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Knowledge Base: The Shirt

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Shirt in Short

Essential, formal, and timeless but at the same time rebellious, fancy and never banal. 

The shirt, a must for both men’s and women’s clothing has dressed different cultures and centuries, transforming but never going out of fashion. In its most classic form it is buttoned in front, has a pocket, a collar and long or short sleeves. 

The Baroque Shirt: a symbol of power and opulence

We meet for the first time the shirt in Rome in the third century AD. Without sleeves and collar, it had the function of a petticoat and for this reason was called “interior tunic”. Its modern form was imported through the Crusades from the Middle East and was called “camis”.

In the sixteenth century the collar of the shirt became the protagonist of this timeless garment. The Spanish fashion of the gorget, worked in honeycomb or mill wheel, became a symbol of opulence and power.

The Revolutionary: from the Sun King to the French Revolution

Trend setter of the Baroque age was the Sun King who embellished the shirt with rouches, ruffles, gale and falbalas.

The French Revolution shifted cultural attention from the court to the people, who became the protagonists of society and fashion. The raw cotton shirt worn under the vest accompanied the “Sans-Culottes” on the barricades of Paris, but also in blood red version, Garibaldi and the Thousand in the Unification of Italy. 

In the nineteenth century it was worn by the divas of theater and by the Dandies of all Europe, becoming a symbol of elegance, a value attributable to the Bourgeois class.

Cesary Aretusi, Portrait of Ranuccio I Farnese, 1592-1622
Cesary Aretusi, Portrait of Ranuccio I Farnese, 1592-1622

The Mass shirt: disrupting historical gender practices

In the twentieth century, the shirt became so socially relevant that it defined two categories of workers: blue collar and white collar. Later it was also adopted by bricklayers who preferred a more informal shirt, checked and flannel

The men’s shirt was desecrated, distorting the cut, by Coco Chanel who made it a cult item in the women’s closet and a symbol of the feminist movements of the time. It was then loved by Hollywood stars of the fifties (it was iconic worn by Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday) and remained the undisputed queen of the big screen even in the nineties, when it was worn by Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction.

C. Ebbets, Lunch atop a Skyscraper, 1932

C. Ebbets, Lunch atop a Skyscraper, 1932

Technical guide: Inside a Shirt

One shirt, multiple designs

The shirt in its simplicity is composed of several elements, which combined together generate an extraordinary number of different models. Collar, cuffs, buttonholes, and pockets are able to create shirts totally different in style and fit.

The structure and its components however are not only to define the shirt. In fact, of fundamental relevance there is the fabric which determines the weight, the style and nature of the shirt. The decision of the fabric determines when and in which occasion to wear the shirt. Cotton will be perfect for a business day, Linen for a casual location and Silk will be adequate for the most formal and elegant situation. 

When you choose a shirt you must also play attention to the shirt weave which characterize the personality of the shirt. Flannel will be ideal for a mountain trip, while Oxford will give you a fresh and formal look. 

Each detail of the shirt determines the occasion and the situation in which to wear it. Thus is really important to chose carefully and to inform about them in order to be always on point. 

This garment is therefore a transformist, which has managed to adapt to the taste of every century and different regions in the world, without ever falling into oblivion. It will be the protagonist of the future, more and more technological and inclusive, being able to meet the needs of the wearer.

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