Late Medieval Europe & The Early Italian RenaissanceWeek #3

Late Medieval Europe and the Early Italian Renaissance

Step 3:

Read the "lecture" on Late Medieval dress below.

Dress in Late Medieval Europe & The Early Italian renaissance.htm@160x120.jpg Renaissance


The trend towards greater extravagance in dress, found in the 11th -13th centuries, increases throughout this whole period. Several factors were at work pushing high fashion towards greater and greater consumption: increased exports from the East in the wake of , increased production and improved quality of textiles in the West, the wealth of a rising urban tradesman class, and the sudden increased inherited personal wealth of the survivors of the Black Plague (1350-1400).


Italy these factors operated at a peak because fine fabric production and importation was the cornerstone of the Northern Italian economy. Huge fortunes were made in the Florentine and Venetian city republics by merchants and manufacturers who had no lands or titles with which to claim nobility. These wealthy merchants sought out a way to buy the status that they craved. With fabric as their stock in trade they dressed more lavishly than the landed nobility, and spent fantastic sums on private and public art and architecture to gain

social recognition.

HistoryStibbert75.jpg Young Venetian Gentlemen of the 15th Century from


The competition in dress took a new twist in this period. Once one has enough gowns and surcoats in the finest fabrics, and all your peers have the same, how do you compete? vebleis7.html@160x120.jpg Conspicuous consumption

will only take you so far, you can only wear one set of clothes at a time. This is when Western dress took it's long trip into fashion and fads. The Italians began to take fabric and cut it and piece it in a complex fashion to fit close to the body, and have a recognizable "cut" that could be adopted and discarded as a "fashion". By combining the intricate cut, piecing and fit usually found in skin-sewn cultures and applying it to fabric, the Italians acquired the means to make clothing with a planned obsolescence. This meant that (as now) clothing could go out of fashion faster than it would wear out. This put anyone, even an aristocrat, without the means to continuously buy new clothing in a place somewhat lower than that of the very rich.

Northern Europe to a lesser degree went through a similar change at this time. Many villages and small towns grew into cities in this period, buoyed up by the wealth that the tradesmen who lived in them generated. Cities did not fit into the feudal social structure of the time, and so had to develop social structures of their own. Not surprisingly they too adopted fashion as a marker of wealth and status, and the fashions of the cities came to be the fashions of the courts and aristocracy.

HistoryStibbert89.jpg French women's headdresses of the 15th Century (


As a result this era had a lot of different fashionable garments and accessories in it, a number of which were quite extreme in style. Poulaines were long pointed shoes, worn mainly by men in Northern Europe, these shoes had padded toe points that could extend as far as a full foot length in front of the foot itself, and often present a rather phallic appearance.

HistoryKohler225medieval.jpg15th Century poulaines (


Other fashion extremes included the Hennin, a woman's conical headdress popular in Northern Europe of the 15th Century, The

Chaperon, a turban like headdress worn in Italy and the North, The Houppelande, a graceful unisex gown which used an amazing quantity of fabric both on the body and trailing on the ground, and parti colored dress, a fashion of piecing many different fabrics together into a single garment, and then there is the Codpiece a padded section of a man's hose intended to contain the sex organs.

HistoryQuicheratGrandseigneurenhouppelande.jpg Grand seigneur wearing a houpplande and

chaperon, c.1410 (


Both in the North and in Italy, dress got progressively longer, and more vertical in line as the 15th Century went on. By 1500 upper class dress is heightened by headdress, lengthened with trains and hanging sleeves, and appears to be drawing an obvious parallel with the verticality of the late gothic_arch.html@160x120.jpg Gothic religious architecture

of the time.

Step 4

Choose one of the following topics:


history-muromachi.html@160x120.jpg Step 4 Muromachi Period

(1338-1573 A.D.) in Japan was roughly contemporaneous to this period. Briefly research and report on it with links.

Look here first.

Late Medieval Europe was disrupted by constant warfare, and so fashion included things like armor design and heraldry. Do a brief report (200-300 words) on one of these two topics with links to images.

Look here first.

There were many interesting "freaks of fashion" in this period, including hennins, poulaines, and codpieces. Choose one of these "freaks" or another that interests you, and write a brief report with image links on it.

Look here first.

This concludes lesson #3

Return to

Class Index

HistoryQuicheratBourgeoisedenviron.jpg Bourgeoise (wealthy tradeswoman) of c.1390 in France (


HistoryRacinetRacinet14thcent1.jpg 12th-14th Century men's dress from


HistoryRacinetRacinet12 15thcent2.jpg 12th-15th Century French dress from


HistoryRacinetRacinetmedieval.jpg 14th-15th Century European Royaldress from


HistoryAquariangalleryCompagniedelacalza131.jpgComplex parti colored dress of a young Venetian man of the Compagnie De La Calza c.1400 (Aquarian Art Gallery)

HistoryMedieval15thcentofficialdress.jpg15th Century English dress from Strutt

HistoryGreatwomen10340 03.jpg c.1480 French Lady in a Hennin (


HistoryQuicheratGrandesdames.jpg Great ladies c. 1450 wearing hennins (


Links for Further Study:

Medieval Europe

The Italian RenaissanceTimeline Images for Study:

14th Century

15th Century

Early Italian Renaissance

Military Uniform and Heraldry Links

Asian Costume Links

Product Links

The Crusades

Renaissance Dances: For Dancers Young and Old with CD (Audio) Renaissance Dances: For Dancers Young and Old with CD (Audio)

Medieval Costume and Fashion Medieval Costume and Fashion

Medieval Costume in England and France : The 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries Medieval Costume in England and France : The 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries

Period Costume for Stage & Screen : Patterns for Women's Dress, Medieval-1500 Period Costume for Stage & Screen : Patterns for Women's Dress, Medieval-1500

Medieval Technology Pages

The High Middle Ages (1050 to 1400) - By Miles Hodges

Medieval Combat : A Fifteenth-Century Illustrated Manual of Swordfighting and Close-Quarter Combat Medieval Combat : A Fifteenth-Century Illustrated Manual of Swordfighting and Close-Quarter Combat

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