Thursday 5 December 2013


Ippolito d’Este, the younger brother of the Duke of Ferrara, was destined for a career in the church. He started early – being appointed Archbishop of Milan at the age of nine. In 1536, the King of France invited him to join his court in Paris. You know what a hassle it is to pack for a two-week vacation? Can you imagine packing for an indefinite work/play assignment? Ippolito needed clothing suitable for crossing the Alps, for wearing at formal dinners, at masquerades, when hunting with the King, or playing tennis. Really, you say, he played tennis? Yes, as a matter of fact, he packed 2 pairs of tennis shoes.

For ordinary purposes, a gentleman of Ippolito’s standing wore a white linen shirt with pleated ruffs that showed at the neck and wrists. Over his shirt he wore a velvet doublet and a skirted jacket of damask with slashed sleeves (fur-lined in winter). Breeches and matching hose completed the outfit.

Of course Ippolito didn’t do his own packing. That was the responsibility of Antonio Mosto, Master of the Wardrobe. Mosto drew up a list of stuff to be shipped to Paris – hundreds of items. Among them:
  • 2 gold chains; several rings with diamonds, rubies, and turquoise, set in gold; a rosary made of lapis lazuli to be worn for decorative purposes; 275 ornaments of gold and enamel to stick on the brim of hats.
  • Speaking of hats, Mosto packed 29 for his master, not counting 4 bedcaps.
  • He also packed 7 embroidered linen shirts, 14 doublets, 11 pairs of breeches and hose, 11 jackets, 46 coats, 5 pairs of leather boots, 54 pairs of shoes.
  • And 611 shoelaces. You can never have enough shoelaces, right?
  • Or handkerchiefs (102).
  • Oh, and I almost forgot: 15 pairs of leather gloves, scented with ambergris and musk.

Most of Ippolito’s clothes were black because that was the fashion in Ferrara. Imagine his horror when he arrived at the French court and discovered that his wardrobe was completely wrong for the Paris scene. Black was out. Stripes – ugh. So provincial. Narrow sleeves – pullease! And those breeches – too short. Ippolito immediately gave orders for a new wardrobe: 7 doublets and 18 jackets in a range of reds, from dark orange to a luxurious burgundy, with wide sleeves.

The Master of the Wardrobe must have been pulling his hair. But you know what really got to him? Ippolito was a clean freak and insisted on changing his shirt every day – can you believe it?

Where do you find these shocking bits of info? In Mary Hollingsworth’ fabulous book, The Cardinal’s Hat.

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