A Step Through Time

"Conspicuous Consumption with Elegance"

Reconstructing History

Venetian Noble Women's Dress

Late Sixteenth Century



Venice was the major crossroads between east and west.  As such was a thriving centre of trade.  Many luxuriant fabrics were available there and no doubt used in these gorgeous gowns, as can bee seen in many of the portraits.  Some fabric still exists from this time. 

Fibres were natural in origin as this predated synthetic technology.  Silk from the East and Italy's own silk industry, cotton from Egypt, wool and linen from local suppliers and imported.  Dyes likewise were from local supplies as well as more expensive and exotic locations.  Threads of gold and silver were woven into Cloth of gold to produce a stunning, glittering result that only the wealthy could afford.  Various finishes were applied to these fibres.   Velvet and voided velvet were used on some of the most luscious gowns, as was satin and brocades.    

These textiles were all hand woven and finished.  16th century Venice was pre industrial revolution, and thus none of the advanced machinery we know today was invented at that time.  This made production time much longer adding to the cost of textiles.  The more ornate the finish the more expensive the textile.


 Solid cut stamped velvet Italy, end 16th beginning 17th century.  Collection from the Lisio Arte della Seta Foundation, Florence.

Silk cisele velvet. Italy, circa 1580-1600.  Musee Historique des Tissus, Lyon
First quarter of the XV century to the middle of the XVI century Italian Pile on pile velvet brocaded in gold or silver thread or bouclé with a background in tabby satin of gold taffeta. Textile Fragment, Turkey, late 16th Century, Silk and silk wrapped in foil, compound weave from the Nasli M. Heeramaneck Collection. m73 5 66b   at LACMA
Silk cut pile on pile velvet with brocading and boucle wefts. Venice, early 16th century. Civici Musei Veniziani d'Arte e di Storia.  Cini Collection, Venice Brocaded silk Italy 1600 - 1620 dress fabric Venice Victoria and Albert Museum London


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All intellectual content, composition, layout, designs and photographs, unless otherwise noted are copyright 2007 to Deborah Lane ©, or, copyright 2003 to Deborah Murray © also known as Mistress Oonagh O'Neill ©. All Original renaissance art works and artefacts are not copyright to Deborah Murray, and are shown for educational use only .  If you see something you'd really like to use, please contact me!