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Sumptuary laws, dating from Roman times and so called after the Latin word meaning expense, had multiplied during the Renaissance.These sought to limit the amount of money wealthy people could spend on apparel, so as to limit competitive spending.From the many fascinating details the album reveals we know that, while he was courting women, Schwarz carried heart-shaped leather bags in green, the colour of hope.The new material expression of these emotions, which were tied to appearances, heart-shaped bags for men, artificial braids for women or red silk stockings for young boys, may strike us as odd.I shall never forget, while staying in Paris, the day a friend’s husband returned home from a business trip. She had modest breast implants and a slim, sportive body. In her spare time when she was not looking after children, going shopping, walking the dog, or jogging, she would write poems and cry.She and I were having coffee in a huge sunny living room overlooking the Seine. Next, a pair of beautiful, shiny black shoes flew down the corridor. Yet neither my friend nor her husband would be much out of place in the middle of the 15th century. In the Franconian village of Niklashausen at this time a wandering preacher drew large crowds and got men to cut off their shoulder-length hair and slash the long tips of their pointed shoes, which were seen as wasteful of leather. Men and women in this period aspired to an elongated, delicate, slim silhouette.

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Italian doctors already wrote books about cosmetic surgery.Moralists across Europe really believed that dress shaped people’s mentalities, so that fine foreign clothing, for instance, would make a person more affected and licentious.Such commentators were concerned about the money that would be taken from one country to another and about people losing their virtuous, ‘national’ customs of behaviour; the worst was when people mixed fashions from different cultures and thus became completely unidentifiable in any national, political or moral sense. My friend certainly valued herself partly in terms of the wardrobe she had assembled and her accessories of bags, sunglasses, stilettoes and shoes. We might think that these are the modern follies of fashion, which now beset men as much as women.The word ‘fashion’ gained currency in different languages during the Renaissance. Boorde depicted an almost naked Englishman on a woodcut, cheerily announcing: ‘Now I will wear I cannot tell what, all fashions be pleasant to me.’ Boorde thought that the English would never be role models for other nations if they assimilated other fashions.His book was also the first in Europe to include woodcut depictions of people in different dress from across Europe.Alongside these reactions was the dawning realisation that clothing made one historical.Matthäus Schwarz was in his early teens when he started talking to old people about what they had worn in the past and began to make drawings of his own apparel.Merchants expanded markets in courts and cities by making chic accessories such as hats, bags, gloves or hairpieces, ranging from beards to long braids.At the same time, new media and the spread of mirrors led to more people becoming interested in their self-image and into trying to imagine how they appeared to others; artists were depicting humans on an unprecedented scale, in the form of medals, portraits, woodcuts and genre scenes, and print circulated more information about dress across the world, as the genre of ‘costume books’ was born.


  1. Author’s Note This blog post has been expanded and clarified in my book Courtship in Crisis. I grew up as a member of the homeschool community back when we were.

  2. Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost stepped out together for their first public event at Thursday's American Museum of Natural History Gala

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