Renaissance clothing in Slovakia (end of 15th century up to twenties of 17th century)


New ideological flow spreading itself from Italian towns – humanism – influenced not only world view and artistic conceptions but also the way of looking-at on clothing also on its form. Adapted more to needs of the body, naturally resulting, free from overexposed long sleeves, high bonnets, pointed shoes (such popular in period of later Middle Ages) acted proportionally. Women´s clothing started to be cut a sewn for the first time in particular like upper part and lower one. Shirt was not already only lower part but it became visible and distinctively decorated clothing component part in décolletage and on sleeves. In the 16th century in Protestant Germany and Hapsburg Spain men´s trousers were born which have been already visible and they created together with shorter jacket the base of men´s clothes.

In period of Renaissance women´s aprons started to be worn with liking already not only as working clothing, however, richly decorated also as representative clothing component part. They became part not only of townsman´s clothing but also of noble one in Italy, in German countries, in Austria, Bohemia, Hungary also in Poland. In the 16th century the natural, proportional resulting silhouette of Italian Renaissance clothing is varied, it takes up in volume as both in women´s and in men´s clothing, especially in part of shoulders and sleeves. Upper part of body is again stylized and overexposed into massively acting horizontal silhouette.  

The whiff of new fashion came from Italy into Hungary mediately by means of commercial caravans bringing rather new kinds of fabrics from which were manufactured already in Italy also new types of clothing. Slovakia was significant centre of extraction of precious metals and business contacts with Italy were not concentrated only on business with precious metals but also on import of expensive textiles, clothes and accessories. Italy and Spain have been the only countries where in Europe luxurious silky fabrics were manufactured. Persian and Arabic weavers brought there their production already in 9th century. In Italy from beginning of the 14th century started to be manufactured except for lampases also velvets (Ital. Velluto,Slov., Pol. aksamienty) and  damasks with large-repeat patterns, which became rapidly the standards of luxury for rich classes in the entire Europe. In Italy the clothes sewn from them got already also a new cut, however this one was enlarged in Hungary only in the second half of 15th century. Their usage already in the 15th century not only written documents corroborate but also preserved artefacts (Italian silk textiles from the second half of the 15th century.

Mural and panel paintings coming from the territory of today´s Slovakia show that some clothing elements of late medieval fashion coexisted with already Renaissance clothing elements for example the figures are dressed in medieval types of overcoats sewn already from Renaissance velvets and with protruding shirt in a new way, as the case may be, with Renaissance berets on heads.

Fashion inspirations from royal courts

Clothes in the Italian way came to us earlier than during the reign of Matej Korvín but at Hungarian court the clothing was definitively changed only thanks to the wife of Matej Korvín who brought new habitudes from natal Italy. Beatrice Aragónska determined trends in Buda at Hungarian court and archival source materials also fine art monuments give out about her clothing wardrobe. We can see special variant of Italian Renaissance clothing in Central Europe thanks to portraits of Jagels and their Hapsburg wives. It was worn also at the Hungarian court in time of Vladislav Jagelovský the II and of his wife Maria Uhorská (Hapsburg).

On the example of both queens it is possible to demonstrate that the forms of Renaissance clothing were various, especially therefore, that the Renaissance clothing had its geographical and dynastic specifics. Moreover in various parts of Europe new clothing elements were accepted with varied degree of obligatoriness it means that somewhere only some elements of new fashion were adapted and they were adapted to tradition of that place. In Hungary they got dressed at the court in the Italian way first (fig. 1), later particularly under influence of Protestant movement in church the clothing typical for German and Central European areas started to be worn (fig. 2).

After accession of Hapsburgs on Hungarian throne a Spanish type of Renaissance clothing started to appear at the court which became widespread at the court alone in Spain only from the thirties of the 16th century in time of reigning of Karol the V, and namely in men´s variant in first place. Yet Ferdinand Habsburg the I who enthroned in 1526 has worn the Renaissance clothing in the Italian way. His oldest son, in addition to this also Hungarian king (crowned in Bratislava in 1563) Maximilián II worn as a young man already the Spanish Renaissance clothing. The Hapsburgs as a strong family line ruling over more European countries strengthened their political ambitions also by adherence of courtly customs among which also the way of clothing and equal fashion belonged. In Hungary the Hungarian nobility and aristocracy loyal towards the Hapsburgs on Hungarian throne have worn the Spanish clothing. This clothing was different from Italian Renaissance clothing and Protestant clothes. It differentiated from them by strict geometricising silhouette in which the people acted like beings closed in furniture. The men have worn buftan-like short trousers, which has been decorated by small pocket of phallic shape between legs (Fr. braquette). The coat was short, close-fitting with distinctively cut front part into spike (so-called goose bulge) and with pleated sleeves in armhole. It was highly closed up to the neck where white lace ruff protruded. They worn silk knee socks on the legs fixed by suspender small lace and light shoes on heel. Short haircut and carefully arranged trim of beard and tiny moustache differentiated them from the rest of countries. They used to have hardened conical hats and toques on the head.

Women have worn three kinds of dresses: with distinctive false sleeves which hanged from armhole of lower sleeves and bodice has been sewn-together with skirt (fig. 3) Dress without distinctive sleeves was further type and a “ropa” on them(in Hungary known under the name of “junker”).The ”ropa” has been free type of upper clothes, upper dress – overcoat. It could be without sleeves or with short sleeves or long ones which has been in upper part in balloon-like way pleated (fig. 4). Last type of lady´s gown consisted of two dresses – under dress and the upper one. The upper dress could be without sleeves or with short sleeves or false ones and unlike to “ropa” it encircled the figure (fig. 5). All these described women´s garments represented richness already only thereby that two dresses were worn on themselves. On the women´s dresses the bodice has been distinctively cut-out into spike (goose bulge as at men). The figure acted torpidly the dress has hidden all woman´s curves. Metal corset was used for forming of the body or metal whalebones were inserted into the bodice and the skirt has been formed by ring skirt vertugado (in Slovakia called as vertigált). White lace ruff and cuffs became distinctive accessories. Massiveness and geometricity of the dress have been supported also by luxurious patterned fabrics additionally decorated on dresses by sewing-on of pearls, brooches and other jewel appliqués which could be also several tens on one gown. Spanish Hapsburgs created the clothing which aroused not only respect but also astonishment (fig. 6).

Also so-called Trachtenbuchy (from Germ.) – i.e. books of traditional costumes and Musterbuchy (from Germ.) – sample books with embroideries and laces thanks to which new textile techniques were spread along the entire Europe for example netting (laces and embroideries on the net), new techniques of embroidery (cross stitch, decorative stitches) but also patterns, their motifs, composition, ornaments. The cosmopolitan propagation of this news has been secured also by guilds. In them it was required to travel (wanderings) along more places of Europe and to collect experience. Thanks to the guilds – for example guild of tailors, experts in embroidery, of bag producers, dyers, weavers and of other workers – new trends in clothing were brought into towns and small towns on the territory of Slovakia and they started to be also produced in environment of this place. Despite this these luxurious textiles – particularly silk fabrics and knitwear presented goods which were not produced in Hungary and they were got here only by means of trade. Also some kinds of clothing accessories have been the most qualitative ones from import (embroidered gloves, silk knee socks, fans).

Fashion from Orient at courts of Hungarian magnates

Inspiration from Orient in European clothing and textile production persists from the Early Middle Ages. In period of Renaissance the trends especially from Ottomans come who presented military and political threat for Hungary and Europe already from the battle on Kosovo field. Yet before 1526 when Hungarian troops suffered crushing defeat from Ottomans at Moháč the Hungarian (also Polish) army has been inspired by clothing of their opponents particularly for riding squads (hussars). They have put-away heavy plate armours and have put-on kaftans with textile bands and high boots. This type of clothing was gradually enlarged also out of battle sites. The Hungarian magnates survived a great part of their life on military expeditions and they adapted some Ottoman dresses as a more practical form of clothing meeting their life style more than fashionable forms of West clothes. Such clothing got denominations like Hungarian clothing and it was significant element of Hungarian aristocracy and nobility already in the second half of the 16th century. Usage of this type of clothing, which likened the Hungarians more to Turks than to Europeans (Germans, Frenchs, Italians), was connected also with political behaviour of Hungarian magnates who for the sake of preservation of their privileges of estates dodged between the loyalty to Turks and Hapsburgs.

Men´s clothing influenced by Ottoman dress consisted of upper coat: mentieka (topcoat with sleeves) or delia (topcoat without sleeves or with false sleeves). Under them the coat, dolman, was worn; sometimes yet one coat – kaftan was dressed under it (fig. 7). There was always a distinctive belt on the dolman: in this period there was especially a broad textile band of multicoloured fabrics it could be decorated with knitted cords. Linen white shirt has served as lower clothing. Canvas underpants were given on the legs and silk knitted trousers as the upper ones or they have been sewn from cloth. Whether high boots with heel or shorter boots also with heel were booted; both forms have been influenced by Turkish shoes. The dolmans and kaftans had stand-up collar, “mentiekas” (vests) and delias had wide turn-down collar and voluminous distinctive sleeves. They were fastened by spherical buttons, by loop and button in the Oriental way and they have been decorated with “pozamentier´s” lacings, cords, bands, tassels. Their cut, fastening and decorating have been inspired by Ottoman´s men´s wear. Equally also the way of wearing the clothes (delia and mentieka could be also thrown-over shoulder) was inspired so. In archival source materials they are mentioned as overcoats also fur coats and hazukas. The Hungarian started to shave and arranged their face as Turks they worn smooth-shaven heads with the narrow bands of hairs left on the head which they accustomed to plait in various way; on the face they are used to keep moustache sometimes also beard.

Conservative Hungarian noblewomen

Among some Hungarian noblewomen a custom to wear the clothing which had townsman´s character in Italy, France but also in Germany: shirt (camisole), bodice (small vest), skirt and apron. Therefore it has been of townsman´s character because the noblewomen got dressed always sleeves on camisole or bodice with sleeves and sleeveless bodices were clothing of townswomen. They have worn mentiekas or pelerines of various lengths as upper clothing. This custom can be explained thereby that wives and daughters of Hungarian magnates who were used to spend years on the battle-field against enemy during their absence stood for the role of husband; they have organized the economy, court, upbringing of children and this type of clothing presented a more practical variant for them, as for instance Spanish or German garment. Iconographical and written source materials substantiate the fact that the Hungarian noblewomen were choosing themselves only some components or accessories from West fashion. They had a basic composition of clothing and bodice with front corset from Italian Renaissance fashion; from the Spanish fashion and German one they were fond of shirts in neckline with closed ruff; from French fashion they had open type of fan-like ruff and from the Spanish fashion they adopted the ring skirt “vertigált” and short topcoats with sleeves (bomezas), pelerines but also upper free overcoat dress known as “ropa” in Spain (in Hungary it is junker). They took over decorative apron from the Italian and German fashions.

We know according to archival source documents that they differentiated their clothing for everyday, festive and ceremonial occasions. Displays of some Hungarian noblewomen are most often just in the most ceremonial, representative form (fig. 8). The difference among them was not in composition of clothing but in materials used for their manufacturing, in quantity of decorating (embroideries, “pozaments”, laces) and in accessories. The Hungarian noblewomen immortalized on the representative portraits have the bodices decorated with pearl multiple-row cords; sometimes they are as bands dividing the skirt and bodice of dress. Married wives have bonnets on their heads and the girls have head-dresses, headbands, diadems. They decorated their hairdos with jewels according to the general fashion in Europe: with broaches, hairpins and curtains in the hairdos; they are known as “boglars” from archival materials. Veils for head are mentioned there too. The women worn complicated hairstyles formed by metal aids under richly adorned bonnets and scarves (analogies we are finding in folk clothing, in coiffure arrangement on the pad called also as “grguľa, krkuľa and chomla”) on which were fixed the hairs, bundles of hairs and they were subsequently arranged into burs. The hairdos could be yet overlapped with small nets. At some Hungarian courts the ladies used to have also a coiffeuse within personal domestic servants. Ottoman influence is distinctive not only in men´s clothing in Hungary but also in materials for clothes and in techniques of decoration of textile.

The Ottoman Empire produced very luxurious silk fabrics: lampases, atlases, taffetas, velvets, the most expensive and most desired fabrics have been with woven-in patterns with stylized vegetal motifs. Under influence of Ottoman hegemony also the embroidery tradition was enriched in Hungary. Exotic embroiderers worked at courts of Hungarian magnates and they embroidered clothing, bonnets, household textiles, horse tackles in the Turkey way and so on. The term Turkey embroidery persisted in embroidery tradition yet to the end of 19th century. The Turks brought also new techniques of processing and colouring of leather, its superficial decorating which made Hungarian shoes famous but also other artisan products of leather.

Fashion in towns

With spreading Protestant movement happened changes also in the way of clothing. Towns particularly with German population in Spiš, Gemer, in mining towns of Central Slovakia but also in towns of East Slovakia: Prešov, Bardejov as well in Bratislava have been environment of spreading the new idea trends. The way of clothing has been influenced by Protestant principles which incited the people (whether of noble origin or townish one) to abstemiousness and abstention. Especially dark colours and concealed women´s décolletages got into clothing canon and swathing of head and lower part of face persisted. Dark clothing with white shirt, ruff and cuffs became symbol of Protestants not only in Hungary for a long time. In towns of 16th and 17th centuries also tailors manufacturing the German and Hungarian dresses had their workshops. These two alternatives were the most enlarged ones in towns of Slovakia (fig. 9, fig. 10). The clothing of townspeople has been determined also by authorities ordinances which stated which materials cannot be worn by townspeople; at women they have forbidden also long skirts and trains.