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Marriage, Italian Renaissance Style: Say Aye to the Dress!

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It’s June again (the onset of wedding season), so I’m reviving Sarah's wedding-themed blog series “Til Death Do Us Art,” with a how-to guide on how to get married in the Italian Renaissance! If you're unfamiliar with the time period check out Amanda's post covering everything you'll need to know.

Renaissance fairs remain a popular source of amusement for Game of Thrones enthusiasts, those who seek an excuse to wear a corset in modern times, and benignly sexist gamer types who want to munch on a whole turkey leg while calling people wench under a veneer of appropriate social context. Analogous with courtly romance and luxurious aesthetics, the Renaissance is also a common theme for fantasy weddings. Like all themed weddings, your Italian Renaissance affair runs a high risk of turning tacky, so here are some tasteful, historically accurate tips on how to get married like a Medici, and dress for the part.

Party like it’s 1499! The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Veronese, in the Louvre Museum.

When it comes to the dress, consider foregoing generic white for a more unique, classic look. Before the Nineteenth Century, women got married in their most expensive garments. Bright-colored dyes, rich embroidery, and heavy brocades were indications of wealth, and more was more when it came to wedding attire.

Left to right: details of the Birth of Mary, The Birth of St. John The Baptist, and The Visitation, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, at the Tornabuoni Chapel; detail of Isabella by John Everett Millais, at the Walker Art Gallery.

Furthermore, avoid store-bought! Cheaply made, polyester one-size costumes will quickly turn your Florentine fantasy into a Disney Princess party gone wrong. Unless you want your bridal party to look like a reunion of ex-Cinderella impersonators, think about going with something custom made. Historical films can be a good source of inspiration, and tend to be of higher caliber than your standard theme-party fare.

Left to right: Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love (1998); Holliday Grainger in The Borgias (2011-13); Olivia Hussey in Romeo and Juliet (1968); Elizabeth Taylor in The Taming of the Shrew (1967).

Not everyone can afford to have something custom made on a Hollywood budget, so check out our budget options. For the thrifty, modern bride with a dash of boho-chic, here’s a contemporary look after Botticelli.


Azores Dress by Geisha Designs (top and bottom left), retail price $498.00 on Anthropologie.com (spring/summer 2015). Details of Pallas and the Centaur (top right), and Primavera (bottom right) by Sandro Botticelli, in the Uffizi Gallery.

For the Renaissance bride with a punk-rock edge, take a page out of Julie Taymor’s book with a bold, art-inspired textile in an avant-garde look. Consider going a little Harajuku for affordable, ready-to-wear fashions with art-historical motifs.

Felicity Jones in Julie Taymor’s The Tempest (2011) (left). Mere Vierge JSK dress by Juliette et Justine of Harajuku (right). Estimated retail price, starting from $250.00.

Leggings inspired by Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, at the Prado National Museum, available to purchase at the Sartle Store!

If the Northern Renaissance is more your cup of tea, and you’re going for a low-maintenance, casual look, consider popping over to the Sartle Store. Pair these leggings with a plain white party dress, or a simple mini in a bold color for a fun, statement look at your city hall service or trendy restaurant reception.

Portrait of a Young Woman by Sandro Botticelli, at the Gemaldegalerie.

Hair can be an issue, so if you’re looking for a more authentic look, skip the free-flowing hippie locks and the over-styled updo for a mix of both. As someone who allegedly had a scandalous affair, and died in her early ‘20s as a young wife, Simonetta Vespucci may seem a bad omen for wedding inspiration, but fabulous hair cannot be kept entirely down (pun intended). Elaborate braids, profuse curls, and bejeweled accents, with a tasteful flourish of loose tresses is the perfect blend of romance and nobility.

You can’t just go down the aisle decked out like Lucrezia Borgia at your local, ‘70s-modern country club. For a cohesive guide to a historically flavored event with all the trimmings, tune in later this summer for advice on choosing a venue, menu, and gift, to tie the knot Decameron style!

By: Griff Stecyk

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Griff Stecyk

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