Renaissance life and dress

Perhaps no other period in history has been more romanticized than the Renaissance. It gave us more beautiful art, literature, and important scientific achievements than any other era. Such a time should hold a revered place in history, and of course the Renaissance does. But oddly it has a place in our modern life as well.

Many people in our modern and fast-paced world devote much time and energy to re-creating the atmosphere that those living during this time would have experienced. Almost everyone is familiar with the Renaissance Faire.

These festivals let enthusiasts gather and live like the people who were actually alive during this much revered time did. Celebrants eat, and even dress like people did back in that period.

Life during the age of the Renaissance was far different from what we know today. Obviously all the modern conveniences we take for granted like electricity and washing machines, weren’t available. But life was different on a more basic level.

Society itself was structured differently during that time, with people’s roles being more rigid. One was expected to dress appropriately for their station, and this could mean some elaborate threads!

Dress during the period varied from the beginning to the end of the Renaissance, which isn’t hard to believe considering it spanned a period of almost 150 years. It also varied from region to region. Europe as a whole was experiencing this new era of enlightenment, but various countries had their own particular style.

During the early years of the Renaissance, women’s styles still followed a more Gothic look, but began to trend more toward more natural looks as the years progressed. Ccorsets, which are rigid garments that shape the figure of a woman’s torso into an inverted V, were also popular during this time. These featured low necklines that showcased a woman’s “assets” prominently.

A woman’s outfit would generally consist of a bodice or corset and a skirt attached to an outer robe. Skirts were flowing and long, often pleated to increase their size. At the height of this trend, wire hoops were actually inserted into the body of the skirt to give it a round, drum shape. Luxurious fabrics were popular during this period, with many dresses being sewn out of velvet or brocade. Fashion overall grew far more elaborate for both men and women.

Sleeves for both men and women became puffed, and trim around the entire garment was ornate. Men wore breeches that reached to the knee, with a stocking covering the length of the calf. A tunic would be worn over this, often with a second shirt over it, or if not, then with a cape. Broad hats with feathers and other embellishments dominated the style of the day.

Of course, all of this finery was not necessarily available to just anyone. A peasant would have been sporting a much more simplistic version of these outfits, although they might have wanted the upgrade. Thankfully, nowadays it is generally acceptable to forgo the elaborate getups that were once so popular… that is unless you are heading to the Faire.

Author: Maegen

My name is Maegen and I work in the Customer Service department for Frankel's Costumes. Most of my knowledge for costumes comes from anything ranging from movies, video games and cartoons to period studies and literature. Oh, and I am a nerd.

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