Dress to suit your complexion (1568)

1500s woman
Woman from the 1500s Mary Magdalene with a Book and an Ointment Jar; Workshop of Master of the First Prayer Book of Maximilian (Flemish, active about 1475 – 1515); Bruges Belgium Ghent Belgium; about 1510 – 1520; Tempera colors, gold, and ink on parchment; Leaf: 23.2 x 16.7 cm (9 1/8 x 6 9/16 in.); Ms. Ludwig IX 18, fol. 264v

Let us set the case of one whose complexion is pale but lively; let her beware of the bright colours, except it be of white, as are the greens, yellows, changeables, and bright colours of that sort. Let those ladies whose complexion is wan dress almost alwaies in black. Those who have a certain ruddy liveliness in their faces, which makes them as constant tipplers to behold, let them wear dark lion-tawny or russet. Red is the colour in general the most pestilential and sorts itself to no complexion whatsoever. And contrariwise white agrees well with the most part of ladies, given that they are still in the flower of their youth…

Rafaella of Master Alexander Piccolomini, or rather A Dialogue of the Fair Perfectioning of Ladies, 1568

This text was first written in Italian, by a man who wished to address (and, one suspects, poke fun at) many of the practices of ladies that vexed him. In the form of a dialogue between an older woman instructing her younger kinswoman, he touches on (his opinions of) dress, behavior, cosmetics, and more.

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