There are so many comments - I didn't want to raise a new Burgundian war, it just coincided with me working on the Co-St-Go (15th century) womens dress guide.
But in reply to all the comments:
I think we must not forget to admit that there are "Fashion-trends" in Re-enactment, and they developed rather uncontrollably
e.g. the buttoned hoods for women, so dearly loved in 15th century re-enactment
Yes - there are extant pieces from London, but much earlier. (and as extants they are not labelled "male or female owner")
There are some _regional_ iconographic evidence (Netherlands, France & England). I really must stress the regional.
And there's Gerry Embletons books on medieval soldiers. (Medieval Military Costume in Europe)
Gerry who is a co-founder of the Company of Saynt George - so automatically people assume "he must be right"
There are the Dragons, really nice PDF's showing those hoods too, also by Gerry and John.
But when Gerry wrote those articles back in the Company's founding days, there was no tendency yet to make a difference between regional and social areas. As long it was "15th-century-like" it was considered to be OK.
In fact, we still suffer from this heritage, as we are stuck with those hoods. Because they are warm, they are comfortable and everything, the girls refuse to leave them be (I can't blame them) Even if in a late 15th century context those hoods are completely and utterly WRONG for Switzerland. There is nearly no evidence of everyday women having worn them.
But here they are, and we can't get rid of them. Not even by setting an example how well (well, more or less) it works without.
And other women see those pictures, go for "if Gerry Embleton assumes it's OK, it's OK." Or: "It's on the Saynt-Georges homepage, it must be OK"... (same applied for those haverbags everyone (including me) have: They are practical.. But evidence, scarce)
Back to topic - fitted dress (pictures are hidden behind the links)
I think the idea of the supporting dress springs up from a similar story.
There is the "Gothic fitted dress", there's the cotte simple, there's "Nancy Thursfields: Medieval Taylor's Assistant" what has a sort of "Introduction into draping".
Combine those with pictures from Italian Sources, like the Frescos at Roncolo (and another nice Roncolo/Runkelstein Fresco)or pictures of the Tacuinum Sanitatis, or the "Sittener Tapete" (in the meaning "if illuminated manuscripts are too tiny to judge, those are bigger")
Both, Roncolo and the TS have been previously (and wrongly) dated into the 14th century. The English and French effigies imply a fitted style as well.
And last but not least - the women in paintings are mostly slender and youthful...
From experience with fitting my "better equipped friends", I must say, that I don't need much fitting, as I am already very slender. In fact, what I would need is some padding. But for women with more breastwidth the only way to achieve the "look" (I am always referring to "the look" when it comes to reconstruction) is a close or supportive fitting. Based on the late 15th century pictures I posted previously, it's possible and may be period.
Nancy Thursfield already made a first step, getting a close fitting. Tasha and Robin (with Tasha I had wonderful e-mail discussions when I was freaking out regarding to sleeves, altough I now drape them instead of constructing) went another step further. I guess also with "the look" in mind.
I had very long and very intense conversation with Marta, who is sharing my work as of writing the company's new "Girls-get-dressed-guide".
Marta's reenactment origins lay in 14th century, so we share a similar approach on "the line and look issue".
While talking together, we realised that a lot of reenactors expect a modern function of a garment, what isn't even possible. eg. Wide-cut sleeveholes under the shoulderpits. We went from "What is the historical accurate thing according to evidence" to "what is necessary".
We arrived at a very neat and - yes - rather supportive fit under the bust for late 15th century style, while giving leave to anybody who feels uncomfortable or overexposed by this style to opt for a loosed fit.
Marta also guided me into my first steps in 14th century (it's all her fault! I blame her for this new fancy of mine), and advised me to go for a looser fit than I would in late 15th century. She made me look at the pictures, and pointed to "Necessary".
She is right - for me a supportive fit isn't necessary to get the 14th century line. For her it is.
As another girl I know even adds a thin layer of felt into her 15th century bodice, because she needs very very much support. Or a bra.
And if she has to choose between the option "not entirely accurate but at least nobody will spot the bra-impressions on my back" or "a bra", I prefer the first one, as the general image remains true (while brastraps peeping out and impression around the back are disqualifying even the best dress as "Costume" as in "Disguise")
I think, there's this very fine line when reconstructing any style. Either it's a reconstruction, with all the flaws the original piece has (either functional or optical) or it is a interpretation.
If it's an interpretation we still can divide between: "Close to an extant" (if there are any), or "Close to look".
I personally classify the "supportive kirtle" or "Supportive cotehardie" into the "Close to look", purely of lack of a reliable resp wide choice of extants. The setting is different for 18th century, where there are so many extants to compare. But for 14th and 15th century, there are so few. As would I classify any construction method what isn't based on extant garments (it's not against you, Tasha, or anybody else)
The same goes for the beloved "Wulsthaube" or anything the like. It's a "Close to look", as we don't have any extants, only iconographic and sculptured evidence.