The Rich History of Renaissance Clothing

During the Renaissance, the wealthier and more prosperous members of a city, town or region often wore elaborate and highly-decorated renaissance clothing that was hand crafted from a variety of rich and expensive fabrics and finishes. In fact, the richer a family was the more expensive and ornate their Renaissance clothing was, as this was one of the primary ways of indicating stature and wealth during the Renaissance period (from the 14th to the middle of the seventeenth century).

Interestingly enough, as there was little opportunity for financial investment, the Renaissance clothing of the ruling classes was not only seen as indication of wealth, but a form of investment. If a family were to require money in the future, the clothing could be resold.The fabrics that the wealthy and their designers favored during the Renaissance were fabrics that were the hardest to produce and therefore the most expensive and exclusive. This included cotton, velvet, silk and brocade. At the time, each of these was labor intensive and/or produced a great distance away from Western Europe, such as in Egypt for cotton. Rich finishes such as ribbons, seed pearls and golden / silver thread were also liberally embroidered on the Renaissance clothing of the day.

During the period Renaissance clothing for women ebbed and flowed from simpler pieces, such as underskirts, bodices and robes, to more complex clothing that included skirts, underskirts, bodices, over-bodices, hoops and collars. Men's Renaissance clothing on the other hand, was often designed to accentuate the body shape, providing them with a more rounded look (along the lines of a barrel). Made out of the same rich colors and fabrics, their renaissance clothing often included padded shoulders and breeches, as well as hats, embellished with the same embroidery and fancy finishes that completed the Renaissance clothing of women.

Dressmaking Costume History


The study of the development of costume throughout the early ages presents many difficulties. Until a fairly recent period fashion books were unknown, and the only records were those found in the writings of the times, in wall carvings and paintings, in sculptures on monuments and tombs, on seals and various gems, and a little later in engravings of various fetes, royal processions, marriages, etc.

All these were not made with the student of costume history in mind, but generally to commemorate some event or to perpetuate the memory of various reigning monarchs, and in consequence they were not always accurate representations of the period they illustrate. Allowance must be made for the vagaries of the artists, the materials in which they worked, and also for the fact that in many cases these monuments were not made until some centuries later than the events they commemorated, when little accurate information existed regarding the costume of the earlier periods. To obviate this difficulty, the costume of the period at which the work was actually executed generally appears.

By the comparison of various records, however, a fairly satisfactory and continuous outline of costume history has been worked out-an outline which in general is sufficiently suggestive to meet the demands of the modern dress designer.

Every fashion and every detail of fashion of the present day may be traced to that of some former period. It is only through contact with the representations of these fashions that the creative ability so necessary in designing is awakened; it is only through a knowledge of them that what is called "originality" is possible. In this connection originality means the power to adopt and adapt suitably the fashions of the past to the demands of the present.

It is because the French have this knowledge, because in their libraries, churches, and museums there are these records free to all, because for centuries they have appreciated their value and have through constant practice acquired skill in their use, that all the fashion world looks to them for inspiration and guidance in design in costume.

To be of the greatest use an outline history of costume should include a survey of the costumes of the ancient Egyptians, the Grecians, and the Romans, as showing the general type of garment used in early civilizations. These differ very greatly from the garments worn by the Gauls at the time of their conquest by the Romans, or from those of the Franks who later appeared and gradually took possession of Gaul, renamed it France, and established there the French nation. French costume, as such, may be considered as beginning at this time, about the sixth century.

From this period no attempt is made here to describe even briefly the costume of any other nation than the French. They began at an early period not only to create their own fashions but to make whatever fashions they borrowed distinctively theirs by their manner of adoption. Because of limited space the costumes of men are omitted from this outline; in Egypt, Greece, and Rome they did not differ in their main characteristics from those of the women, and in French costume the same names and many of the same characteristics persisted until the Renaissance, from which time there is definite distinction between the garments of the men and women.

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Fabulous Fashion Attractions for University Trips to Milan

For university trips to inspire your fashion or textile design students, one destination stands out: Milan. Italy's fashion capital, Milan is brimming with designer labels and boutique stores, and annually plays host to Europe's most famous fashion week. Not only a centre for all things sartorial, it is home to magnificent architecture, rich culture, thriving commerce and colourful characters - in short, every moment spent in Milan is one packed with inspiration and potential. What could be more perfect for students seeking ideas for their own designs? While soaking up the atmosphere will be sure to provide creative stimulation in spades, here are a few of Milan's attractions that should feature on all fashion-related university trips' itineraries.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

A far cry from the average modern shopping mall, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II boasts an impressive legacy. Built in 1867 to provide a shopping space for the city's elite, it is a great starting point for leaders of university trips wishing to give their students a sense of the important cultural role that fashion has played over the centuries in Milan, affecting not only what people wore but inspiring architectural wonders. The mall, comprising of a double arcade, is decorated with opulent mosaics and glass vaulted ceiling, with a spectacular dome whose ironwork is said to have had an important influence on the designs for the Eiffel Tower. Among these grand structures, your students can browse Louis Vuitton and Prada outlets while contemplating the relationship between the city and its fashion industry.

Museo Teatro alla Scala

Another area that fashion is closely associated with is the performing arts. Costume departments rely on the expertise of designers, while many top designers have been known to take inspiration from the theatricality of the performance world. Nowhere is this cross-pollination more splendid than in Milan, and so a visit to the museum attached to the famous opera house, Teatro alla Scala, is a great addition to university trips for fashion students. With a bountiful collection of objects and lavish costumes from the opera house's illustrious past, this is another source of beauty and style that could leave your students bursting with their own ideas.

Moda Costume, Immagine

No trip to Milan to study fashion would be complete without a visit to this fabulous museum of fashion and costume history. Tucked away in the Palazzo Morando, a historic building in the heart of the fashionable shopping district, it offers a comprehensive overview of the history of fashion and costumes. Its collections include paintings and photographs of classic fashions, period costumes, textiles and accessories - alongside fascinating insights into the city's cultural and political history, showing how fashion has always been relevant to the life of Milan.

Robert Emdur works for Equity Student Travel, the UK's leading specialist in group travel for students in higher and further education. We organise university trips to destinations around the world covering a wide range of subjects, as well as conference & event-focused trips.