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FASHION HISTORYhistory

The very first fashion blogger

25.04.2017 — by Victoria Ventonni

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Nowadays it is quite popular to post fashion looks on Instagram, showing not only the clothes, but also, more important, the unique (hopefully) way to combine them, expressing your true self. Fashion bloggers have mastered this skill of mixing different brands, textures, which resulted in them creating the style of their own, developing the fashion industry and creating trends. However, shall we consider this as a modern thing?

Doubtfully. I am sure that history can teach us a great and quite expansive lesson if we let it to do so. Moreover, it never fails to repeat itself. Let me present the very first fashion blogger, Matthäus Schwarz, born in 1497. As there was obviously no Instagram back then, he created a book, which consisted of his looks painted in watercolors.

During this time, fashion was strictly regulated. The social rank specified the textiles and the styles which person was allowed to wear. Nevertheless, what was left to the ordinary burghers, who wanted to look stylish and modern as a noble?

Matthäus Schwarz was one of them and he found his way. For example, he wore fancy sleeves if a fancy hose was forbidden. More importantly, he was obsessed with fashion, spending almost all his income on clothes, creating wonderful looks. Let me show you some of them.
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For example, here he is portrayed with his new employer. It is easy to distinguish them through their manner of dressing. Matthäus Schwarz, 19 years old on this watercolor, having obviously lower social rank than his employer, looks better and more fashionable than him. He looks almost if he were an aristocrat. However, only almost: he was careful not to break strict dressing law. It is also important how he presents himself. It is clear that he is very proud of his style, and clothes he is wearing make him feel comfortable, allowing him to be himself. I think, it is one of the main things that fashion can do: to reveal your true self, make you feel confident. It is not the clothes that make you look great and fashionable, it is the feeling you get from wearing them.
Now, a little gallery of looks from the book. I hope, it will amuse you, how little has changed through centuries.

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If interested, you can download the book here:

Trachtenbuch des Matthaus Schwarz

Victoria Ventonni

Historian of Art&Fashion

FASHION HISTORY

The individuality of Renaissance

19.04.2017 — by Victoria Ventonni

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The sudden and expansive burst of individuality marked the Renaissance. It could be traced by the amount of autobiographies, non-theological texts, and, of course, portraits. People felt urge to study the world around them, find their place inside it and to present themselves to society from a winning side.

Renaissance (it. Rinascimento – revival) was considered to be the bright and prosperous time after barbaric Middle Ages. After wild tribes wiping out the remains of the Great Roman Empire, Rome managed to resurrect even stronger than it was. The blood of great emperors, councils and commanders of it was thought to be running through veins of Italians, making them proud of their ancestors, history and culture. I consider it important to point out that back then Italy was not the same as it is now. Not remotely the same. It was divided into many principalities, some of them bigger and more powerful than the others were. The same language did not unite them, what makes this separation more evident.

If we were to find a moment in the history, when did the fashion start, it would be the Renaissance. The significant proof of it is the fact that during this time the word “fashion” (it.“moda”) was first used and then rapidly widespread across the Europe. The fashion, need to show the individuality and intelligence, enhance the beauty was of utmost importance. Fashion was the way not only of presenting the status, but also of highlighting the individual qualities of a person.

The cradle of Renaissance is, without any doubts, Florence – the flowering city, according to the legend told by Machiavelli in Florentine Histories (it. Istorie fiorentine) and Benvenuto Cellini in his Autobiography. Under the patronage of Medici, the city was enriched with the great masters creating masterpieces in it, adding to the glory of the notable families. One of such masters was Domenico Ghirlandaio, the contemporary of well-known Botticelli and teacher of Michelangelo. Domenico Ghirlandaio was valued among the nobilities as master with the great gift of portraiture, who could capture every tiny detail and present it later in a decent way.

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I would like to draw the attention to the portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni (dated 1488), member of one of the most important Florentine families at that time. Her profile reminds viewers of ancient Roman coins, thereby strengthening the link between noble Florentines and great romans. High forehead, golden wavy hair and long neck – these all are beauty standards of the High Renaissance. As flowing hair was still inappropriate for women, as a sign of loose morality, hair of Giovanna Tornabuoni was braided. The variety of layers, richness of fabrics and expeditious embroidery – that is the heritage of Middle Ages, which thrived in the Renaissance. All the accessories on the painting present us different sides of Giovanna’s personality: brooches indicate her social life and status, prayer book and coral rosary her devotion and Latin inscription her intelligence.

During the Renaissance, fashion was born as a combination of personal and common, indicating that person could stay himself while being a part of society. And this bond still stands.

Victoria Ventonni,

Historic of Art and Fashion

FASHION HISTORYhistory

The Medieval Variegation

07.12.2016 — by Victoria Ventonni

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Nowadays more and more people are getting interested in medieval period of our history. One of the brightest example of that is The Game of Thrones, built on medieval history, its customs and, of course, costumes.

Interesting is, during Renaissance and Classicism, Middle Ages were despised, considered to be the dark time with the reign of people who destroyed the great Roman Empire. They used the term “gothic” to describe everything barbaric, as goths were one of the tribes that destroyed Rome. Middle Ages became popular in the beginning of 19th century, when evolving Romantics found its basis in medieval heritage, enriching it with mystics, fantasies and depth of the emotional experience of the soul.

Overall, Middle Ages is indeed very vivid and different time, when the world changed constantly. Exactly then nations, which we have now, were formed, as well as there have been laid a basis for our modern languages, even modern customs were determined. It was the time, when the nations found themselves, established their borders, languages, fashions and mentality, some countries were founded and some, even very powerful once, disappeared for good.

It was also the time of mysteries, as the church had a great influence on people, on their routine and thoughts. One of the most famous and mystical works is a series of six tapestries woven in Flanders from wool and silk, from designs drawn in Paris around 1500 called Lady with the Unicorn. The public attention was drawn to them by a well-known novelist George Sand, who saw them in 1844. All were woven in wool and silk, showing a richly dressed lady flanked by a lion on her right and a unicorn on her left both bearing a banner, with a mille fleurs (thousand flowers) background containing animals and birds. Five of them depict senses: taste, hearing, sight, smell, and touch. The sixth is called “À mon seul désir” (my only desire), and it is still unknown what it means.

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” mon seul désir”

As a reaction to the cooling temperatures of the Little Ice Age, in 1500s clothes were usually voluminous and worn in several layers. In the tapestries, lady often shows us the different layers of clothing (forming the newly brought into the fashion the hourglass silhouette), all of them, however, of obviously very rich materials, including beautiful embroidery and wide use of jewels and gold. These times, clothes were seen as the mark of a status of a person, they were elaborated carefully in each detail, showing sometimes the craftsmanship of the woman of the house herself. You might read “The song of Nibelungs” (German epic poem), which is outstanding in showing medieval life, including this part of it.

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Touch

The hair of the lady is always covered, as an opposite one was considered to be a mark of sin. Her headgears consist as well of rich fabrics and precious gems. Vivid and rich clothes, worn in multiple layers by the beautiful melancholic virgin lady (legend tells that only a virgin can tame a unicorn) with many real and fantastic animals and flowers around her, all of this enriched with allegorical meaning… Not surprisingly, they are provoking a mass interest, which forms many hypothesizes and tales about this piece.

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Sight

These tapestries were mentioned a lot in books and movies, many people were charmed by their mystery, enriched with bright colors and excellent craftsmanship. Perhaps, almost everyone has seen the Harry Potter movies. At least, my generation rose on them. Have you ever noticed what hangs on the walls of the Gryffindor tower?

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Eager to hear your questions and suggestions,

Victoria Ventonni

Historic of Art and Fashion

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