From the first time I browsed through the site Jennifer Thompson put together on Italian working class, I found it highly interesting. On one hand the origin of various European folk costumes seems to be found here, or at least they bear resemblance. On the other hand you can see how they have the upper class attires as inspiration, though they're some 20 years behind in style. And of course they feature practical accessories which is rarely seen in upper class portraits. The noble ladies might have worn it at home, in informal dresses, but in portraits they are depicted in their very finest attires. The working class, on the other hand, is depicted more or less as they were, as recognizable figures in genre paintings. Such genre paintings was popular in the Renaissance, but seems to have turned all allegorical in the mid-16th century. Working class attires from 1530-1560 are hard to come by. But genre paintings returned with great success at the end of the century, particularly in the north (Cremona, Bergamo and the Veneto).

In the gallery underneath, chronology is the criteria rather than regions. Both working class, informal noble garbs, peasants and poorer classes are probably represented. They can be hard to tell apart, I think. Still, it gives an idea of how women in 16th century Italy appeared in informal wear at home and during work. So why am I making this gallery if Jennifer Thompson already did it? Well, she concentrated on the period from 1570-1600, when the genre paintings was picked up again. But I've come across a couple interesting depictions from the late 15th century and early 16th century. I wanted to gather them all in one site.

Typical for the working class attires seems to be that the chemise is more visible. Often it's due to a bigger and looser neck line/collar being worn, sometimes it's because the tie-one sleeves has been either fully removed or tied to the back of the bodice. The chemise sleeves can be wrapped or draped up, while the lacing strings for the sleeves hangs loose. The women also tend to wear an apron; sometimes a kind of apron skirt is also worn over the dress skirt. The hair style usually consist of a knot in the back of the head. While court bodices in the mid and late 16th century became longer, stiffer and more pointed, the working class bodices kept the shorter and squarer lines from the high Renaissance. The V shaped trims also stayed in fashion for a long time. Few of these women are seen in head garbs of any kind, but from other depictions it appears that both straw hats and linen caps were used when working outdoors.

Be sure to take a look at the Italian working class attires of these people:

Heather Ann Harris
Jennifer Thompson

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