The clothes of the XV century

The Garments are  symbols, recognition signs of the family, census, rank and power, as well as an emblem of art and craft. The colours, the richness of the fabrics and ornaments, the jewellery and even the bearing show the real value of who wears them.


Fashion in the first half of the XV Century is influenced by the late-Gothic style, long and vertical clothes as the gothic cathedrals characterised by pointed arches, spires and high bell towers.
– Free lines ample dresses without shrinkage at the waist but with belt under the breast, the dames often wear the “giornea”: hips-opened dress or closed with laces, the female clothing is composed by overlapping dresses called under-dresses and above-dresses. Both the belt under the breasts and the modifiable closings are linked to the value of maternity. Both for the nobles and the peasants a high number of children was paramount; for the first class for dynastic reasons, for the second to enlarge the labour force.  Due to the high child mortality rate, women in reproductive age gave birth to several children. Maternity was therefore important and precious, and it influenced fashion and the very canons of female beauty. The dress therefore emphasizing the belly was met also practical reasons: being quite expensive, the dresses were to be used also after the pregnancy. Moreover it exalted the female figure, considered more beautiful and important as mother.
– The XV Century is an ostentation of clothes, both in the quality of their brocades, damasks and silks and in the great use of textile: very long dragging, making necessary sumptuary laws to limit the luxury and the amount of textile.
– Wing-sleeves, women of this period want to resemble birds, frequently the sleeves are decorated with plumage. Another type of sleeves are crop-shaped as the crop of a bird.
– Under the ample sleeves, more close-fitting ones, tied with silk ribbons, and gold decorations. They are opened in little gaps letting half-view the precious shirt below.
– Simple necklines almost always rounded.
– The typical hairstyle is called “balzo” (similar to a sphere pinned to the head) or the “sella” (saddle) for its appearance, and then voiles and hairnets to contain the hair. Frequently there were used also horn hairstyle, inspired by the Flemish regions beyond the Alps.


Men of that period used to wore “guarnacche”, “robe” and “roboni” (ancient male tunics similar to dresses).
– As for women those dresses are long, without shrinkage but tighten with belts, they are made following the straw technique creating an effect of organ pipes.
– The sleeves, the same as for women, are wing or crop shaped.
– Under the dress, wool or fabric close-fitting socks to accent the figure
–The man headgears are many but the most classic is the “mazzocchio” (medieval chaperon), lined reel with a hang down part
– Under the tunic, a shirt visible by the gaps of the sleeves.

The overall beauty of the garment isn’t only due to the quality and splendour of the clothing but also by the way it is worn. To wear this costumes it is necessary a great posture: who wears them becomes an actor obtaining an aesthetics beauty not related to the body but to the figure.

Fabrics: Wool, velvet, brocade and damask are the most used textiles. Floral motifs, widespread in the XVIII Century, are definitely not common during this period.

General characteristics of dresses of the first half of the XV Century. Sketches by Daniele Gelsi