7 October 2014

Tutorial: how to find original images of lowerclass medieval clothing

Lower class clothing can be an absolute pain to research - for starters, there are comparatively few manuscript illustrations depicting the lower classes, particularly the more impoverished members of the merchant classes, tradespeople and peasants.

Often, it's tempting to make lower class clothing based on contemporaneous upper class clothing - by either subtracting the most expensive aspects, or simplifying things. Another idea is to assume that, due to the second hand clothing trade and a (supposed) trickle-down of fashion, lower class clothing might mimic clothing of wealthier individuals of a decade or a few decades earlier. However, both of these methods are based on potentially flawed assumptions.

So, what can one do?

Luckily, there is a wonderful resource that can help you find original manuscript images of lower class (and upper class) clothing, as well as give you a better idea of how fashion for both poor and rich progressed from the 13th-16th Centuries: The Roman de la Rose Digital Library.
So, without further ado, a tutorial for getting the most out of this resource:

[EDIT: the website of The Roman de la Rose Digital Library has changed and, whilst the manuscripts are still an excellent, searchable resource, the below tutorial no longer works. I plan to write an updated tutorial for the new website in the future.]

6 September 2014

Contrasting gores in medieval dresses debunked

The old hoary chestnut of contrasting gores in medieval European dresses/tunics keeps doing the rounds and I keep meaning to do a formal debunking of the theory. Finally, I've got around to it. As always, this blog post is based on the evidence I have seen to date and I would very much appreciate any additional evidence you may have.

2 September 2014

Manuscript challenge: pink lowerclass dress

So, as you are probably aware by now, Maria, blogging at In Deme Jare Christi, has issued the Manuscript Challenge.

  • You choose a full-colour original image from a manuscript, fresco, statue, effigy, etc. dated 400-1500 and reproduce the entire outfit exactly as in your inspiration.
  • You can then ask at the Manuscript Challenge Facebook Page for assitance and encouragement. 
  • You must also let everyone know how you are progressing, e.g. by blogging about it.
  • And you have 1 year to finish (specifically, 1 year from when you first post your inspiration photo).
I thought this would tie-in perfectly with the project I was already working on - my pink lowerclass dress - as Maria said it was ok to submit projects you'd already started.

So, my inspiration image is:

Haine (Hate), Felonie and Vilanie.
Roman de la Rose, c. 1365, France.
University of Chicago Library, MS 1380, f. 2r.
I will be reproducing Felonie's outfit (the centre figure), with a wrapped wimple and a pink-brown dress. As I mentioned in my previous posts on this project, I will be interpreting the pink-brown dress as a surcoat and using Herjolfsnes #42 as inspiration.

First I have the small issue of a PhD to finish this winter, but I very much hope that I will complete this project. As I've already posted my inspiration image on the Facebook page, my deadline is: 22nd August 2015. However, I'm hoping to go to Azincourt 2015 (my first international show! *fingerscrossed*), so my soft deadline is 25th July 2015.

19 January 2014

Historical Sew Fortnightly: #1 Make do and mend

So, once again I'm trying the Dreamstress' Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge once again. As with last year, I'm not aiming for all of the challenges (or anywhere near all of them). Instead, I'm going to do ones that help me work on stuff I was going to make anyway and maybe the occasional small thing if a challenge sparks an idea. And I'm hoping I won't fall quite so badly off the bandwagon this year...

Challenge #1 of 2014 was 'Make do and Mend' and was due Weds 15th Jan. For this, I decided to finally finish my St. Birgitta's cap that has been sitting less than 30 mins from done for ... over 2 months. I finished on Mon (13th) but I haven't had a chance to get some natural light for photographing until today.