Fashion in Art

Today we left Milan to go to Florence for two nights. We made it to our hotel, Il Guelfo Bianco, which is beautiful. Then we met a new tour guide and headed out into the beautiful streets of Florence. We saw the Duomo, ancient sculptures and architecture on our way to the Uffizi Gallery. The Uffizi Gallery was filled with more painting and sculptures than we could even look at in the time we had. Almost all of the paintings in the gallery are from Florence, and feature religious or mythological figures or people from important families, like the Medici family. As almost every painting was either a portrait or a scene with many people, it is easy to get an idea of what fashion was like in the Renaissance and other time periods.
In the artwork we saw, dress was much more formal back then than it is now. Women, unless they were depicted mostly in the nude, wore full length, heavy dresses. Religious figures wore simpler dresses of velvet or other materials that draped over the body, and almost every dress was tied right above the stomach. Most of these women were depicted as pregnant, because it is a sign of health and fertility, and this dress style accentuated their large stomachs. Women who actually existed and were rich, who were mostly the Medici women, were shown in their extremely elaborate dresses. During this time period, dresses were very heavy with lots of layers. To switch up their outfits, they would change out the sleeves and skirts but often wear the same bodice, because personal hygiene was not as important back then.
Much of the fashion at the time was influenced by the gender roles. Unlike the women, men wore much more practical outfits, even the rich ones. This is because the men would be the ones to leave the house to do whatever their job was, but women mostly stayed at home. Often the girls in important families would be married off at a very young age, as young as 12, to a man who was usually much older than them and would give the family political advantages. Once they were married, they hardly left the house unless they were going to a social event, because their husbands did not want them to meet and fall for other men, which was something the husbands could kill them for. Because they didn’t do much, their clothes were not practical at all, they were more of a way to show how rich their family was. Before a girl got married she wore her hair long and down, but after they were married their hair would be worn up in an elaborate style and they would have lots of jewelry, which was another way to show that they are from the upper class.
Almost everything component of a Renaissance painting is a symbol or has some kind of meaning behind it. For example, a goose symbolizes literature, a cat is the sign of a bad person, and a dog is the sign of a trustworthy person. The clothing, especially the colors of the clothes also had meaning. Black almost never was used as the color for clothing because it was a sign of death. In fact, the only person I saw wearing black in one of the paintings was supposed to be death herself. The Virgin Mary would always be depicted wearing red, blue, or both because red is a symbol of charity and blue a symbol of purity. Many of the women depicted in Renaissance paintings had blonde hair because it was fashionable at the time. However, back then, getting blonde hair wasn’t as easy as going to the salon to get it dyed. Women would actually put urine in their hair and the ammonia would lighten it.

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