For fashion majors and art junkies alike the Galleria del Costume in the Palazzo Pitti should be your next adventure when checking out the other side of the Arno. After being in Italy for two months I have lived by the motto of learning about this new environment through food and culture in order to fully immerse myself in Florence.
Although the term “culture” is broad the clothes people wear on their backs can also allow you to understand how the Florentine people operate on a daily basis. The garb people wear goes hand in hand with their social class, status and overall mobility.
When visiting the museum, keep in mind that you do have to pay; unless you decide to go on the first Sunday of every month then it is free. After snagging your ticket and walking up the never-ending flights of stairs, you can finally enter into the beyond incredible Galleria del Costume. I decided to go here because my friends and I were interested in the influences the renaissance movement had on daily fashion; especially in the Medici family.
Each room is decorated to complement the pieces on display. It is much appreciated that the art curators took the time to set the scene in which the pieces were created when decorating the rooms themselves—with velvet walls, gold accents and truly sticking to the overall grandeur of the Baroque architectural style. In doing so my experience itself was intensified. No two rooms were alike; with each step taken, it was like walking into a different era. With pieces dating back to the 16th century that feeling was recreated when viewing the garb of the time. The personal touches that I reall enjoyed were the stories and blurbs that went along with each room. Rather than explaining just who designed the pieces; the years in which each dress was worn were described in detail. Explaining the year itself, some important events that took place and the functionality of the women that wore each piece, helped contextualize the scene in which they were worn.
Rather than focus on the techniques used, the fabric itself or the designers themselves it is important to get a hold on the historical relevance of the Galleria del Costume. A handful of dresses on display have been restored or reconstructed due to age. Many of the women of the Medici family have their dresses on display. Eleonora di Toledo, the Duchess of Florence for over two decades in the 16th century; has two of her regal gowns showcased.
Eleonora was one of the most powerful Medici women; she was a businesswoman. She owned tracts of Tuscan land in which she combined her interest in agriculture with her ability to make a profit and increase the wealth of the Medici empire.
At the age of 40, Eleonora died in December of 1562. Her burial dress has been reconstructed and put on display at the Palazzo Pitti. The burial dress speaks volumes about who Eleonora was as an individual. Although Eleonora was an extravagant dresser and is typically remembered for her luxurious sense of fashion, it is clear that her love for travel and moving from one palazzo to another was important to her. The burial dress is simple compared to the other dresses on display and the garb worn in the numerous portraits of her.
It makes sense that her funeral dress was actually a purchase by Eleonora herself in 1549. Eleonora’s power resonated through her death. In some ways, you could consider Eleonora a 16th century feminist, or to put it frankly, a boss.
All students studying abroad in Florence should take the time to see the Galleria del Costume. It’s one of the lesser known places to visit because it is slightly off the main touristy beaten path. It is full of history and powerful tales that speak volumes. The Galleria del Costume is more than just a “clothing” or “fashion” museum, it is art history that allows us to envision the mobility of the women from past centuries.
Elena Matarazzo – I am a lover of food, museum seeker, and politics junkie. As a journalism major, I like to center most of my pieces around entertainment and lifestyle. When I am not running you can find me making a to-do list made up of all things food and roaming around Italy. To sum it all up, think of me as the girl who is always planning her next meal.