable” (M. , V. & M. S). The Italian Renaissance’s clothing came in layers, both decorated or not, and were usually patterned and colored. The Renaissance was truly a rebirth of fashion, changing the old ways of medieval wear into beautiful and cultured garments that would later inspire other fashions.

The rulers of the era had a great authority in the style and creation of outfits, the different classes determined how clothing was worn, and the human body was finally given clothing that fit well and looked astonishing. This era truly outshined any other when it came to creating clothing because it not only established class but defined how clothing should fit and look altogether. It can be argued that without the Italian Renaissance era’s input on clothing we wouldn’t have exactly the same understanding and styles of clothing we have today nor would we have the period costumes we have in theatrical performances.

Works Cited

Beccia, Caryln. “The Raucous Royals: The Royal Trendsetters. ” The Raucous Royals: The Royal Trendsetters. N. p. , 05 Apr. 2008. Web. 09 Dec. 2012. History. com. “Italian Renaissance. ” History. com. A&E Television Networks, 1996-2012. Web. 09 Dec. 2012. M, V. , and M. S. “Fashions of the Renaissance Period. ” Fashions of the Renaissance Period. Rich East High School, 22 Mar. 1998. Web. 09 Dec. 2012. Yaffe, Harlan. “Well Heeled. ” The Style Files: Web Design, Animation & Content. Harlanyaffe. com, 07 Jan. 2003. Web. 09 Dec. 2012.

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