10. Courtesans Outdoors

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Forthcoming in Cesare Vecellio's "Clothing, Ancient and Modern, of Various Parts of the World", translated by Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret F. Rosenthal, forthcoming from Thames and Hudson, London, in Autumn 2008. Copyright Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret F. Rosenthal
Reproduction prohibited without permission of the authors and the publisher.




10. Courtesans Outdoors

We said earlier that prostitutes who want to win respect by means of pretended modesty wear widows’ and married women’s styles of dress, especially in the colors worn by brides. Formerly, most of them went about dressed as unmarried girls, a custom still carried out but with greater caution. So as not to be completely enclosed and covered by the cappas they wear, and yet not allowed to make other parts of themselves visible, they have to reveal themselves in some way, so they can’t fail to be recognized by this gesture here [raising their veil and peering out from under it]. And because they’re forbidden to wear pearls, they reveal themselves as prostitutes when they expose their bare necks. So to make up for this, these unfortunate women employ a bertone (as they are called) who plays the role of a husband for them and thereby legitimates their use of luxury goods; under this pretext they can avail themselves of everything that the laws generally forbid them. Their gowns are of brocatello in various colours, and embroidered at the highest cost they can afford. They wear Roman-style shoes inside their pianelle. These are the courtesans of the highest standing. But those who practice this infamous profession openly and in public places wear silk doublets with gold laces or embroidery of some kind, and also carpette over which they tie cloths or silk aprons. On their heads they wear a short gauze fazzuolo. And in this style they go flirting throughout the city, easily recognized by all, and everyone makes obscene gestures at them and calls out obscene words.

© Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret F Rosenthal.

 

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