How would you describe the clothing of a merchant banker in a world similar to 15th century Florence?

Assuming a "three piece suit" won't cut it.

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    $\begingroup$ What would a banker wear when and where? A banker in 6th century Constantinople would definitely not wear the same clothes as a banker in 13th century Paris, and both would be shocked by the costume of a 15th century Florentine banker. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 31 '19 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ Would the fact that it is fantasy with magic make any difference, or are you looking for medieval upper-class clothing? $\endgroup$ – o.m. Dec 31 '19 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ If this is just a historical query, consider asking it at History $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Dec 31 '19 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ which kind of banker, you had money changers, pawn brokers, and merchant bankers. each had different social status and wealth. Also the gender matters. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 31 '19 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ Here are some pictures of Cosimo de' Medici, flourished in 15th century Florence. Now, how the clothes are called, that is left as an exercise for the dilligent inquirer. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 31 '19 at 19:55

For a historical example, see Wikipedia on 15th century fashions. A problem with earlier depictions is that they get less detailed.

  • A banker would be careful not to pretend being nobility, while showing his distance to the commoner rabble. At times, there were sumptuary laws to formalize this.
  • A typical fantasy setting gives two new "social classes" -- adventurers and court mages. In much traditional fantasy, court mages wear some sort of robe. This could be a reason for the banker not to wear a robe, so he isn't mistaken for a mage or cleric.
  • A banker might wear deliberately impractical clothing to demonstrate that he is above manual labor. Consider pointed shoes.
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    $\begingroup$ Authorities rarely bother to write laws prohibiting things nobody is doing. If there is a sumptuary law prohibiting merchants from using ermine trim, you should at least expect them to be wearing white rabbit with black died spots, if not actual ermine. $\endgroup$ – Patricia Shanahan Dec 31 '19 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ Its not that they are less detailed, it is that before the late 1300's there really is little variation in fashion several inventions at the time allowed for much more variation in clothing, especially in terms of how well fitted they could be. . $\endgroup$ – John Jan 12 '20 at 7:28

This depends on a lot of factors some of which will be up to you. But to give a simple answer I will assume some things. I will use medieval england since I have a useful source thanks to london's sumptuary laws (1363) which dictated what you were allowed to wear.

The first problem you have is there is no such thing as a banker at the time. There is not real "banks" as we know them, there are three things you might call bankers, All fall under the merchant class, and what they wore depends on wealth more than anything.

For the personal loans you had pawn brokers which is self explanatory, they will be on the poorer scale but could get up into the wealthier category depending on clientele. For the wealthy you had merchant bankers, who deal with investments and large scale commercial loans, they are not making personal loans. Somewhere in between you had money changes who were rare, because they dealt with exchanging foreign currency, and could fall in either category.

So now what does each category of wealth wear.

for a wealthy merchant (defined as owning goods more than 1000 pounds of value or whom own land) the law is as follows

Fabric worth no more than five marks in value (roughly 3 pounds, and 7 shillings) for the whole cloth (the entire bolt of cloth) They may wear silk and cloth of silver and silver decorations, but no gold. Women may wear miniver (white fur trimming) but not ermine or weasel fur. they may not wear jewels except in their hair.

For a poorer merchant (owning goods of at least 500lbs in value), below this you are not even a merchant.

Fabric no more than 4 1/2 marks (3 pounds) for the whole cloth. No cloth of gold or silver, no silk, no fur, no embroidery, no precious stones.

So for a poorer merchant basically they can wear nice cloth but that's it, no extras.

Now there are other effects, gender and fashion being big ones, fashion changed quite a bit during the medieval period, to the point fashion from one period would be all but unrecognizable in another. You has simple tunics and leggings, giving way to tights and shirts with ruffs, puffs, even the absurdly pointed shoes. Tailored clothing is invented right in the middle of this period (~1330), within a single generation fashion became a thing. This is why the laws reflect the materials and not design, becasue the designs started changing constantly. You could no longer know what someones social standing was at a glance.

I cant recommend the book "a time travelers guide to medieval england" enough if is full of useful information. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Time_Traveler%27s_Guide_to_Medieval_England


Since late antiquity merged into the early medieval period or dark ages, if an early medieval banker or money lender was a citizen of the eastern Roman empire or a former part of the western Roman Empire, they would dress a lot like a late antiquity Roman citizen, which would be a bit different from a Roman citizen in the early Roman Empire or late Republic.

And as the middle ages passed decade by decade and century by century fashions changed over time and changed in different places.

So the way medieval bankers dressed varied a lot from place to place and over a thousand years of history.

So a medieval banker would usually be based in a town or city and dress like the richer townspeople. And many medieval societies had dress codes which regulated the way social classes dressed, so that peasants and townspeople were forbidden to dress like nobles. And some peasants and townspeople ignored those regulations and dressed like nobles anyway.

I note that in most of the middle ages most nobles and important men wore long loose robes or gowns as their outer clothing, but in the 14th century (1301-1400) it became fashionable for them to wear jackets which were closely tailored to their torsos and which were short and showed the tights on their legs, the type of costume usually imagined as medieval.

So perhaps you should look at a number of medieval illustrations to get an idea of the fashions in various centuries.

And maybe you should google "medieval Banker's costume" and see what you find.

I note that 15th century (1401-1500) Florence which you mentioned was in the early Renaissance and so a lot of paintings were painted there, some of which you can see online. So that should give you an idea of what 15th century Florentines in particular dressed like.


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