Clothing is one of the basic needs of the human race. Apart from serving its purpose of protecting us from the elements, on a more personal level, it allows us to express our individuality. What we choose and how we choose to put them together reveals a lot about who we are. Clothing can be sensible or fanciful, simple or luxurious. It identifies a person as being part of an age, ethnic, social, or recreational group. It is also often a reflection of the times.
Let us examine the ancient fashion traditions of Venice — one of the forerunners of highfashion in the clothing.
Venice was renowned for the production of quality textiles that were in demand all over Europe. It was not innovative design, but strict quality control, under the supervision of guild masters who imposed ethical and professional codes that distinguished Venetian products. Unlike today, when each new shape, fabric, or color is heralded with much fanfare, and the creative designer is the focus of the fashion, new shapes were forbidden and tailors who sought to increase profits byintroducing new features were outlawed.
The secrets of producing luxurious fabrics in rich colors were protected by the Venetian Master Dyers. Silks were woven with processes brought back by Marco Polo from China. Velvets were embellished with silver and gold threads in intricate patterns. Venice was also popular for the manufacture of lace (whether made by needlework or with bobbins on a pillow) originated in the region of the city’s lagoon. The most famous was the Burano lace. It was only during the 16th century that lace making became a lay industry.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, platform shoes that put the current styles to shame were worn by courtesans, the most emancipated members of the society, in order to rise above the other women in crowds. Models up to 20 inches high have survived up to this day. More women began to wear the stilt-like shoes as they found that they prevented hems from getting soiled when the canals flooded in the winter months.