The fashion of a controversy

I always admired the Italian fashion especially in the Renaissance Age. And I always was intrigued by a female character from this wonderful era- the infamous Lucrezia Borgia.

Well, she was one of the best known ladies in the Italian background for a lot of things: her beauty, her elegance but also her “talent” in the poisoning art, crime and incest. Of course, the last one is just a rumor and her complots have never been proved.

But, I will not write about her private life…I will write about her elegance, her famous beauty and her dress style. It is said that she was one of the most beautiful women of her time. She was also cultured, elegant, and her appearance was similar of a Greek goddess among humble mortals. She was a diva of her time, and if she was alive in our present age, she would undoubtedly grace the front pages of many glossy magazines.

Lucrezia Borgia was a dangerous combination of beauty and intelligence. That was making of her a desirable for a lot of men. In the artistically representations of her (movies, opera, supposed paintings – but not so many unfortunately), I was mesmerized by her costumes, hair jewels and all little things designed to embellish something that was already beautiful. Like a fashion icon of the Italian Renaissance, Lucrezia was using every occasion to show her good taste in clothing, her elegance and social state. But was so simply to have or use a dress or a jewel in that period of time. I think not. The Italian Renaissance clothing style is very elaborate and, for Lucrezia’s position, very expensive.

A costume or dress, for a noble woman was composed of various pieces.

I found explicit und well documented descriptions this extraordinary site I chose only the pieces from Lucrezia’s presumed wardrobe.

For the head, for example, there was some “decorations” like:

–          A “Balzo” described by the site above like a “turban”, “t was a ring or rounded form rising up at the head, covering the hair of the wearer. The hairline was often plucked, so the forehead was very prominent, and this effect was enlarged by the balzo. The ring had a fundament, assumedly of willow (Herald 1981: 210), wire (Frick 2002: 302) or leather, covered with hair (capello morti), rich textiles, metallic ornaments and/or ribbons and braids.”

–          “Coazzone” was “a broad plait or roll of hair, hanging down the back. Most often decorated with ribbons or braiding, and often worn with a trinzale, a sort of fine fabric or metallic cap covering the back of the head (Herald 1981: 215). It was often „held in place” by a fine adorned string, a lenza crossing the forehead. This string could have a piece of jeweler or another decorative element attached..”

For the actually dress we can start with:

–          “ Bargoni” or “Brodoni” that were “large, decorative puffs in the upper part of the sleeve (Landini 2005: 249). The wide sleeves of the 1510’s started to narrow in the bottom and become wider at the top.”

–          “ Gozzi” were “very wide sleeves that were gathered into wide wristbands, creating a bag shape, like a birds crop (Brown 2001: 67)”

–          “ Camicia” was “ an undergarment protecting the outer layers of fabric because it was worn directly at the body. It was therefore made of a soft, washable fabric, such as linen (rensa), wool (saia) or sometimes even cotton or silk (Herald 1981: 212, Frick 2002: 304). In the early Renaissance it was hardly visible under the clothes, but later on clothes were slashed and cut to reveal the camicia, and it became more elaborate in decoration. ”

–          “Cintura” designate  “an ornamental belt, often of gold, gems and/or pearls, sometimes only a metal chain or a piece of fabric, with various items attached to the hanging end. The items hanging in the end could be small bags, fans and sables (Landini 2005: 165), or also containers of perfume or purely decorative tassels or beads. The girdle almost always follows the shape of the bodice, underlining the points and curves. The demand for girdles was so popular that goldsmiths often made then in large quantities, without commission, to sell on the open market (Musacchio 2008: 179)”

–          “Colletto” signify “both a collar, a partlet and a jerkin (Landini 2005: 250). The partlet is the most interesting item when it comes to female fashion. It started as a rather unornamented shawl-like piece of garb, often of very fine silk. Some were worn on top of the bodice, some underneath.”

–          The “Gamurra” is a “fitted bodice and full skirt worn over the camicia” ( . It is actually the dress. Depending of social state, the “gamurra” was made of various type of fabric especially wool in winter time. Richer was the woman; richer was the “gamurra” ornamented or its textile quality.

–          “Mantello” was “an over-cloak for men and women, long and most often of wool (Frick 2002: 313), and could be lined or unlined. It was draped over the shoulders.”

The costumes were ornamented with pearls, gold, precious gems. Necklaces and earrings were expensive and unique. We can only imagine the “revelation” of such an appearance and if the woman was beautiful too the picture was more astonishing. Lucrezia Borgia was such a woman, and, I think that not only her beauty but also her life, the legend created around her made of this Renaissance’s lady one of the  most interesting, desirable and controversy females of all time.

Lucrezia Borgia in all forms of art:


















I was wearing for the head a leather belt, for the dress: white shirt (no name), dress from LJR, silver and gold belt, no name jewels.

À bientôt !

2 gânduri despre “The fashion of a controversy

  1. The last supposed painting of Lucrezia is not from her era. It’s an idealized Pre Raphaelite painting of her as a character, the artist is Rossetti I believe.

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