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A Renaissance for Dress?


[Man In Black, France, 16th Century.], Digital ID 811328, New York Public Library We can see, therefore, that fashion originated as a mode for the elite, long before the age of haute couture. This connotation is stamped deeply within our consciousnesses. Would it also explain why we crave fashion so much? Do we see it, as our ancestors did, as a means of social uplift? Fashion now grew ever stronger as society matured. By the time of the Renaissance in Europe, fashion as a means of social control had become a weapon in the arsenal of the ruling classes. By 1500, the notion of a “well-fashioned” man or woman had come into consideration. The use of clothing to flaunt or proclaim was popular, certainly among the wealthy and titled. Suggestive male clothing features such as the codpiece and tight hose enjoyed a vogue. Some courtiers, influenced by Nicolo Macchiavelli, began to favor black as a color for their clothing, joining judges, scholars, and professional men in the belief that the color gave them a dignified gravity, or substance, in the eyes of society. Perhaps the worlds of daily reality and art were beginning to merge. To me, portraiture from the 1500s and 1600s shows virile men while women are depicted with a touch of the otherworldly. Does this have to do more with idealization or with the fact that women were kept so firmly in their place back then? p.s. I’ve been listening to all the conversations about Michelle Obama’s inaugural ball gown, designed by Jason Wu. A majority of people weren’t as happy with it as they expected to be, but also have had a hard time explaining just why they didn’t like it. I think that the gown was simply too young a style for her. She needed a gown with a more dramatic cut that would flatter her tall, lithe figure. Oh well, she still looked lovely…


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