I started by considering the common methods of bust support used by individuals reproducing English/French 14th Century female fashions. However, of course, it is more important to consider the historical evidence: the silhouette of the era and any primary sources (documentary or archaeological) for bust supportive methods. This post will consider the historical silhouette.
I shall not be considering the 15th Century - it is not my area of interest whatsoever. However, I hope I can convince you that for the vast majority of the 14th Century the female silhouette is completely different from that of the 15th Century and thus what applies to the latter will not necessarily apply to the former.
~ Part 2: The Fashionable Female Silhouette 1300-1375 ~
One of the first things that is apparent about the 14th Century bust is that it is often remarkably flat. This is most evident in the early 14th Century, when fashion appears to have still been based on drape and fabric rather than fitting:
|Luttrell Psalter, English c. 1320-40, f. 208r, 202v, 63r and 193r.|
|Taymouth Hours, English c. 1325-1350, 74v, 61v and 81v.|
Occasionally, a subtle indication of curves is in seen in the bust area, as here:
|Luttrell Psalter, English c. 1320-40, f. 193r and 208r.|
Looking further forwards, now using effigies, we continue to see what modern eyes would consider a very flat bust:
|Blanche Mortimer, Much Marcle, England, d.1347.|
|Maud Hiltons, Swine in Holderness, England, d. after 1363.|
|Margaret Blanket, Bristol, England, c. 1371.|
Etc. Finally, even when there is some evidence of a bust, the silhouette is often rather compressed, with a low, flat, mono-bosom effect:
|Katherine Mortimer, Warwick, England, c. 1369.|
|Wife of Henry Berkhamsted, Berkhamsted, England, c. 1370.|
|Lady, Newent, England, c. 1380.|
Thus, it can be seen that for the majority of the 14th Century the female silhouette was one of compression and flatness rather than emphasis and lift. Additionally, the bust is de-emphasised in another way: cleavage. Necklines are generally oval and may show a fair amount of collarbone and shoulder. An extreme of this is reached in the mid-1300s before regressing back in the opposite direction:
|Roman de Alexandre (MS Bodl. 264), Tournai c. 1338-1344, f. 128v.|
However, throughout the first three quarters of the 14th Century, low necklines are notably absent and cleavage is never seen. Indeed, when the neckline curves down exceptionally low over the shoulders it often curves up over the chest.
All of this changes at approximately 1370, when curved bust silhouettes and cleavage begin to be seen. However, that is a topic for another day and the next part of this discussion.