Dressed to kill – fashion and armour

Armour was a form of clothing. The exaggerations and distortions it imposed on natural body-shape flexed and contracted with contemporary fashions. Decorated with bands of etching, blued (coloured blue by oxidation) and gilt, complemented with richly coloured silks and velvets, with dyed ostrich feathers sprouting from the helmet, on a horse armed to match, these extraordinary armours turned their discerning 16th-century owners into stylish works of art.

Modern ideas about historic armour often suggest knights struggled to move as they clanked around. Nothing could be further from the truth. Astonishing artistry, care and technical ingenuity went into producing good quality armour. Beyond a castle or perhaps a suite of tapestries, there were few greater expenses for the Renaissance nobleman than his armour. It was made-to-measure, light, flexible and mobile.

Discover what the fashion-conscious Renaissance man would have worn on the battlefield or for jousting with Senior Curator of Metalwork, Angus Patterson.

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Explore more arms and armour in the V&A's collections.

Header image: Breastplate, maker unknown, about 1565, France. Museum no. M.114-1921. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London