Da Vinci's Way: Fashion, Renaissance Style

The fashions here are kind of atrocious: women parading in fine linens and silks in a rainbow of colors. For the peasants, the look is what I can only describe as vintage burlap sack. Wealthy citizens show off in the extreme—lace, gold, wigs and furs. And that's just for the men!

Edge of Yesterday, Book 2, Da Vinci's Way

In this passage in Da Vinci's Way, Charley muses on what might be trending in fashion in fifteenth-century Florentine society. After all, she arrives unsuitably dressed in twenty-first century clothes!

During the Renaissance, Italian noblewomen wore voluminous gowns with sweeping floor-length sleeves and hats and headresses that were draped, bejewelled, and feathered. The wives and daughters of a rising urban middle class would be status conscious and don clothes to imitate the higher classes. Poor and rural women were likely to wear unrefined linen and wool dresses, as Florence was a center of the wool trade.

As wealth and trade increased throughout Europe, styles changed quickly as women would try to keep up with the de'Medicis. But just as suddenly, the rulers of Florence, or the Church, would change their minds about acceptable public attire for women. Such decrees could lead to scandal, or even become a life-and-death matter!

Artists, commissioned by wealthy families, sought to capture the feminine ideal of Beauty. And judging from his exquisite care in capturing their images, Leonardo da Vinci seems to have loved women. Fashion portraiture being the best record of the times, we’ll let some of Leonardo's most famous models share the runway!