Observations of Venice (Men's dress)

It is said there are of all the Gentlemen of Venice, which are there called Clarissimoes, no lesse then three thousand, all which when they goe abroad out of their houses, both they that beare office, and they that are private, doe weare gownes : wherein they imitate Romanes rerum Dominos, gentemque togatam.

Most of their gownes are made of blacke cloth, and over their left shoulder they have a flappe made of the same cloth, and edged with blacke Taffata : Also most of their gownes are faced before with blacke Taffata : There are others also that weare other gownes according to their distinct offices and degrees ; as they that are of the Councell of tenne (which are as it were the maine body of the whole estate) doe most commonly weare blacke chamlet gownes, with marvielous long sleeves, that reach almost downe to the ground. Againe they that weare red chamlet gownes with long sleeves, are those that are called Savi, whereof some have authority onely by land, as being the principall Overseers of the Podestaes and Praetors in their land cities, and some by Sea.

There are others also that weare blew cloth gownes with blew flapps over their shoulders, edged with Taffata. These are the Secretaries of the Councell of tenne. Upon every great festivall day the Senators, and greatest Gentlemen that accompany the Duke to Church, or to any other place, doe weare crimson damaske gownes, with flappes of crimson velvet cast over their left shoulders. Likewise the Venetian Knights weare blacke damaske gownes with long sleeves : but hereby they are distinguished from the other Gentlemen. For they weare red apparell under their gownes, red silke stockings, and red pantafles.

All these gowned men doe weare marveilous little blacke flat caps of felt, without any brimmes at all, and- very diminutive falling bandes, no ruffes at all, which are so shallow, that I have seene many of them not above a little inch deepe. The colour that they most affect and use for their other apparel, I mean doublet, hose, and jerkin, is blacke : a colour of gravity and decency. Besides the forme and fashion of their attire is both very auncient, even the same that hath beene used these thousand yeares amongst them, and also uniforme. For all of them use but one and the same forme of habite, even the slender doublet made close to the body, without much quilting or bombase, and long hose plaine, without those new fangled curiosities, and ridiculous superfluities of panes, plaites, and other light toyes used with us English men. Yet they make it of costly stuffe, well beseeming Gentlemen and eminent persons of their place, as of the best Taffates, and Sattins that Christendome doth yeeld, which are fairely garnished also with lace of the best sort. In both these things they much differ from us English men. For whereas they have but one colour, we use many more then are in the Rain-bow, all the most light, garish, and unseemely colours that are in the world.

Also for fashion we are much inferiour to them. For we weare more phantasticall fashions then any Nation under the Sunne doth, the French onely excepted ; which hath given occasion both to the Venetian and other Italians to brand the English-man with a notable marke of levity, by painting him starke naked with a paire of shears in his hand, making his fashion of attire according to the vaine invention of his braine-sicke head, not to comelinesse and decorum.

But to returne to these gowned Gentlemen : I observed an extraordinary custome amongst them, that when two acquaintances meete and talke together at the walking times of the day, whereof I have before spoken, eyther in the Dukes Palace, or S. Markes place, they give a mutuall kisse when they depart from each other, by kissing Salutations. one anothers cheeke : a custome that I never saw before, nor heard of, nor read of in any history. Likewise when they meete onely and not talke, they give a low congie to each other by very civill and courteous gestures, as by bending of their bodies, and clapping their right hand upon their breastes, without uncovering of their heads, which sometimes they use, but very seldome.

Citation Type  Prose
Citation Year 1602