By the 16th century, the ideology of the Renaissance had spread throughout Europe making a deep and lasting impact on literature, philosophy, art, music, politics, science, and
religion. The influence of the Renaissance also launched the concept of high fashion as costume began to reflect the love of art, discovery, and invention that defined it Exploration, which brought in new goods such as silks, cottons, furs, dyestuffs, jewels, and precious metals from North America, Africa, and Asia, created new industries for luxury items. Weavers created beautiful silk, brocade, and velvet fabrics, delicate needle laces were produced for the first time; and jewelers developed new techniques for cutting gemstones. As trade and industry grew, so did the economy – at least as far as the nobility and middle-class bourgeoisie were concerned.
During the Renaissance, high fashion arose as a new way to display wealth and position. The clean and simple lines of medieval clothing gave way to more elaborately-shaped and adorned clothing that reflected the artistic ideals of the Renaissance. Men’s clothing was designed to accentuate broad shoulders and other masculine attributes, whereas women’s clothing adopted waistlines and full skirts to create a narrow-waisted silhouette. Women also began to pluck the hair from their foreheads and eyebrows to get the appearance of a high forehead – a symbol of the intelligence that was lauded during the Renaissance. The influx of new materials and wealth created a demand for fashionable clothing that raised the occupation of the tailor to a much more prestigious position in society. Fashion had become an important part of social etiquette for the bourgeoisie as well as the nobility.
Although monarchs from many different European countries influenced Renaissance fashion, Henry VIII of England was probably the most influential when it came to 16th century European fashions. The opulent styles that characterized the Renaissance fed Henry VIII’s vanity. Jewels, pearls, gold, lace, and techniques such as slashing and puffing were used
unscrupulously to adorn and accentuate his fine, youthful figure. No other period was more given to precious adornments, and clothing was designed to display as much as possible. Henry VIII and his wives were never lacking in an abundance of fur and jewels to showcase his wealth; he reportedly spent 16,000 ducats on clothing annually, which amounts to about $3,140,000 today.