Fashion conveys complex messages. The recreation of an outfit taken from one of an extraordinary series of Renaissance portraits reveals how one man made his mark on society.

In 1530 Matthäus Schwarz, an accountant in the German city of Augsburg, was man in his prime: slim, smart and successful. In a portrait that shows him in an outfit made for the occasion of the Imperial Diet of Augsburg, he is every inch the fashionable man about town, ready to step out of his door and join the party.

In the painting Schwarz wears a doublet made in panes of brilliant red and yellow silk over a shirt cut from fine linen. His slender calves are shown off in yellow leather hose and his knees are cross-gartered. On his feet are slim shoes and on his head is a flat black beret made in felted wool. At his waist are belts carrying the sword and red purse that complete the picture.

Now an experimental project undertaken by Dr Ulinka Rublack, Reader in Early Modern History at the University of Cambridge, has brought this portrait alive in a historically accurate reconstruction of the outfit it depicts. The project reveals the role of dress in conveying complex social and political messages and the way in which fashion had a profound effect on mood and behaviour.

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