Renaissance Clothing: What’s In A Color?

In the world of fashion, apparel comes in many colors with varying shades.  It is easy to assume that a color is merely something pleasant for the eye to gaze upon, but in truth, colors are very revealing of different cultural aspects and can be quite significant. Such was the case of the colors of clothing worn during the Renaissance era.  Each garment color was important and had meaning and in some cases, was even governed by law.  By taking further examination into Renaissance clothing colors, one can gain interesting insights into this period’s way of life.

Renaissance gowns:

Let’s start at the beginning, a very good place to start.  When looking at the order of the rainbow colors, the first one is red.  Have no doubt that if you were a member of high social status or royalty in the Renaissance period, red is the color you would be wearing.  Among these elite were members of English Parliament, French magistrates, and high profile, Italian government officials.  Red also bore religious symbols and was worn by church authorities to signify the blood of Christ, the fire of Pentecost, the martyrdom of Christ, and hellfire.

Florentine Gown:

Florentine Gown

Moving down the spectrum are the colors of orange and yellow.  Those who wore orange were most likely middle class peasants, who wanted to emulate the dress of the royals and upper class.  To achieve this effect, they dyed their attire orange, as well as other colors.  As for the color yellow, this was not necessarily a flattering color to be seen in.  In Italy, an edict required all prostitutes and harlots to wear this color and in the town of Venice, all Jews were commanded to sport a yellow circle on their clothing to distinguish them.

Completing the rainbow colors is green, blue, and purple, which also had representation.  Green was typically worn by young people, as it stood for youth, chastity, love, and joy.  Blue was reserved for English servants and unmarried, available women.  An indigo shade meant chastity while a turquoise shade represented jealousy.  Purple would sometimes be worn to symbolize royalty, as in ancient times.  However, the trend of purple as a high class color faded as time went on.

Campbell Renaissance Shirt:

Campbell Renaissance Shirt

In addition to the rainbow pallet, let’s not forget the colors of brown, black, and white.  For those of a religious nature, it was no question that brown would be their prime color, as it stood for modesty.  Beige symbolized poverty and dull brown was worn by the poor in England.  As is the custom today, the color, black, was worn to show one’s self in mourning, in a serious state, or as a sign of refinement for the wealthy.  And nothing has changed since Renaissance times in the signifying of white for purity.

After this color enlightenment, one can see that a color is more than just a color.  It was a reflection of societal views during the Renaissance era and remains so in modern times.  Though clothing color meanings may have changed, they are still something to consider when selecting a wardrobe.

For a full selection of our Renaissance clothing, go to:

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