11. and 12. Dress Worn by the Women of Venice in 1550

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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 
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11. and 12. Dress worn by the Women of Venice in 1550

The inconstancy and love of variety that governs women led them next to wear curls on their foreheads, beginning at the ears and continuing all the way up, and then covering the rest of the hair, which they braided, with little caps. They thought that such a hairstyle made their faces very beautiful, and so, eager to increase their beauty further, they began to dye their hair blonde, making every effort to turn it into the color of gold. From this (once such treatment of the hair came to seem repulsive) arose the craft of making little crowns of gold or silver, decorated with lilies and other kinds of flowers and with very valuable jewels. All these styles were worn very frequently by the noblewomen of Venice. Such styles lasted about twenty years, after which, with the same inconstancy, they began to wear curls differently, trying to make them as shiny as possible, and they also started making cosmetics, not realizing or not caring that with the passage of time, they would ruin their faces. At their necks they wore a twisted strand of gold with a pendant of very precious gold, and in their ears they wore pearls. They wore belts of gold chains, falling to the floor, and baveri embroidered with roses and gold stars and studded with many jewels.

They wore needle-worked camicias (sic) spilling out over their breast. These were narrow at the wrist and worn with bracelets, or they wore puffed bracciali with slashes through which the camicia was visible, and they adorned their wrists with gold bracelets. Their sottana was of colored velvet or some other fabric, and the gown they wore outside the house was of the same fabric, but in black, light or heavy according to the season. Their pianelle didn't have soles as high as they do today, and altogether this was a very respectable style, except for the fact that it bared a large part of the breast. This is excusable, though, because it was worn by young women. Older women didn't wear crowns but only a gold or silken cap over their braids, and outside the house they wore a thin, transparent black veil, which they also wore to church and to pay respects to the dead; on such occasions they took off all ornaments of gold and silk. In fact, they covered their faces with these veils and let them fall halfway down their breast, as one can see here--though today this custom has been lost and a different one introduced.

Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret F Rosenthal.


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