The blog Res Obscura offers a review of the book Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe by Ulinka Rublack, which chronicles the importance of clothing to the merchant class during the Renaissance.
From the blog:
I've just finished reading Ulinka Rublack's Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe (Oxford, 2010) and came away from it with a newfound appreciation for how truly odd early modern clothing was -- and how important these clothes were in people's daily lives. Rublack, a Cambridge history professor, is very shrewd in noting that obsolete sartorial choices like codpieces, corsets or tight-fitting doublets were about more than adornment: they helped to structure the limits of physical movement while also expressing personal allegiances, social groupings, nationalities, and religious faith. What is more, early modern clothing offered a window into the inner emotional states of the wearer in a world that was far less receptive to that sort of thing than our own.
The blog also features a number of illustrations of 16th century German merchant Matthäus Schwarz, who hired painters to depict his clothing during various stages of his life.