Clothing of the Renaissance | Renaissance Clothing and Medieval Costumes

Renaissance Clothing

Fashion during the Renaissance was even more of a status symbol than it is today. More often than not a person’s wealth was shown in how extravagant their clothing was and what materials the clothing was made from. Clothing during this time was an investment which could be pawned or sold in times of need.

Renaissance Women’s Clothing:

During the Renaissance women’s clothing changed from three pieces, underskirt, bodice, and robe, to five or more pieces, which included the previous three, but added skirts, overbodices, vests, hoops, or collars. This helped wealthy women stand out amongst their peers and helped differentiate the higher classes from the lower classes as poor women did not have the means to procure such extravagant pieces of clothing.

Hair coverings also went from the more conservative-styled cone headdress, which allowed little to no hair to be seen; to the more popular lace covered veil which could be adorned with flowers or jewels. Most Renaissance women had long braided hair which, after time, society allowed to be shown and used as part of a woman’s beauty. As the years progressed during the “time of Enlightenment” it became totally optional for a woman to either wear or not wear a head covering at all, which was usually dictated by weather.

Wedding dresses, much like today, were made of the finest materials that the bride’s family could afford. However, unlike today, most wedding dresses were made of richly colored fabric as the “traditional” white dress was not adopted until much later. Dresses were often adorned with seasonal flowers as well as offset by jewelry that the bride would wear.

As with our own culture the wealthy and elite were the ones that drove the fashion trends of the Renaissance; however, the art of slashing began with the lower classes due to a law that was passed which restricted the colors that a lower-classed person could wear. Due to this, women began wearing dual layers of clothing whereby they would slash the first layer in order to let the second layer peak through. This style of clothing quickly caught on and was adopted by men’s clothing designers and shoe designers.

Renaissance Men’s Clothing:

Women were not the only sex that believed that their wealth should be worn. Men began to wear more square-styled clothing which later evolved to the better known barrel-styled clothing. As with women, men wore richer colors adorned with various jewels. Men also adopted silk hosiery after years of experimenting with several fabrics, including tweed. Men also wore collars or stand up ruffs, attices, ornamental buttons, and fanciful shoewear.

Influence of Renaissance Attire

During the later years of the Renaissance time period fashion was dominated by Spanish influences. At this time, the human form was considered just hips and shoulders. Clothing was tailored for the person but was padded with various materials, including horsehair, to provide the wearer with a completely square form.

Also during the Renaissance, the hoop skirt was invented which as lasted all these years to today. Amazing!

The clothing of the Renaissance period has lasted through the years and Faire Attire has put together a collective list of quality clothing to suit your needs as a LARPer, a faire attendee, a member of SCA, or even those of you who enjoy wearing these beautiful pieces of clothing every day!

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Renaissance Costumes

Because the Renaissance economy was basically based in the banking and textile industries in Florence, Italy, it thrived. Many fine materials and accessories for Renaissance clothing became the foundation for an entire era of clothing and ideas. Renaissance clothing was not like anything else ever seen, and was characterized by short upper garments for the men, and tight fitting clothes overall.

The Renaissance clothing that a person wore easily told of their wealth and their social rank. In fact, the clothing that a person wore during the  Renaissance was an indicator of their status. Therefore, if a person did not have very much money, but was able to wear the right type of clothes and carry themselves in the right manner, they would still be accepted in society.

The Church actually played an important role in Renaissance clothing, because they condemned those who focused too much on the various fashion and trends for being vain. If anyone was wearing what was considered to be the latest fashion, they could easily be found guilty of being vain. It was clear who was wearing the latest fashions, compared to who was wearing fashions that were out of date and older.

The church also felt that trend setters would be able to manipulate the way that a given society distinguished class levels according to the way that a person looked. They felt that since the order of the world was established by God, wearing something that made you appear to be in a different order than you really were was dangerous and should not be done.

After the Black Plague, the laws actually started to stabilize and judge who could wear various types of clothing. There were regulations on the type of clothes that could be worn, the cuts that would be made, and the materials and colors that were used. In fact, in England in 1363, the law restricted the amount of money that people who were in a lower class could spend on clothes. It was also forbidden to wear silk if you were in the lower classes.

Renaissance clothing had many different facets that helped it to be understood. First was the color of the clothing. Each color would represent something else, and therefore the clothing had meaning. The green color, for instance, represented love. Gray represented sorrow. Yellow was hostility, and Blue was fidelity, except in the Low Countries – here it represented an adulterous wife. Red meant nobility, and Black and Gray together represented the lower status people.

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The fashion in the Renaissance also very interesting. Because one of the primary functions of the clothing was to distinguish the social rankings of the people who wore them as easily as possible, this was the main idea behind fashion before the Renaissance. A person could easily be judged by the type of clothing that they wore. However, Renaissance clothing confused this fact and made it very hard to see. If a person wanted to be associated with those that were in fashion, they had to wear the clothes that had the newest colors, cuts, and styles. They could also never wear something that had been popular before.

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It was the noble ladies who were the ones that lead the trends in Renaissance fashion. They would include things like jewels, cloaks made out of fur, and other types of elaborate decorations with their fashion. This would distinguish them as being aristocratic and in a high social class. However, even though they were using jewels and other things to distinguish their class, their look could be mimicked by anyone who could afford the styles at all. Several less expensive styles were created so that a person could mimic the looks that were put on by the noble ladies.

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Today, Renaissance clothing is used for many purposes. Many Renaissance fairs and other gatherings are held all over the world to celebrate the Renaissance, and costume is worn to these various gatherings. Renaissance costumes are also worn in Live Action Role Playing – LARP. This is done quite often. Also, the Society for Creative Anachronism uses  Renaissance costumes as well. It is quite easy to find or make Renaissance costumes, because all of the various styles are available and a person can choose the type of clothing that they would like, as well as the colors and cuts that they would like their own items to have.