There’s clearly something in the water when an Instagram posted in 2019 could easily pass as a portrait of Anne Boleyn. Or when a magazine editorial looks like a scene from The Crucible. Or when your Soho barista has paired her oyster silk blouse with pearl drop earrings and a padded velvet headband. Indeed, renaissancecore–the only logical name for this phenomenon–has thoroughly descended upon the zeitgeist.
Certain brands, such as Simone Rocha, Brock, Markarian, and most recently Khaite, have been promoting this aesthetic for multiple seasons now, their collections an ode to all things brocade, velvet, cinched, and pearl-encrusted. But it was arguably Prada’s Spring/Summer 2019 show, wherein headbands so regal and puffy they could conceivably cushion a sore neck on an airplane abounded, that spread it on social media like wildfire. A number of contributing variables helped fan the flames: The fashion industry’s answer to the waning prairie dress trend, i.e. cotton frocks reminiscent of 16th-century peasant attire from brand like Dôen and Reformation (not to mention a consumer base that has been thoroughly acclimated to costume-adjacent daywear). The increasing popularity of positively Shakespearean blouses with billowing sleeves, rendered in casual form by Instagram-savvy brands like MaisonCléo, but also notably appearing in more fanciful iterations on Christopher Kane and Roksanda’s Fall/Winter 2019 runways. And finally, a burgeoning interest in corsetry-inspired belts, tops, and even skirts, thanks to cutting-edge brands like Orseund Iris and Kim Shui.
This simultaneous deluge is cause to consider our present culture’s collective obsession with using clothes to carry us back into the past. Renaissancecore is undoubtedly the most extreme example that we’ve witnessed thus far—transporting us centuries as opposed to decades. But unlike 90s-era chokers and slip dresses or 70s-esque flares, renaissancecore trends are not the stuff of nostalgia, memorialized in throwback photos of ourselves and our parents or grandparents. Instead, they are fragments pulled from history itself, from text books and fairytales and artistic masterpieces, from an era so removed from our own it feels strangely… fresh, at least from a modern style standpoint.
I recently attended an informal work dinner that looked like a Rembrandt painting come to life. Essentially every other seat was occupied by someone sporting their interpretation of renaissancecore, from waist-y tops with hook and eye closures done up the front to dark floral skirts and earrings that looked like relics from an Elizabethan exhibit at the Natural History Museum. Though this aesthetic movement is hardly the first time Renaissance fashion has influenced more contemporary sensibilities, I would posit that it represents the most literal manifestation yet.
A style trend or movement rarely takes off in the digital era unless it can be compressed into a neatly packaged form. Unless it can be recognized and named, by headlines and on Instagram. Such is the power of renaissancecore’s growing appeal. With its innately exaggerated air, its sky-high headbands and impossible-to-ignore sleeves, Renaissance-era fashion was seemingly made for social media. The very definition of “before its time.”
Photographer: Sabrina Santiago
Stylist: Harling Ross
Market: Elizabeth Tamkin
Model: Isabella Enrico
Makeup: Olivia Barad
Set Design: Andrea Parra
Set Design Assistants: Janai Rodriguez and Shelly Alvarez
Stylist Assistant: Share C Koech