Renaissance Clothing at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Fashionista? Love clothes and history? I do. If you’re in London and looking for a place to see these two things together, the Victoria and Albert Museum should definitely be on your list. I recently visited the V&A and as I was snapping away, I found myself drawn to many of the early modern fashion pieces. Here are a few of my favourite pieces from their incredible collection.
The first items were these beautiful women’s gloves from England that date between 1600-1625. They are made of satin embroidered kid leather and have silk seed pearls and sequins.
The second items, were these beautiful red velvet mittens, also from England, dating to 1600. These were made of velvet and satin, embroidered with silver thread, beads and sequins. There are intricate flowers, fruits, insects and foliage embroidered into the mitten material.
Gloves and mittens, although obviously used for warmth, were mainly used during the late medieval and early modern period to convey the wearer’s status and wealth. Symbols, emblems and insignia were often embroidered into the gloves of royalty. Churchmen, such as bishops, cardinals and popes wore gloves as part of their liturgical attire as early as the tenth century. In the thirteenth century, gloves began to be worn by women for fashion and became extremely elaborate, reaching their fashion peak in sixteenth century during the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. Gloves and mittens were often worn in a belt, or hat, and were even perfumed. During this period, gloves and mitten became popular gifts among the nobility.
The next intriguing pieces were several seventeenth century purses made in England between 1600-1625. The purse on the far right, #7, is embroidered canvas with silk, purl, sequins and lined with silk taffeta. Purses were highly prized during this period for their beautiful embroidery.
Some other great clothing pieces in this collection include this beautiful green knitted silk thread jacket of Italian design made between 1600-1625. As elaborate as it may be, this jacket was worn mainly inside the home and popular with both men and women between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The jacket was made in separate parts and then sewn together. Silk was popular from the fifteenth century onwards and figured prominently in Italian fashion over this period.
Another gorgeous example of Early Modern attire is this linen and silk women’s jacket from England, dating to 1600-1620. Glass beads and sequins were sewn into it and at one time, it was covered entirely in sequins so that the jacket would glitter in candlelight. Given it’s ornate design, it was most likely worn at a masked ball as part of a costume.
In men’s wear, there were several exceptional pieces such as this cloak and suit. The cloak is Spanish, dating to 1560-1569. It is silk cut, velvet and linen with a silk fringe. Cloaks were commonly worn by fashionable and wealthy sixteenth century gentlemen, often thrown over one shoulder for extra pomp and flourish. The suit in this photo is an ivory satin quilted doublet that may have come from a bed cover! This type of doublet was popular with men in the 1630s.
The last piece is a stunning Italian made men’s doublet dating between 1650-1665. it was made of silver gilt tissue, bobbin, lace, silk taffeta, and linen. Doublets were men’s jackets and were popular until the 1660s. Doublets of this later period, like this one, were shorter, often imported from Italy and worn by fashionable, younger men. In the Middle Ages, doublets were worn under other clothing, like armour to prevent chaffing and for warmth. Gradually, the doublet became a fashion piece that changed only in style over the course of three hundred years.
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