Venice Fashion Guide/2: How to Dress Up Authentically For Carnival

Since we published our first article on Venetian fashion style in summer (click here to view it), some of you asked for more stories on fashion style in Venice, and especially what to wear to look authentic during Carnival in Venice. Our first tip for those of you is very simple – learn a few things about the historical meaning of colors in Venice.

While you will encounter countless of costumes of all colors on the Venetian streets these days, remember that the basic historical fashion styles in Venice are three, which you will get to know below.

Ancient Venetian Carnival costumes were simple. Long dresses with ruffled sleeves, with two main colors at most :-) These dresses were elaborate though not at first sight. The colors of dresses made from plain colors and only very few and subtle patterns acted as canvas for accessories showing off the social standing of a Venetian man or woman the past. It was all about wearing stylish accessories like masks, shoes or shawl and glass-beaded jewelery. And above, all the right mix of colors and textures !

In particular, shoes and jewelry were very ornate compared to the dresses. For example, type of shoes is produced by Rene Caovilla, and the tradition of making precious glass beads bracelets was taken up by Venetian Dreams – Marisa Convento.

In winter, Venetian fashion colors used to reflect alchemy and dawn and sunset in the Lagoon. You could find all shades from rosy morning dew to deep purple, touching midnight blue, pastel yellow and luminous pink. From these colors, we can deduct three basic styles of Carnival Fashion. Opulent – Midnight Blue. Festive – Rose Gold. Fresh & Simple – Morning Dew and Black.

Opulent – Midnight Blue comes in shades ranging from midnight blue to purple, enriched with inlays made from olive-green, gold, silver, crimson red and turquoise. These colors were worn on festive occasions, such as the Volo dell’Angelo during Carnival (which first was called Volo del Turco, by the way).

The mask that comes with this attire is white, called la baúta.

Festive – Rose Gold. While the basic colors of long dresses come in nude, beige, purple and pastel rose, these costumes are decorated with touches of crimson red, rose gold or sometimes ocean blue. The more reds you use next to white, the more festive your gown is meant to look like. After all, red, blue and gold were the official colors of the Republic of Venice. Again, you should be wearing the white baúta mask with these gowns.

Morning Dew – Pastel Rose and Black. These are the basic colors used to stress simple outfits, and we still love them in Venice today. For example, Le Marie, the girls you encounter at many events during Carnival these days, usually wear gowns made from simple-looking yet elaborate rose and pastel purple colored fabric, the only showing detail being long ruffled sleeves.

In the past, pastel colors without sumptuous decorations were attributed to young women without dowry, which is exactly what the story of Le Marie was all about in the past. They were poor girls whose dowry was paid for by the Republic of Venice. On the other hand, when women wore dark colors in the past, they were most probably noblewomen, who loved wearing the Venetian black shawl, lo scialle veneziano. After the fall of the Republic, though, this shawl became a favorite of all Venetian women.

The mask that comes with this color combination is the moretta, the black mask.

How should I dress up for Carnival in authentic style ? Venetians love the minimalist style in general, simple and elegant, no harsh colors and combinations, only enhanced with sophisticated accessories such as shoes, handbags and glass jewelry.

Where to see it:

Your first address to discover ancient Venetian fashion style is Museo di Ca’ Mocenigo, taking you back in time and showing off Venetian gowns of the past.

Atelier Pietro Longhi is amongst my favorites, and Antonia Sautter is another good address. This Atelier also organizes the Ballo del Doge whose 25th anniversary is celebrated in 2018.

To see what authentic Venetian masks look like, take a look at Kartaruga (Calle del Paradiso, Castello) and Ca’ Macana that also offers workshops on how to make your own mask from cartapesta.


Want to read more about Carnival in Venice ? Discover all articles here, and click her for our special Carnival treat – the Recipe of the Original Hot Chocolate from the 18th century !


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  1. mvaden1948 wrote:

    Lots of good suggestions for my future.

    Posted 2.10.18 Reply
    • Iris wrote:

      When you return to Venice, there’s the special itinerary waiting for you I promised you last year … a beauty and gourmet walk, discovering Venetian secrets :-)

      Posted 2.10.18 Reply

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