Chapter

Democratizing Dress

James H. Johnson

in Venice Incognito

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267718
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948624 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520267718.003.0015
Democratizing Dress

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For the officials who monitored apparel in Venice, the changes in dress that ushered in the mask were part of a movement that constituted the greatest threat to the public identity of nobles. This transformation was driven by the nobles themselves, who, over the last third of the seventeenth century, exchanged the venerable toga for the tabarò. These changes were met by objections from the Commissioners of Display spurred by certain fears and concerns. The integration of masks to the apparel of the Venetians marked the start of a series of internal political and social crises that would continue for more than a century from which the patricians would not recover. This chapter discusses the emergence of masks as part of the apparel and costumes of the Venetians, particularly of the nobles. While the nobles saw the masks as means of protecting rank through manufactured distance, in saving face, in producing a common etiquette necessary for transactions, the donning of masks was without peril. The donning of masks paved the way for the suspension of social distinctions as non-nobles also wore masks. While differences continued to separate the elites from the commoners, such as differences in fortune, heritage, property, prestige, and acess to power, the donning of masks leveled the playing field for nobles and the non-nobles. Masks smoothed the relations among unequals and eventually paved for equality.

Keywords: Venice; changes in dress; identity of nobles; tabarò; Commissioners of Display; internal political crises; social crises; mask; equality

Chapter.  5303 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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