From Byzantine to Dolce & Gabbana:MFW Fall 2013

A few days ago, the Italian label Dolce and Gabbana presented their collection for Fall / Winter 2013/14 at Milan Fashion Week. The clear Byzantine influence of part of this collection took my friend Karin Wachtendorff and I to think it would be interesting to develop a post between the two of us. Karin, a Costume Historian will provide the fashion historical introduction on the Byzantine Empire, and I the Fashion expert and blogger will provide commentary on the runway dresses and accessories of the collection. We hope you enjoy the final result!!!

From the 5th century to the 12th century, the Byzantine Empire was the center of the world when it came to fashion and culture. With its extensive growing commerce it thrived in great and many developments. It lead its capital Constantinople to become one of the most important cities of those times where opulence and luxury lived with great pomp.In its proliferate bazaars existed the exchange of luxury goods from the most exotic places. Through trade by sea and by land, Byzantine jewelry, perfumes and finest fabrics from Asia and Persia: silks, damasks, taffetas, velvets, linens, wools and cottons came to the capital.

Empress Theodora and her bridesmaids. Mosaics of the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna.

The time of the
Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora (527-565 AD) is considered the zenith of
luxury and Byzantine splendor. Both knew how to surround themselves with the finest
works of art, and fashion. It also reflected
their taste for sumptuousness by a
curious symbiosis between East and West through colorful tunics borrowed from classical antiquity and rich ornamentation. Oriental
inspired based pearls, rhinestones, fringe, tassels and rich gold embroidery represented
a vast iconography with religious themes, florals or geometry.

On the left: Theodora of Byzantium with earrings, necklace and crown full of pearls and precious stones.  To the right: D & G Collection
Sixth Century Byzantine Earrings, MET MUSEUM Collection, NY
Eleventh century Byzantine cross. MET MUSEUM Collection, NY

 Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana presented a Fall/Winter collection in Milan that not only was rich in embellishments. It was full of regal, intricately crafted details with models wearing jewel-encrusted crowns on the runway. On this occasion D&G has taken a page from the Byzantine mosaics as a source of inspiration with elements of religious figures and an ode to Sicily’s Cathedral of Monreale. This collection did not disappoint with its extravagance and historical references paired with accessories that were just as jaw dropping as the garments. The shoes, handbags and jewelry all seemed like individual pieces of art themselves. One after another the runway looks were full of opulence and glam leaving the spectator with a sense of a lavish past and with an enthusiasm for a gilded fashion season in months ahead. 

This post is a collaboration between Karin Wachtendorff and Maria Cartagena

Karin Wachtendorff
Costume Historian/Blogger

Bibliography: Cosgrave, Bronwyn: Historia de la
Moda. From Egypt to the Present Day

Runway Photo Credit:



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