Okay so you know those poofy old timey renaissance pants that looked totally ridiculous?
Well in my history of fashion class we learned that the bright stripes are called slashes, and are actual slashes in the outer layer that mimic slashes from swordfighting, and they were added as a stylistic flair to make it look like the men had been in battle.
Distressed Jeans aren’t just ‘our generation’
Most to the point: this could get to be an incredibly expensive form of detailing. People slashed doublets and pantaloons in all kinds of rare and pricey fabrics.
There’s this too: slashing (in some jurisdictions) was a way to exploit loopholes in the local sumptuary laws. Until the powers that be got off their butts and actually amended the existing laws to forbid slashing with what they considered over-expensive fabrics that common folks shouldn’t be allowed to wear, you got to wear them – with a little extra frisson of being just that far away from breaking the law – and get away with that year’s hot fashion statement.
(For reference purposes, look at some of the articles linked to at the bottom of this page on Elizabethan sumptuary law. The title “Controlling the uncontrollable” is very much to the point. Morality-based or politically-based legislation against fashion trends rarely turns out well…)
Here’s Anne of Austria with fashionably slashed sleeves.
See also this page (source of the image above) for more examples. Google will show you lots more if you go looking. One could slash very subtly or very extravagantly: there was a wide range of possibilities, depending on your rank / station and how punk you felt like looking…
as I understand it, you had to have pricey high-quality fabrics to do slashing, because the edges weren’t hemmed – a tight weave would hold together, but anything else would fray. (Anne’s sleeves here look like the strips have been embroidered heavily, so that caveat wouldn’t apply, but the embroidery makes it even more expensive.)
Sumptuary laws were a great example of repeated attempts to legislate human behavior no matter how impossible the enforcement was. They really never managed to get people in line.