Botticelli Girl

Sandro Botticelli Birth of Venus Detail

Sandro Botticelli Birth of Venus Painting
"The Birth of Venus" by Sandro Botticelli, 1484-86, via Wikipedia (face of Venus detail above)
Graceful, ethereal, romantic, mysterious. The women of Sandro Botticelli’s paintings from the Italian Renaissance continue to awe and inspire art lovers and fashion designers. Centuries since women like Venus were depicted on the 15th century canvases, the paintings’ power to enthrall remains.

Sandro Botticelli Primavera Painting
"Primavera" by Sandro Botticelli, Late 1470s or early 1480s, via Wikipedia
Venus, The Three Graces and Cupid were painted among other mythological characters against the backdrop of a lush garden and orchard back in the 1470s or 1480s by Botticelli in “Primavera.” Art historians continue to debate the painting’s meaning, but many believe it to connect to ideas of love, fertility and the arrival of spring.
Late Renaissance portrait
"Portrait of Lucrezia de'Medici" by Agnolo Bronzino, 1560, via WikiArt
The famous Renaissance painting was likely commissioned by the Medici family. For several generations, the Medicis held seats of power through business and politics in Italy. In addition to generating large sums of money for their family, they also heavily invested in the arts and humanities. By doing things like supporting artists that included Botticelli, the family helped make Florence the heart of the Italian Renaissance.
Alice + Olivia Fall 2017 Primavera Skirts
The Alice + Olivia Fall 2017 collection clearly drew inspiration from the “Primavera” painting with skirts depicting scenes from the painting. Elements throughout the collection mirrored the spirit not only the "Primavera" painting, but Renaissance fashion as a whole.
Renaissance portrait
"Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci" by Sandro Botticelli, 1476, via Wikipedia
Alice + Olivia Fall 2017 Renaissance inspired style
Renaissance dresses were typically fitted at the top with either a high neckline or V-neck. The waist was accentuated as the smallest part of the body and may have been highlighted by a belt. Past the waistline, the dresses were often pleated or gathered before falling to the floor in a full and voluminous cascade of fabric.
Sandro Botticelli Primavera detail
Detail from "Primavera" via Wikipedia
Renaissance fashion
During the Renaissance, wealthy women were often inclined to select richly colored fabrics in jewel tones. Fabric choices included velvets and brocades, with accents of jewels and ribbons. The key to every fashion choice of the time was extravagance and luxury. As FIT points out, fashion for women of that time was intertwined with “beauty and social expectations of women” with choices often designed to underscore wealth, power, position and marriage status.
Brocade dresses

Fall fashion with embroidered skirt
The Alice + Olivia designs used key parts of the Renaissance style repertoire with the richly hued fabrics that were also embroidered and decadent.
Alice + Olivia Fall 2017 Renaissance inspired style
Several of the designs featured long sleeves, including romantic bell shapes. This too drew inspiration from the Renaissance since women’s dresses with long sleeves were worn to show wealth. 
Renaissance portrait
"Portrait of a Young Woman (Simonetta Vespucci as Nymph)" by Sandro Botticelli, 1480-85, via Wikipedia
A woman with long sleeves was prosperous and did not need to work like the lower class, and her sleeves made work an impossibility since they were not practical for the demands of labor.
Sandro Botticelli Primavera detail of Three Graces
Detail of the Three Graces from "Primavera"
Alice + Olivia Fall 2017 Renaissance inspired style
Nowadays, women can of course wear long sleeves no matter their class. But just as women of the 14th and 15th centuries selected their attire to communicate messages, fashion continues to hold the power to tell parts of our stories each day.
Sources and Further Reading: 
1. "Beauty Adorns Virtue: Italian Renaissance Fashion" on the FIT Fashion History Timeline
2. "History of Italian Fashion" on Wikipedia
3. Fashion images via