Do you know this feeling? You stand in front of your wardrobe in the morning and ask yourself “what am I going to wear?” It happens to me quite a lot even though I am spoiled for choice. Perhaps it would have been easier for me to live during the Renaissance when strict laws regulated what clothes and jewellery one could wear that were appropriate for a person’s rank. And it was during this period that one man commissioned 135 watercolour paintings over a period of 40 years showing his dressed self.
This man was Matthäus Schwarz and the album he eventually compiled became the first known fashion book – the Klaidungsbüchlein (Book of Clothes).
Matthäus Schwarz (1497-1574) was a 16th century accountant from Augsburg, Germany and worked as chief accountant for the mighty Fugger family. He was interested in fashion and spent a large part of his income on clothes. This was in a period of time when such interest and sumptuous dressing was for aristocracy and high ranks of society only and law regulated what was appropriate for one to wear. Careful not to break the law he would find his ways around it, for example wearing fancy sleeves if a fancy hose was forbidden.
From 1520 until 1560 he documented his appearance and outfits commissioning paintings by first Narziß Renner and later on by Christoph Amberger’s studio. Alongside these paintings he reveals fascinating details about the occasion, his age and details about his clothing.
Here are couple of pages from his album.
For a full PDF of the book click here.
I’m reading a fascinating book about clothes in the Renaissance at the moment – “Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe” by Ulinka Rublack – so if this is something that interests you I can highly recommend it.