Key components of the costume are:
- Hair worn loose and long with a red circlet.
- Long, white shift, worn next to the skin.
- No jewelry.
- Teal (green-blue) bodice with a v-neckline. Also, there is likely a skirt worn over the undergarment.
- Ankle-length, dark green, gown worn over under tunic. It has a high-waist and a square neckline. The bottom of the neckline is embellished with red.
- Dark shoes and stockings.
Example of a Renaissance Wedding Dress for a Peasant, Flanders, 1500s
Colors of Renaissance Wedding Dresses
For modern brides, looking for Renaissance styles, here is a chance to express individuality. The Renaissance wedding dress was probably not white. Although some brides wore white during the Renaissance period, white wedding dresses did not become fashionable until after Queen Victoria wore a white dress to her wedding in 1840. (1)
During the Renaissance, women wore their best dress as their wedding dress, whatever the color. If they were wealthy, then they wore the latest styles. So colors of wedding dresses included green, black, red, and blue. Blue was a color associated with chastity. (2)
Hair Styles and Headwear for the Renaissance Bride
The bride’s hair is loose and long and she is wearing a red circlet. All the other women wear their hair covered with a white cloth. As noted in the book, Costume and Fashion in Colour, 1550 – 1760, “Once married or past a ‘certain age’ decency had long required women to cover all their hair. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries they began to show a little of it, but all decent women still covered their heads.” (3) However, it is interesting to note, that even the young children in Bruegel’s the painting wear coverings over their hair.
There are three layers to the Wedding costume: 1) undergarment, 2) bodice and skirt, and 3) gown.
Undergarment for Renaissance Wedding Dress
A white, linen shift is worn next to the skin. This bottom layer can be seen in the neckline and is likely full-length; coming close to the bottom of the dress.
Bodice and Skirt of the Renaissance Wedding Dress
The bodice can barely be seen at the neckline. It is teal (green-blue) in color and worn over the shift. It has a v-neckline. Probably there is also a skirt worn with this bodice, but it cannot be seen under the gown.
The Renaissance Wedding Gown
A dark green gown is worn over the bodice and skirt. It has a high, fitted waist and a square neckline. From the high-waist there is a gathered skirt falling to ankle-level. The length of the bride’s dress is not visible in the painting. However, the other dresses seen in the picture are ankle length.
The bottom of the neckline is embellished with red. Perhaps it is a red ribbon or embroidered cloth? The dress has long sleeves, more fitted at the shoulder and flared at the wrist.
Note that for the time period (late-1500s), the peasant wedding dress in Bruegel’s painting is very simple. In the late 1500s, “The fashionable silhouette was hard and stiff, with heavily ornamented clothes that did not follow the shape of the body.” (4) Nevertheless, the peasant wedding costume does follow some of the fashions of the more wealthy, like the gown fitted at the bodice; showing the shift and bodice beneath; a square neckline. (5)
Stockings and Shoes for the Renaissance Bride
The shoes and stockings of the bride are also not visible. Other women wore dark, flexible shoes of cloth or leather and dark stockings.
On the left, is a close-up of the bride in Bruegel’s The Wedding Dance (6). On the right, is the bride in The Wedding Dinner (7).
Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a talented painter of the Northern Renaissance. His paintings feature peasants and middle-class people during the late 1500s in Flanders. Flanders was a region in Northern Europe that included parts of what is today north France and Belgium and south Netherlands.(8x)
Location of Flanders in 1500s. (9)
- Cele C. Otnes and Elizabeth H. Pleck, Cinderella dreams: the allure of the lavish wedding (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003), 31.
- The Meaning of Renaissance and Medieval Clothing Colors 8 February 2011 [on-line article]; available from http://renaissanceclothing.blogspot.com/2011/02/meaning-of-renaissance-and-medieval.html; internet; accessed 1 April 2013.
- Jack Cassin-Scott, Costume and Fashion in Colour, 1550 – 1760 (Poole, Great Britain: Blandford Press, Ltd., 1975), 10.
- Jack Cassin-Scott, Costume and Fashion in Colour, 1550 – 1760 (Poole, Great Britain: Blandford Press, Ltd., 1975), 12.
- Jack Cassin-Scott, Costume and Fashion in Colour, 1550 – 1760 (Poole, Great Britain: Blandford Press, Ltd., 1975), 151.
- The Wedding Dance painted in 1566 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. [Public Domain] via Wikimedia. Accessed 1 April 2013 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder
- The Wedding Dinner painted in 1566 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. [Public Domain] via Wikimedia. Accessed at 1 April 2013 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pieter_Bruegel_de_Oude_-_De_bruiloft_dans_%28Detroit%29.jpg
- Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., “Flanders,” 31 December 2010 [on-line article]; available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flanders; internet; accessed 18 January 2011.
- Adapted from map of Europe by Google, 2011 [on-line map]; available from google.com; internet; accessed 12 February 2011.
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