Exploration One: Reniassance Dress - Europe 1450-1650

The renaissance in Europe during the 15th-16th century was an awakening of culture and knowledge. Starting in Florence it didn’t take long for the styles and trends to spiral out from Italy. A lot of ‘what was fashion’ was influenced by what the royal families liked to wear. This made Italy’s economy, rely highly on the garment industry.

One of my favorite paintings of all time

Most of the lush textiles, famous to this time, came from Italy. King Henry VIII was probably the most famous renaissance male model of the time, as he wore some of the most luxurious clothing in history. Including intensely vivid embroidery featuring depictions of flowers, leaves, animals, insects and other patterns. They added in different precious metals, including gold and silver, into the weave. It was a time of luxurious extravagance, yet they retained their fantastical belief in miracles, god, and myth. The combination of wealth, and faith, created a wonderful reality to be in for the few lucky men, and women of the upper class. Embroidery became a deep and passionate art form, which some people devoted their life to.


Italy: Italy was a fashion and art plethora of the time. Most of the textiles trade went straight to Italy and out, from there, across Europe. The medici family ruled as one of the biggest powers of the country. Veneitian fashion was elegant and sophisticated, with a true appreciation for the female form.

Germany: loved to exaggerate their slashed and detachable sleeves. The sizes of the puffs expanded and contracted throughout the renaissance.

Spain: grew in power, as a result a lot of Spains growing power, and christian faith, fashion lost many of their bright colors. They were slow with their fashions and tastes, their evolution included the smoothing out and sharpening of the dresses shape. Note: The spanish farthingale is the underskirt structure, which set’s a dress

England: Had two generations of ‘poster children’ during this era, between King Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I, they were some pretty well dressed royals.

King Henry VII

A common look for the renaissance man back then, was a flat cap, popularly in red, and blue, and black and other earthly tones. They wore a tight fitting coat, ending at the top of the neck. People in general wore enlarged and intense detachable puffed sleeves with slashes in them. Allowing the undershirt to peek through the slashes. A cape or fur jacket wasn’t uncommon, and was clipped to the wearer at the shoulders. This made it easier to remove.As in many cultures, the male’s genitals were exaggerated significantly, this was called a codpiece, and was even used as a fanny pouch purse for a long time. The size of these grew until the mid 1500’s, and then eventually vanished from society around 1600. Men wore puffed shorts, sometimes slashed, and typically ending just above the knee with tights. A popular trend was multicolored tights. King Henry XII models a famous silhouette from the early renaissance, a blocky, masculine, and stable form.


Women were expected to wear a corset, bodice, a headdress, with long extensive gowns. Slashed, or detachable skirts, and sleeves were one of the most prevalent features of the renaissance. Many venetian women aspired to have blonde hair, and some even used urine, and other chemicals to try to color it so. The shapes of the dresses changed throughout this period, from finely draped, to cut and formed.

This portrait of young Elizabeth of France, is a great example of the excessive use of lace, and slashes in the puffs of her sleeves. Note the pearls dripping across her bodice.

Pearls were one of the favorite jewels of the time. It was the ultimate status symbol and was used everywhere. High class women were dripping in jewels, from embellishments in their dresses, to their hair, to their jewelry, and even crushed up into luxurious face cream.

Ruffs were another large characteristic of the style of this time, ruffs around the neck, sleeve, shoulder, wrist, it was a way to show off some beautiful lace work. Lace exploded across europe and was prized.

was another one of the ultimate status symbols, fox, ermine.

Headwear consisted of anything ranging from a crown covering hat, hood or headdress. A popular one to note, is the ‘french hood’, a rounded bonnet like cap, which can be seen commonly in portraits of Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth, her daughter, was much more experimental with her fashion, and lead the renaissance proudly into the Elizabethan phase.


Coming out of the medieval era, at the beginning of the renaissance, sleeves were long and flowing, folding was a large part of high fashion. Slowly, with Spaniard influence, dresses eventually became boxier, and more masculine, and slowly, towards the turn of the 16th century, they started to become more feminine, in the way they flowed, and the colors which were chosen.

Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth the firsts reign, had a considerable impact on fashion, and clothing became more important than ever. She had a collection of the most beautiful crowned jewelry, and wore some of the most expensive outfits in the world back then. Things were so much more precious back then, as each piece of an elaborate outfit, such as hers, would be ‘the best of the best’. Ostrich feathers from Africa, pearls, handmade lace (by the yard), gold thread, ermine, furs, etc. everything was imported from across the world, just for her.


In these days, children dressed like adults, and would probably have close to the same tastes as her mother. Many wealthy families would give their children red coral necklaces, to protect them from illness and the evil eye. Children’s clothing was made to be a little more ‘indestructible’, so to speak, as children have always been slightly messy creatures. Depending on the rank of the mother, the cloth used in the children’s dress would probably be of a slightly lower grade, because children are always growing so much.


Exploration One: The Japanese Heian Period 794-1185

This masterpiece is a remnant of the Heian period

The late 7th through to the 12th century, was the golden age of silk dying in Japanese history. This was known as the Heian period, and is possibly the most luxurious phase of this nations past. The most painful thing about this period to me, is that there are no known artifacts preserved from it. All we know, is from the extensive writings, poetry, and paintings from the time, which were many, as fashion was a certain kind of madness within the high class Japanese culture in this era.


This was a time of repression for women, which allowed women to experience, a certain and unusual kind of reality, completely unique to the Heian period. Cut off from men, and general society, women spent their lives indoors, and concealing their faces from the world. Women of the Heian period were restricted from almost all the realities of life, kept in a literal bubble, she would probably never see a sick person, a poor person, or anything that her family should decide to keep her from. This lead them to be exceedingly innocent, very pale, and for the Heian woman to embody stylish, poetical, and beautiful ‘perfection’. It was her job to become a work of art.

Two Heian babes playing a game

The attention that society payed to the detail of clothing was so intense, and women were judged so dramatically for their choice, that it became an all consuming fanaticism for them. The colors must compliment each other in such a way, that it was a statement. These colors showed their taste, and culture, but it was also the only way for them to express themselves to the outside world. The rooms which women spent most of their time, were on the second level of the house, these rooms typically had an opening just at floor level, in order to cool the room, and allow proper ventilation. This became a means for the gentlemen of the family, and male guests, to peek in at the dress folds of the women sitting indoors, without seeing their faces.

A man outside, either listening to the girls, or chatting to the girls.

Clothing and color, was a source of sexual energy, that was almost neurotic. It was the way which a woman was expected to first attract a suitor, and thus, if you didn’t have good taste, you might never find a husband. When out in public, a woman was only allowed to travel in a man lifted passenger car. She could not show her face as she did this, and thus it became a custom to discreetly hang the folds of her costume from the sides of the doors. Men, if impressed by the colors, they would locate the family which the boxcar belonged to, each car marked by their families seal. Heian women dreamed of growing long flowing hair, and their faces were whitened with powder. An interesting cultural aspect, to this fashion period, is that both men and women used to blacken their teeth. Their eyebrows were shaven off, and drawn on, higher on their forehead. They would also draw their lips in bright red, but would draw them on smaller than their actual size.


This sokutai doesn’t have any saved patterns for it’s creation. All of the reproductions created from the same style, but will never be exactly the same as the originals made long ago. These outfits altogether could have up to 12 layers of silks. It was the popular fashion to have thick and luxuriant folds in their sleeves and dress. The more intense, the more vivid and sensual, the more she would arouse her onlookers.

The woman, a divine creature, like a delicate gold fish floating around in a water bowl, or a water lily, bouncing around on the surface during a rain storm.

Here’s an example of a modern reproduction of the Heian period.

A modern ensemble of what the costume would look like, although her eyebrows should be shaven, and she should be wearing the appropriate make up. (See paragraph #4) Note: As you can see, she has a pleated train on her skirt.


Here’s a bunch of different Heian costumes. Oh, like a kid in a candy shop.


Exploration One: Chinese Fashion: The Tang Dynasty 618-907

The Tang Dynasty in China, is one of my favorite clothing periods of the East. Taking place during a renaissance of feminine power, the Tang dynasty was a 300 year stretch between 618-907 AD. China’s only female monarch, Empress Wu Zetian, came into power around 70 years after the beginning of this dynasty, and brought with her a revolution in female rights, like never seen before in China. Tang women were free to educate themselves, history, philosophy, politics and military skills, women had an almost never-ending plethora of opportunities for them to grow in themselves during this time. During the Tang dynasty, poetry was a common pastime for men and women, not just high born men and women, but people from the common population too. Women from all classes could dance, go riding, and even play polo!

The Tang dynasty women had a huge amount of freedom for that time, women were allowed to virtually run wild. Divorce was not looked down upon in the same way, and couples who agreed to divorce mutually were accepted. Even princesses weren’t looked down upon for having the freedom of remarrying, which was an incredible and modern step in society at this time, as princesses have been used throughout time as a way to make ties between families.

This picture shows two upper class women walking a puppy.

FUN FACT: Before 618, women were expected to only ever leave the house wearing a face covering veil, this was partly to protect against dust, but mainly to hide women’s faces from the public. Throughout time, in multiple cultures, this has been a way to isolate women from those outside their families circle. Over the course of the 6th century, the veil decreased in length until it completely disappeared and replaced by a hat, until 713, when that disappeared too.

The effect Empress Wu Zetian’s reign had on feminism was quite dramatic. It became popular to wear very, low cut shirts, exposing cleavage-- Just imagine! Besides the dramatic low cut, a blouse was worn on top of this, with long, narrow, sleeves which extended 6-3ft in length! The blouse had no buttons, but was kept closed by a long, high waisted skirt, which rested just under the breasts, and tied with a ribbon.


By this time in history, the Chinese had already discovered how to harness silk worm’s cocoons, for the making of beautiful silk fabric. This made the Chinese the most advanced out of all the other civilizations in the world back then. They were able to create patterns with shape, patterns, and multiple colors. Their textiles had evolved past ‘simply doing the job’ and into luxury.

26 tang-dynasty-sculpture

Hair was a theatrical, and ornamental add on to their outfit. There were a variety of ‘popular’ hair styles with different names, and it was an important part of being presentable. A few examples of names include, ‘rolled up lotus leaf’, ‘conch shell’, and ‘cloud style’. Common add ons to their updo’s included gold and silver combs and pins, and foe flowers.

This is a lily knot from the Tang dynasty.

Tang women were famous for their makeup, which they liked to change and play with daily. The average day of makeup included a white layer of foundation, typically made from lead, red lips, intricate eyebrows in unusual shapes, a huadian on their foreheads. Two little dots at the corner of the lips was a popular feature in this dynasty, and a faint red curved line at the temples of her forehead.

Huadian: a feather, or a gold/silver piece of foil, cut into a blossom or plum.

The Hufu was a unisex outfit which was accepted by the Chinese as ‘foreigners clothing’, as China was one of the biggest trading capitals of the world at this point. This outfit consisted of a waist length jacket, trousers, and a leather belt and boots. Women of the Tang loved this outfit, as it was an alternative to the skirt, and allowed them to ride horseback easier. The men would wear their hufu made from simpler silk, well, in comparison to women who would wear decadent colors and patterns. Women’s lust for clothes will never change.

Believe it or not, there is hardly any historical information about men’s clothing in the Tang dynasty, as all anyone could talk about was the women’s clothing. Not even the emperors robes, or crown were ever properly described. What we do know is that at court assemblies, people were expected for their robes to match their rank in society. The highest ranking members of court would wear purple, going down from this came vermillion, green, and then finally blue. The men generally wore robes of two kinds during the Tang dynasty, a tighter robe with a round, and short cut collar, or a looser robe with long wide sleeves, and a collar which stood up around their neck.


Generally speaking throughout history, Chinese men wore their hair long, and placed it in a bun atop their heads, Tang men covered their hair with a head cloth, which was later replaced with a hat which did the same job. The Hat came in different shapes, and heights.



Philosophy Lesson Twelve: Problems With Empiricism

Let’s criticize Empiricists! (it’s not very hard to do)


- The issue of simple and complex ideas
- The issue of skepticism
- The issue of ideas coming from personal experience

Simple and Complex Ideas

Simple ideas are ideas that supposedly can’t be broken down any further… such as crunchy. Crunchy is a description which has no further way to break it down. This theory was developed by a philosopher I’ve mentioned before, named Locke. Hume, another philosopher I’ve mentioned before argues that in order for there to be any conceptual thought, we must first have the sense impression for all of the aspects of our idea.

For example...


In order to understand/think up this photo we need to have a variety of sense impressions. Such as…

1. Color - blue, white, brown, grey, pink, black, red etc.

2. Human beings - We need to know what human beings are.

3. Elderly and youth - We need the sense impression of both elderly humans, and young ones, in order to place things in perspective.

4. Expression - In order to understand the facial expressions being made, we need to understand key concepts such as happiness, sadness etc. and how they relate to our faces.

5. Dimension - In order to understand distance, and relation, we need an understanding of dimension.

6. Texture - In order to be able to understand the feeling of things, we need to understand texture, the texture of the woman’s skirt, the babes skin, the necklace, the glass behind them.