Exploring Social Patterns in the Renaissance Through Fashion
Fashion reflects the attitudes of a society more than any other art form. Like art, fashion is a material record of the ideals that swayed the nations at the time of their creation. Through examining the styles, and tastes of a particular era, we can realize where the interests and priorities of a time lie. As Frank Parsons wrote in his 1920 study, The Psychology of Dress, "There is surly no better field in which to trace the devious paths of human thought than in that of clothes, where man has ever given free play to self expression, in a way which, thought not always a credit to his intelligence, is yet quite true to his innermost self, whether he will acknowledge it or not." Through, tracing and analyzing, side by side, art and fashion, and the effects that one had on the other and society, we can understand the ideals, and interests of European culture, here, through the Renaissance.
Clothing style is dictated by three particular interests. First is popular fashion, which was most influenced by either the church or the rulers, as styles were copied from the ruling class, and, as they grew more and more extreme, criticized by the ecclesiastical element. Second is commercial interests. The strong merchant class will always know how to push the richest and most expensive materials into the mode. And thirdly is personal artistic expression. Fashion is dictated by many factors such as geography, time, and social and ethical standards. But superseding these is the influence of strong personalities, the brave people who will don the unthinkable, and in doing so, create the latest trend. Personal expression and creativity will only be found in the bravest, and usually highest ranking, people, and like most art forms, from there will be copied and reproduced until it becomes tiresome and something new must be created.
Clothing expression in medieval Europe, like all other forms of artistic expression at this time, found it's biggest outlet in the ecclesiastical field, as this was where all the money was to be found. The churches employed all the best builders and craftsmen in creating their great cathedrals, and art works. In clothing, the church dictated what sorts of materials were made, and brought into the area, what colors were in use, and what styles were used, influencing the secular as well as ecclesiastical dress. In the feudal system only great Barons and their families wore fine cloths, as clothing was a symbol of rank and importance. Each family made their own clothes, so fashion was very individualistic in style, and each family had their own characteristics. With an increase of wealth in the area, and the beginning of the crusades, new elaborate styles were introduced into the scene. Fashions became strange, and grotesque in nature reflecting the constant struggles and wars of the time, as fantasy and the grotesque generally influence social costumes accompanying...