‘Book of Clothes,’ Proto-Social Media Selfies from the 1520s

fashion selfies

Image: Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum

The Atlantic writes:

“Though remembered for the flowering of humanism and secularism, the Renaissance was still, by modern standards, a repressive era, particularly when it came to clothing. Sumptuary laws regulated which textiles, trimmings, weapons, and even colors could be worn according gender, social class, marital status, and profession. In his 1516 treatise Utopia, Thomas More may have questioned how anyone could ‘be silly enough to think himself better than other people, because his clothes are made of finer woolen thread than theirs.’ But such distinctions were hardwired into Renaissance society.

Within these strictures, however, there was still a broad scope for personal agency. At the time, people effectively designed their own clothes with the help of tailors, dressmakers, and shoemakers. Albrecht Dürer—Matthäus’s contemporary in nearby Nüremberg—left an annotated design for the wide, flat leather shoes popular in the 1520s, and Matthäus boasted of his savvy color and fabric choices as he planned spectacular new outfits for a bewildering variety of occasions, from falcon hunts to funerals. The book raises important questions about the meaning of self-fashioning, now and then…”

Read the full, pretty fascinating article here on The Atlantic.