05. To the East and to the West

oriental picture with hatOn the 11th of May, 330 D.C., Constantine inaugurated the new capital city of the Eastern Roman Empire “Constantinople”, named after himself. The city rose on the Bosphorus banks between Europe and Asia, where Byzantium once stood.

The new Rome quickly became a metropolis of refined elegance that welcomed merchants and travellers from all countries.

The craftsmen of Constantinople produced luxury objects and Syrian silk became the pride of Byzantine traders. Purple is reserved for the Emperor who offered it to foreign princes. Private individuals were also able to purchase and wear clothing made from the precious material whose bright colours were also chosen for hooded capes that became common thanks to their practicality.

The Byzantine civilization lived in splendour. Instead, the West went through a period of serious crisis and it wasn’t until the year 1000 that clothing returned to become a sign of distinction.

The merchants’ initiative, and the settlements of the Normans in the south of Italy, reopened the path to refined clothing often decorated with soft fur. Long hooded capes, along with large headed wool felt hats, became very common.

In the 13th and 14th Century, fashion was still enjoying itself with caps; conical, squared and curled. Even pointy felt hats were popular and this feature is still present today in University hats. They were decorated with ribbons and precious stones and worn on “page boy” haircuts, along with brocade and damask clothing from the Orient. The middle class and the rest of the population had to be content with berets and hoods.

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