Revealing and Concealing
: Official Made Dress in Early Moden Venice, 1520-1610

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis investigates the official attire worn by the Doge and other patricians, exploring its political, social, and economic significance. Drawing on unpublished archival records that include house and shop inventories as well as account books, this thesis takes a multi-disciplinary approach, comparing the evidence in these sources with contemporary chronicles, images and surviving garments to explain the longevity of the robes that helped to define collective Venentian republican identity.
Since Venice in this period boasted an abundance of textile and haberdashery botteghe, I ask why Venetian senators were determined (or were compelled) to wear the same long traditional dress with little consideration to innovation and style. The cloaking of individual identity, whether through the male official attire or through masking for a period of time followed the government’s regulations on dress, but were also self-imposed. When so many other sumptuary laws were flouted, why were these so successful?
This is a particularly interesting question because in an age when a substantial portion of a family’s income was spent on clothing, the cost of official Senatorial attire significantly outweighed that of most other garments. The level of personal expense that these patricians had to incur in order to maintain the required public image was extraordinary, especially in relation to the modest salaries provided by their posts. Why did patrician office holders go to such lengths? Was it merely because it was required of their office, or was it because of the prestige conferred in wearing these official robes?
This thesis examines the consumption of these luxury items of clothing and emphasises the robes alla ducal as a particular kind of official attire which communicated the power, prestige and wealth of both the post and the Republic, albeit at the patricians’ private expense.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorEvelyn Welch (Supervisor) & Laura Gowing (Supervisor)

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