What are the specific historical influences or elements from the Byzantine era shown in the photo from the Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2013 ready-to-wear collection?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Byzantine era witnessed the blend of the Eastern and the Western world as Constantine created in 324 the second capital of the Roman Empire in the territory that we know today as Istanbul, in the country of Turkey. The name of this capital city was Constantinople. The result of this geographical change granted the combination of Eastern and Western trends that created the unique style replicated in the wardrobe shown above. The influence of Eastern better yet, oriental trends, were very significant as it is evident in the art and archaeological findings depicting pictures of everyday life. 

The oriental trends are particularly prolific in the use of silk in everyday fashion. As Constantinople became the second capital of the Roman Empire, the location favored the population with a myriad of diverse new items that include jewelry, perfumes, incense, and many fine goods. Constantinople was the most opulent of cities, and this is clear in the fashion pieces shown in the picture. Not only does it reflect the use of silk, but also the penchant for flamboyance in the use of a gold headgear, jewels encrusted or decorating the garment itself, and in the use of vibrant colors acquired from the available dyes that produced the deep purples, blues, and reds.

Since clothing was synonymous to wealth, those in the upper classes could boast a very elaborate embroidered piece such as the one shown above. Women were second class citizens but those of upper classes found a fashionable role model in Theodora, the empress who possessed a marked sense of fashion which is evident in the art of the era. Her use of tassels and fringes combined with elaborate and big headgear covering her head, were even more impressive after considering the amount of unparalleled influence she, as a woman, had over her husband Justinian and his reign (ad 527-565).

The model in the picture somewhat recreates the powerful pose of Theodora in the marked opulence of her dress, and the use of the oriental touches in decoration that blended the Roman empire from East to West. Hence, the key element in fashion in the Byzantine is the use of the classical detail of soft curve. Yet, there is a tremendous Eastern (oriental) influence in the use of color and luxurious, salient shapes found in decorative jewels and classical motifs such as the tapestry-like theme of the model's blouse. The use of silk, gold tone and deep reds are also representative of the Eastern influence in the Roman empire. Although both classical Roman and Byzantine fashions were elaborate in terms of material and style, the Byzantine is by far the most stereotypical of what true, flashy fashion would really look like.

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