Today we ventured into beautiful Florence! After walking past the Duomo, we had a guided tour in the Uffizi Gallery. This magnificent museum contained works from artists including Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Since fashion is an important aspect of Italian culture, it was interesting to compare the changes from what I see outside to what is depicted in the pieces of art.
Before we even got to the museum, our tour guide began talking about hair trends during the renaissance. So far in Italy, I have not seen many blondes (like myself). Interestingly so, it was popular to have this hair color back in the day. Unfortunately, during the renaissance the women did not have the luxury of hair dye and would color their hair using urine. I noticed this blonde trend in the different paintings I saw. Many women including Venus, the Virgin Mary, and the flower queen Flora were all portrayed as having blonde hair. In today’s society, I think it is more popular to go with natural hair colors, and Italians tend to have dark hair which explains why I have yet to see many women or men with blonde hair.
Other than specifically hair color, there were some interesting hair fashion trends that we learned about. One of the paintings we saw was a side profile of the duke and duchess of Urbino, painted by Piero Della Francesca. The duchess (who was blonde) had her hair up with many fancy jewels and ribbons. During the renaissance, if you wore hairstyles such as this that meant you were married. Women that had their hair down freely without the extra pizzazz meant they were single and ready to mingle. It is interesting to compare how times and hairstyles have changed throughout the many years. Today, there is no one way to style your hair to differentiate between married and unmarried women. But compared to renaissance times, the gender roles have also changed greatly. The hairstyles were necessary back then because single women did not have the option to stay single. They were often given away by their fathers to men that they did not even know. For the men who were looking for a young new wife, it was important to be able to differentiate them. Luckily, women today have the freedom to stay single and style their hair however they choose.
Clothing trends are a whole other story. Due to limited clothing, women would always wear the same bodice. To change up their outfits, they would switch out their sleeves and skirts. There would only be around 3 to 4 separate items of clothing so they had to make due. Additionally, clothes were not often washed and people generally only showered twice a year. Good thing they had perfume! Obviously, those fads have changed thanks to developing technology. People are a lot less sustainable with their clothing today but for good reason (to keep clean!) Clothes today are not solely based on utility but for other aspects such as fashion and comfort.
Like hairstyles, there were specific clothing styles to identify certain traits. For example, there was a series of paintings done by Piero Del Pollaioli that depicted several pregnant women. Each woman wore a belt, tie, or rope directly below her breasts to signal that she was pregnant. That must have been their version of maternity clothing. Nowadays, the baby bump is all you need to signify pregnancy. Clothes during the renaissance could also be used to signify wealth or religion. One of the women in this series was a queen, and it was obvious because of what she was wearing. She had a long, silky red velvet dress. She was also wearing a green and gold cape with sleeves that connected at the top with a beautiful jewel. The crown at the top of her head was also a giveaway. During this time, the more clothing you had the richer you were. In some respects, I still feel this is true today. The equivalent to a red velvet dress may be the designer clothes such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Regarding religion, clothing was used to signify that as well. Nuns and monks were also featured in some of the paintings. Nuns are not allowed to show their hair and monks were wearing their distinctive brown robes. Again, today you can decipher some specific religions based on what the individual is wearing. It is amazing to see how fashion has changed throughout the years and how it has influenced different roles.