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Late Gothic and Early Italian Renaissance

c. 1485 - 1520
Russell, Douglas Costume History and Style; chapter 11, pp. 176-194


          As one would guess from the brief discussion of the differences between the court of Burgundy and the city of Florence between 1425 and 1485, the basic costume silhouette in each set­ting was quite distinct, even though there are areas in which they did resemble each other. The Renaissance clothing of Italy, like the art of the time, stressed simplicity, balance, and an emphasis on the natural form. While Gothic costume was reaching a final climax of develop­ment at the court of Burgundy, the Renais­sance in Florence brought a revival of many classical concepts to the dress of Italy. By the middle of the fifteenth century the Florentines were integrating certain classical ideals with motifs and silhouettes inherited from the north. The early Renaissance style stressed the horizontal over the vertical, the simple and geometric over the complex and decorative, earth tonalities over bright heraldic color, and a natural silhouette over exaggerated and ar­tificial lines. The new Italian Renaissance view of dress underlined the concept that beauty lay in a rational and harmonious relationship of all parts of the costume rather than in decoration for its own sake.




          This period of the High renaissance marked the rapid assimilation of Italian styles into northern fashion after the first French invasions of Italy and the changed in Italian fashion from the loose, youthful look of the last decade of the fifteenth century to the full, rounded, relaxed fullness and maturity of the first two decades of the sixteenth century. In Italy it was one of the great golden ages in the history of the west, comparable in its balance and idealism with the Golden Age in fifth-century Athens. All of its arts, including costume, were dominated by the artistic ideals projected by Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci--the great geniuses of the time. That artistic ideal was to use circularity, unity, balance, and dignity to achieve a noble grandeur and maturity; clothing styles also reflected this idea. In the north this rounded fullness and mature dignity was less apparent as Italian ideals and motifs were integrated with late medieval silhouettes and forms.

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