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Renaissance Dress

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How would you rate The Borgias costumes as far as accuracy? I love these costumes, but they're very different from what other movies depicting this time give us. Thanks :)

historical-movie-costumes: I love them as well but they are not accurate at all. Like most costume dramas they made the costumes in order to appeal to modern audiences and portray a message. One huge inaccuracy that stands out are the colors. Lucrezia wears a lot of pastel colors before she is married in season 1 to represent her innocence with colors like baby pink (Later on she wears dark colors like blood red and dark blue to show how she has matured, although she wears a few pastel colors in later seasons but mostly to show moments when she is particularly happy). In this time period however, only dark dyes where used by the rich because they where more expensive and displayed your wealth. So she would never have worn dresses in those pastel colors. @historical-movie-costumes The Borgias’ costumes, while gorgeous and I would cut a bitch over most of that fabric, are also a weird mix of some details from the 1490s, and a lot of inspiration from the 1520s-30s. They compress Lucrezia’s historical timeline quite a bit, but for dating purposes–Alexander became pope in 1492, she married Giovanni Sforza in 1493, it was annulled in 1497, she married Alfonso d’Aragon in 1498, and he was murdered in 1500 (the show ends here–1502 she married Alfonso d’Este and in 1519 she died of childbirth complications). So everything the show covers takes place between 1490-1500. I’m sticking mostly with her clothing, since the other women’s tends to be stylistically similar, and I’m just not going there with the guy’s buckled-up doublets and leather pants (what IS it with costume shows and leather pants?). Late 1480s-90s clothing: Straight neckline with minimal to no cleavage, sleeves mostly snug along the arm with underdress puffing through the separate pieces, especially at the elbow. Brocades and patterned fabrics do show up, but not extensively. Believed to be Lucrezia herself modeling for The Disputation of St. Catherine of Alexandria (patron saint of librarians), Pinturicchio, 1498. That’s a crown and then a halo around her head, the aging process has made it look a little funky. (Lorenzo Costa, 1488: The Daughters of Giovanni II Bentivoglio and Ginevra Sforza, Cappella Bentivoglio, San Giacomo, Ferrara.) (Vittore Carpaccio, 1495: Meeting of the Betrothed Couple (detail) Venice, Galleria dell'Accademia.) 1493: Portrait of Bianca Maria Sforza,by Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis. Brocade AF, but also probably her best gown at the time, not an everyday or even church dress. Unknown Florentine Painter - ‘Portrait of a Lady,’ c. 1500. The lacing on the lower sleeves is awesome, not entirely sure what’s going on with the closures across the bodice. The Borgias Costumes: A Vanozza costume sneaking in, because this is actually one of the more accurate dresses, especially the sleeves. Neckline is low, but its construction–the two side pieces coming together over a central one–is a step in the right direction. Not a big one, but it’s a step. Also not a bad start here. The majority, however, have slashed or paned upper sleeves, a much lower neckline showing the undergown (or at least looking like it shows the undergown; most costume shows live in fear of the dreaded undergown, so these may be plackets added onto the gown to look like one instead). The strong V shapes typically made by the construction of the 1490s gowns is replaced by a straight bodice, frequently made of one piece, with back or side-lacing rather than front. The skirts are visibly gathered into the bodice, rather than being cut from one long piece (of all costume choices, I do understand this one as fabric conservation at the cutting stage, but there are ways to hide it). Most of her skirts are also made of panels of different complementing fabrics, so you have these vertical lines of pattern running up the skirt–again, understandable in a “we could only find so many saris we liked” and a way of getting the most out of limited yardage of specific fabrics, but not accurate. As much as the overskirts splitting to show an underskirt underneath is a favorite look of mine in both historical and modern clothing, and she is getting great dramatic skirt wingage here, nooooope. Second wedding dress, so historically taking place in 1498. Headroll, voluminous upper sleeves, bodice of the dress is in fact an underbust, with only the undergown covering the actual bust. Pretty good shoes, though. About those headrolls, fluffy sleeves, waist seams, and low necklines… Raphael’s Lady with a Unicorn, 1505, has some similarities in the bodice and skirt, but not sleeves. Same with his Portrait of a Young Woman -‘La Muta’, c. 1507-1508. Portrait of a Lady by Domenico Puligo c.1525. Paris Bordone, The Venetian Lovers, 1525-30, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan. Her sleeves are gathered to maximize fabric usage and puffage, but the bodice is very like Lucrezia’s second wedding dress. Sebastiano Florigerio, St. George and the Dragon, Chiesa di San Giorgio, Udine, 1529. Peter de Kempeneer (previously attr. to Girolamo da Carpi) c1530s. Except that her partlet comes all the way up to her neck, as you can just barely tell by the lines of gold woven into it, and the skirt is of one fabric, this is basically a Lucrezia dress. (And yes, I accept that on-screen clothing is almost invariably going to include more boobage than is historically accurate. This is a fact of costume movies. I will still comment on it.) Bernardino Licinio, Portrait of a Lady, 1532. Yes, I know, they’re all Portraits of a Lady, what are you going to do. Also the embellishment on this bodice is pretty wild. Bassano, Jesus and the Woman Taken in Adultery, 1536. The upper sleeves aren’t paned/slashed, but otherwise, very close in construction. Titian, Portrait of a Girl in a Blue Dress (thank you, Captain Obvious), 1536. Also great example of fancy hair (I admit it, I LOVE The Borgias hair despite its own issues which I’m not getting into here). None of these sleeves have been slashed or paned the way quite a few Borgias garments are, possibly because that Snow White shit came even later, and I’m reaching here. Lucas D’Heere, Girl and Women of Saxony, 1575. Ludger Tom Ring the Younger, Portrait of a Young Patrician Lady, c. 1565 Hans Eworth, Portrait of Lady Mary Grey, 1571. Giovanni Battista Moroni, Luisa Vertova Agosti, ca. 1570 -1575, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes. Taken to terrifying extremes by Elizabeth Littleton, Lady Willoughby, 1573. 1570s, Eleonora of Toledo, 1570s Florence. And to be completely honest, the construction method of long strips of fabric poofing up is later still… Copy of Peter Paul Rubens Portrait of Anne of Austria, c. 1620-1625. This is the Queen of France in The Three Musketeers, Louis XIV’s mom. Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Marie-Louise de Tassis, c. 1630. Conclusion The Borgias costumes are pretty. Really, really pretty, and there’s a reason Gabriella Pescucci (also of Penny Dreadful, Dangerous Beauty, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Age of Innocence and The Brother’s Grimm, among others, and doesn’t it all make sense now) was up for an Emmy for them. But they’re not wholly accurate to any one time, let alone the period in question. For a wide audience, though (and this is Showtime we’re talking about here), I get where they’re going–the idea isn’t to recreate 1490s Rome, it’s to evoke Renaissance Italy as a sumptuous, decadent time. The 1490s clothing, especially to a modern eye, is just edging out of medieval silhouettes and styles, it’s not the image a wide audience has of “the Renaissance,” something carried over in the sets as well. Even though it’s set decades earlier, it’s the heir to The Tudors (also a Showtime production), coming out in 2011 with The Tudors wrapping up in 2010. So that’s the audience and expectations the show is dealing with, and it does a hell of a lot better than The Tudors did. The authenticity geek in me cries, especially because the only way to correct widespread incorrect beliefs and impressions, is to, you know, stop perpetrating them in the first place, but that’s not the job the producers chose for the show. The job they chose–being pretty, decadent Renaissance Italy–it does just fine. If you’re interested in more accurate costuming and storyline, Borgia, first produced by a mixed-nationality European company in 2011 and picked up by Netflix for its final season, is worth a watch, and it continues to Cesare’s death in 1507. It’s far from inaccuracy free, either in costume or plot (the ruff on Lucrezia here is just bizarre), and is less consistent about its inaccuracies, since three different women will be running around in gowns influenced by three different periods, and has a horror of men’s shirt’s as well as women’s undergowns, but it is closer for the most part. It’s also a harsher, grittier show, so heads up there.

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