Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Partlets & Politics

This was supposed to have been my entry for the HSF #11: Politics of Fashion challenge, but I'm not entirely sure it qualifies. I haven't so much found a Here's my thoughts. 

Initially I thought about making myself a new partlet. It was something I needed for my court gown as well as being an extra accessory in the Peacock Challenge. So I got thinking about it, and well, it's an unusual garment. Unlike the Tudor style of partlet which is a heavier piece which fits over the dress and would warm the shoulders, the Italian partlet is a piece of sheer fabric that seems to draw attention more than it inspires modesty. The Anea Costumes website has a fantastic series of images (scroll down to the partlet entry) that show a simple evolution of the Italian partlet, from simple sheer shawl-like garment worn over the dress, before moving under the dress and being gradually more elaborately embroidered and decorated.In the evolution of this garment, off cited is a decree from Florence in 1464 the generous decolletage of the Italian style of dress be covered, and thanks to this website, I've finally been able to link that reference to Dan Brown's Virtue and Beauty: Renaissance Portraits of Women, 2001.

But here's my thinking on the issue. Italy of the 15th and 16th centuries was a collection of city states, all with a certain amount of independance from the other. Yes, the fashions of the various cities often followed each other closely, but why would a decree passed in Florence directly influence the city-state of Venice? And that got me thinking about sumptuary laws - laws introduced in various parts of the world to try and control the spending and fashion and hence the people. My initial research has found references to some laws, but mostly belonging to Florence or other northern Italian cities. And I just can't let this lie, I need to know more! Despite the fact that I don't speak the language (but I've already have offers of help with that), I've decided to try and follow this up. I may be in for a fools errand, and certainly it's going to take a while but I'm curious to see what I might find.
Oh yes, I did indeed make up the partlet, using some pre-embroidered old-gold coloured organza, with a golden-yellow ribbon whip stitched into place to fasten it. I based the pattern on my previous partlet, but modified so it would leave an open section to line up with the opening of my bodice. Unfortunately the first attempt wasn't quite right (and has also highlighted my need for period, supportive undergarments), but I have plans to make up more, a nice little collection of the pieces, just as soon as I have time...

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