Fashion and Clothing of the Renaissance

In today's society, people are constantly being labeled. Although you might not want to believe it, certain outfits might make you nerdy, preppy, goth, a jock, or considered rich or poor. Renaissance fashion also reflected a person's economic and social status. Depending on your class, you were only allowed to wear certain dresses or outfits; this is why it was so important for people to wear their wealth. The upper class wanted people to know they were rich and displaying their jewelry, fancy fabrics, and intricate designs on their clothing showed how much money they had. Fashion was directly affected by strict laws of what certain people could or couldn't wear. The renaissance period began in 1450 in Italy and brought on an exciting change to Italian renaissance fashion. No longer was clothing sewn with boring straight lines, simple designs and a single black or brown color.

Women's renaissance clothing was made with layers and layers of fabrics. In the beginning women's Italian renaissance clothing was made with high round necklines that covered their chests. Over time the neckline began to drop and was more V-neck to show the chest. Further along in renaissance clothing history, sleeves and dresses became fuller along with more intricate designs and details. Underneath their dresses women wore an undergarment called a chemise. Compared to what we wear for underwear today, their underwear would be like wearing a snow suit! At the beginning of Italian renaissance fashion the chemise was something you wore privately and never showed, but overtime it became a part of the wardrobe. Women wore a sleeveless outer dress with a more ornate chemise underneath. Using two different dresses added color, fullness and flare to an outfit. Lower-class women were only allowed to wear one color, so they would slash their clothing to make the underneath color show through.

Men's renaissance clothing, although simpler than women's dresses, still had layers. First, there was the basic shirt and, depending on your economic class, it would be made with expensive silk or cheap linen. The more noble and upper-class men wore skirts. Yes skirts, unless you were a working man. Italian renaissance clothing for men added a few layers depending on their economic status. To avoid looking liking an undesirable working man, a doublet or jacket was worn over a shirt. Towards the end of renaissance clothing history, the doublet went out of style and a more elaborate jacket was worn over shirts. Jackets were sewn with bright colors and although full at the shoulders were fit around the body extra tight.

Renaissance fashion continued to try new and fun things. Now that dresses were brighter and more beautiful than ever before, stockings, shoes and hair pieces also became striking accessories. Speaking of hair pieces, women did their hair in some seriously interesting ways. Not only would women pluck hairs from their hairline to make their foreheads taller, but they would twist their hair tightly up into two horns coming off their heads. Sounds silly now, but it was considered stylish then. Fifteen years ago perms were pretty popular but you probably can't name a single friend with one now. Hair styles also changed very quickly during the Renaissance period and the horns and bulges moved from the top to the sides and then to the back of the head.

Younger men wore their hair longer and to their shoulders, while older men kept it short or completely shaved. Men didn't miss out on the accessories for the hair either and wore bright decorated hats. Both women and men's shoes changed throughout the renaissance period. Men's shoes went from pointy and laced up the legs to more rounded and laced in front. Women wore platform shoes that could make them an entire foot taller! Towards the end, shoes were made more comfortable with no laces and almost like a slipper. Every part of the wardrobe had detail and elegance from their undergarments to the shoes on their feet. Renaissance fashion was a distinct era in time for clothing that is easily identified by its ornate and unique style covering 150 years.

Read and learn more about renaissance clothing and how it made its mark in the history of fashion.

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