This time in history is known as the rebirth of art and science (French). The movement is believed to have originated in Florence, Italy, at the end of the Middle Ages, during the mid-1300s, and spread in the late fifteenth century to France, Poland, and Hungary, and finally to England, Germany, Scandinavia, and Central Europe by the late sixteenth century. The Italian Renaissance was an age when a prosperous society reconnected to its ancient past and, through rediscovery, applied knowledge to intellectual activities in the arts and sciences. This knowledge resulted in an explosion of inventions in printing technology and in new techniques in art, architecture, and poetry, which were disseminated throughout Europe by way of commerce. The Italian Renaissance is referred to by historians as the beginning of the Modern epoch or the Early Modern period, since the focus shifted from spirituality, popular in the Middle Ages, to humanism. Artists and artisans worked in collaboration, many under patronage of the rising wealthy class.
   Renaissance fashion is clearly recorded in the number of artists' paintings of the period depicting rich velvets, ornate brocades, and elaborate embellishments that were used in both men's and women's clothing. In the Early Renaissance, due to Italy's proximity to the Middle East, clothing styles were heavily influence by their Eastern neighbors. When Catherine de Medici (Italian) became Queen of France (1547-1559), she had an impact not only on gastronomy, but is credited with commissioning the first pair of high-heeled shoes and with the invention of lip gloss, and, perhaps her most famous edict, of enforcing a ban on "thick waists" worn at court, so that for the next 350 years women wore laced-up corsets made of whalebone or metal that cinched in their waists to 17 inches or less.
   The English Renaissance, known as the Elizabethan Period, brought the flowering of English art, poetry, literature, and William Shakespeare, among others. In terms of fashion, the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) was more influenced by the Spanish and French Renaissance than the Italian. The farthingale (a supporting device worn under skirts), square necklines, and ruffs worn at the neck (by both men and women) were fashionable items of that period which were passed to the English from Queen Isabella of Spain. The Renaissance was followed by the period known as the Enlightenment in the seventeenth century.

Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. .


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