A Short Guide to Renaissance Style
Modern fashionistas might be obsessed with clothing labels — and the clothes you wear do make a statement about your social class — but this is no new phenomenon. Going back as far as the Renaissance period, Renaissance attire was an immediate indicator of your station in life. Much like today, the more opulent and adorned your clothing, the higher your social status.
When you are deciding what Renaissance attire to wear to your next festival, there are a few important points to remember to ensure that your clothing looks authentic.
Renaissance Style for Women
Because clothing was a reflection of wealth and social standing, wealthy women during the Renaissance wore elaborate outfits, often adorned with jewels. In some countries, including Italy and England, the upper class were allowed to wear just about anything they wished, while the lower classes were limited in the colors and materials they could wear; for example, peasant women were prohibited from wearing fur in Renaissance England.
The overall silhouette for women’s fashion during the Renaissance period was long, flowing dresses with high waists, and long, puffy sleeves. Sleeve styles evolved during the period, with the funnel or trumpet-style sleeve (narrow at the top and wide at the bottom) becoming popular in some areas. Most women dressed in multiple layers, with the wealthiest women wearing as many as five layers of clothing. The top layer, the kirtle, was a tight bodice finished with a long, flowing skirt. Kirtles tended to be adorned with elaborate embroidery, often in silver or gold thread, and precious gems like sapphires and pearls.
Lower-class women wore less-elaborate dresses, in the same silhouette, but with fewer layers and less ornamentation. They also did not generally wear the restrictive collars preferred by upper-class women, and tended to wear simpler head coverings, including half-bonnets, berets, or veils.
Renaissance Style for Men
The overarching theme of men’s fashion in the Renaissance period was “bigger is better.” Much like the women, elaborate Renaissance attire indicated a higher social status, and garments were designed to make men look bigger. That translated to puffy-shouldered shirts and jackets topped with capes and wide-hipped, knee-length pants worn over tights, with wide-toed shoes. A hat was a must, with most men choosing some type of brimmed cap. As far as adornments, feathers were the accessory of choice for men, with large plumes often festooned upon hats
Throughout the Renaissance period, hairstyles for men went in and out of favor. At times, long hair and a clean-shaven face was the fashionable choice, while at other times short hair and pointy beards were in style. Depending on which period you’re trying to capture, your hairstyle choice can vary.
Specific Renaissance attire styles vary according to country and the specific period of the Renaissance era. With these general guidelines, though, you should be able to start looking for the perfect costume for your event.