7. Women During the Winter, Especially Courtesans

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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.

7. Women During the Winter, Especially Courtesans

At home in winter, many women in this city wear long fur-lined Romane [full-cut unbelted overgowns] which are very comfortable and allow the wearer great freedom of movement for every sort of task. Many of them wear these with the upper layer of satin, changeable ormesino [a light, shiny silk] or other fabrics, and the linings are of marten, pigskin, and other valuable skins. Some wear these gowns over their camicia, and under them a carpetta of coloured silk, also lined with fur, and fastened in front with small ties or buttons. These carpettas are usually trimmed with different-coloured borders, for they’ve now stopped wearing the finely worked embroidered trim they wore earlier. To return to their overgarments, they have narrow hanging sleeves, floor-length; as belts, they wear the silk sashes they call poste, or silk veils, which have two buttons or tassels at the ends. And this clothing is very often worn among courtesans, more so than by other women, and courtesans also wear carpette more richly decorated then other women’s. Courtesans are forbidden to wear pearls at home but they still do wear them (as I’ve said), along with very valuable bracelets and long earrings, and they continually stand at their windows, flirting with this man or that, as their custom is. And if they have been involved for some time with a Venetian nobleman, with shrew haughtiness they usurp his family name; this is why many foreign men are deceived and believe that they are Venetian noblewomen. The courtesans’ ruffiane [female go-betweens] also make them believe this, for when they lay hands on a foreign man who wants a willing woman, they take one from the street, dress her up splendidly, take her to a secret place and with great fanfare make the man believe that she is a noblewoman. The result is that foreign men, unaware of this trick, brag about what is in fact very far from the truth, for Venetian noblewomen are fiercely protective of their honor and are models of chastity and purity.


© Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret F Rosenthal.


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