The Look of an Inspiration: The Medieval Tunic Dress
Before we delve into the wonders of Italian literature, let’s focus on the subject at hand. The medieval tunic dress which (probably due to our Italian heritage) makes us think of an early 14th century noblewoman called Laura even though the manufacturer chose to name this specific model “Helena”
As is fitting for a fine dress, we see a construction using 100% cotton canvas. It is noticeably dyed in two bright colours, split vertically down the middle. These are either bordeaux (a fancy word for dark red, named after the wine) and dark green, or bordeaux and light blue.
As the name suggests, the medieval tunic dress has the classical tunic design of many other medieval dresses. The style is very elegant, with long, straight sleeves and a fairly wide round neck. The shape of the dress loosely follows the body, allowing for a suggestion of a waist.
The dress is fastened with attractive buttons down the front, which are coloured to contrast the half of the material they’re set into. The sleeves, too, feature these buttons. If nothing else, this is a design feature which further sets this dress apart from the rest.
It can work well alone or with some minor accessories to personalise it, sure. But it also shines when used along with a surcoat, or overalls of some kind. Dresses in medieval times were often layered, with at least two dresses on top of the shift dress worn as underwear. So, you could use this dress to build an outfit which can be as simple or elaborate as you like.
While the simple grace of this dress makes it versatile, the style is still very much that of a woman of at least half-decent means. So, a peasant probably wouldn’t wear this dress, but a merchant woman might well have this as part of her finery. A noblewoman would also happily wear this dress, especially when paired with some accessories to really show off their rank.
Inspiration and Courtly Love: The Relationship Between the Muse and the Poet
Earlier in this article, we mentioned that this dress was inspired by a 14th century muse. The phenomenon of muses in the Renaissance period was actually incredibly common among those of more of an artistic calling. Specifically, we see them pop up a lot when it comes to poetry.
So, before we look specifically at Laura, let’s look at the literary scene in Italy at the dawn of the Renaissance and get an idea of just how important these muses were.
The Three Crowns of Italian Literature
There were three men who took the lead when it came to Italian poetry and prose. These were Dante Alighieri (born around 1265, died 1321), Francesco Petrarch, (born 1304, died 1374), and Giovanni Boccaccio (born 1313, died 1375).
Dante, the oldest of the three, is often described as the ‘father’ of the Italian language, as his work was so revolutionary. He laid the groundwork for both Petrarch and Boccaccio, who both went on to transform the literature scene even further. Petrarch (or Petrarca) was also considered one of the founders of Renaissance humanism, which some going so far as to credit him with kicking the Italian Renaissance into gear.
So, where do muses come into this? Well, while these men were undoubtedly brilliant and massively influential, they also had another thing in common. Many of their famous works were inspired by their unrequited courtly love of a woman.
When we talk about ‘courtly love’, we refer to something very specific. Essentially, this is the love of a man (usually a knight in the stories, but a poet will do) for a married woman (preferably noble but it’s not set-in stone). Sometimes this love is requited but not necessarily.
However, because of the woman’s married state, this love is not pursued. Instead, the man is content to love her from afar. Often, he will marry someone else as well, but he always holds a torch for his love.
All three of these men experienced courtly love for a married woman. While they didn’t pursue these women, and usually barely knew them, they held them in high regard and found inspiration in them.
Laura de Noves: The Muse of Petrarch
Petrarch wrote many sonnets about a woman known as Laura. While we can’t know for certain, it’s widely believed that this woman was a noblewoman called Laura de Noves. She was married to a count, Hugues de Sade.
There is very little historical information about Laura de Noves, but Petrarch wrote a whole bunch of sonnets which tell us that she was pretty, fair-haired, and dignified. Petrarch actually had very little to do with her personally, as he respected her marital state, but he was smitten at the sight of her.
He described this love affair as “overwhelming but pure”, and the only love affair that he had ever experienced. So, let’s assume that Laura was a stunner, shall we? In fact, many of his sonnets were praising her for her looks and specifically for her “blonde curling hair”.
Petrarch’s poetry was beautiful and extremely clever (any poetry lovers out there should check it out, especially if you can read Italian), but Petrarch never tried to seduce her with his words. Instead, he merely extolled her virtues and how she made him feel in his poetry, and condemned men who pursued women in his prose.
Despite having almost no personal relationship with Laura, Petrarch felt intense grief at her death. While she lived, he felt passionate love that he could never act on, so when she died, that was washed away.
Dante also outlived his muse and shared the strange grief of losing a woman that he’d never had the chance to truly know. It makes us wonder whether these women could ever have lived up to the extraordinary figures they’d become in the minds of these poets.
The technical specifications for the medieval tunic dress inspired by Laura are as follows:
- Material: 100% cotton canvas
- Colours: Either bordeaux with dark green, or bordeaux with light blue
This dress comes in sizes ranging from S to XXL. These are the approximate measurements:
- Small: 32.3 inches bust, 25.2 inches waist, 34.6 inches hips
- Medium: 35.4 inches bust, 28.3 inches waist, 37.8 inches hips
- Large: 38.6 inches bust, 31.5 inches waist, 40.9 inches hips
- X-Large: 42.1 inches bust, 35 inches waist, 44.5 inches hips
- XX-Large: Measurements unavailable