1400–1500 in fashion

Fashion in 15th century Europe was characterized by a series of extremes and extravagances, from the voluminous gowns called houppelandes with their sweeping floor-length sleeves to the revealing doublets and hose of Renaissance Italy. Hats, hoods, and other headdresses assumed increasing importance, and were swagged, draped, jewelled, and feathered. As Europe continued to grow more prosperous, the urban middle classes, skilled workers, began to wear more complex clothes that followed, at a distance, the fashions set by the elites. National variations in clothing seem on the whole to have increased over the 15th century.[1] Dominance of the Burgundian court With England and France mired in the Hundred Years War and its aftermath and then the English Wars of the Roses through most of the 15th century, European fashion north of the Alps was dominated by the glittering court of the Duchy of Burgundy, especially under the fashion-conscious power-broker Philip the Good (ruled 1419–1469). Having added Holland and Flanders to their dominion, the Dukes of Burgundy had access to the latest fabrics of Italy and the East and to English wool exports through the great trading cities of Bruges and Antwerp.[2] Purchases of fabrics through Italian merchants like the two cousins Giovanni Arnolfini amounted to a noticeable proportion of all government expenditure.[3] Especially in Florence, where sumptuary laws prevented the citizens from wearing the most luxurious cloths on which the city's fortunes were built, the materials of men's clothing in particular often appear plain in paintings, but contemporaries who understood the difference in grades of cloth very well would have appreciated the beauty and great expense of a very fine grade.[4] [edit]Fabrics and furs 1400-1500 Wool was the most popular fabric for all classes by far, followed by linen and hemp.[5] Wool fabrics were available in a wide range of qualities, from rough undyed cloth to fine, dense broadcloth with a velvety nap; high-value broadcloth was a backbone of the English economy and was exported throughout Europe.[6] Wool fabrics were dyed in rich colours, notably reds, greens, golds, and blues, although the actual blue colour achievable with dyeing with woad (and less frequently indigo) could not match the characteristic rich lapis lazuli pigment blues depicted in contemporary illuminated manuscripts such as the Tres Riches Heures du duc de Berry.[5] Bold pomegranate- or ar ichoke-patterned silks are characteristic of the 15th century, as are richly coloured velvets and woolens. Fine linen was important for headdresses and for the shirts and chemises revealed by new lower necklines and slashing. Silk-weaving was well established around the Mediterranean by the beginning of the 15th century, and figured silks, often silk velvets with silver-gilt wefts, are increasingly seen in Italian dress and in the dress of the wealthy throughout Europe. Stately floral designs featuring a pomegranate or artichoke motif had reached Europe from China in the 14th century and became a dominant design in the Ottoman silk-producing cities of Istanbul and Bursa, and spread to silk weavers in Florence, Genoa, Venice, Valencia and Seville in this period.[5][7] Fur was worn, mostly as a lining layer, by those who could afford it. The grey and white squirrel furs of the Middle Ages, vair and miniver, went out of style except at court, first for men and then for women; the new fashionable furs were dark brown sable and marten. Toward the end of the 15th century, wild animal furs such as lynx became popular.[8] Ermine remained the prerogative and hallmark of royalty. [edit]Slashing Contemporary chroniclers identify the source of the fashion for slashing garments (to reveal a lining or full undergarment beneath) to the actions of Swiss soldiers in the aftermath of the Battle of Grandson in 1476.[9] Supposedly the Swiss plundered the rich fabrics of the Burgundian nobles and used the scraps to patch their tattered clothes. In reality, images appear of sleeves with a single slashed opening as early as mid-15th century, although the German fashion for "many small all-over slits" may have begun here.[10] Whatever its origin, the fad for multiple slashings spread to German Landsknechts and thence to France, Italy, and England, where it was to remain a potent current in fashionable attire into the mid-17th century. A second result of the defeat at Grandson was the decline of Burgundy as a fount of culture and fashion. The heiress Mary of Burgundy married Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor but died young. In the last decade of the 15th century, Charles VIII of France invaded Italy and was briefly declared King of Naples. As a result, the French nobility were introduced to the fabrics and styles of Italy, which would combine with German influence to dominate fashion in France (and later, England) in the first half of the 16th century.