fiofiorina: a rather big white linnen headdress (Haube)
[personal profile] fiofiorina
This post resulted out of a comment I wanted to post at [livejournal.com profile] modehistorique  entry but became too long for a comment, and rather too Off Topic

I think the problem lies into the question: what is a "gothic dress"?

The more I look at late (to very late) 15th century paintings and graphics, there is this very supported look, what moves nearly seamless into the style of early 16th century. Although I must add, I am looking and searching in a very small geographic area - only from Basel to Strasbourg.
Please consider: There is much more than just paintings, graphics, illuminations and woodcuts. Especially in our region, there is a wide spread of limetree-wood sculptures, as well as tapestries.

To the credibility of a painted dress other details add on, not the dress alone:
If a painting shows shoes and pattens, drinking vessels and furnitures very accurately compared to finds by an archeological dig, I am more likely to believe the painter to be an accurate  narrator (I usually ignore hair colours and headdresses, medieval fancywear is mostly on the head...Just look at the socalled "Heiden" or Ladies etc... A lot of fancy wear, and it's a completely different genre to take those apart)

As I said - I base my search on a very small field, but with the advantage of being able to see the source pictures / sculptures / tapestries in real (therefore seeing what is painting, what is a crack in the surface, or seeing shades a photo can't take) I think the conclusions are worth to be written down. One discovers so much details in those sources, and when comparing them to artefacts of the time, I formed a bit a thing what source I believe and what to treat with more care.

Tapestry of Upper Rhine Region: Have a look how her breasts "stick out" - not softly curved, but really sticking out.
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Picture of Housbook  - not the waist above the natural level, the cut of the sleeves (very small shoulders) and the very fitted back (and the very straight fringe on her set of "hair")
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Meister des Marienlebens (girl in pink dress)
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Marienaltar (Staatl. KM Karlsruhe)
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Close up: Note the bowl and the spoon. As well as the pillow case. And note the stress on the bodice _under_ the breasts, around the torso, the way the skirt is "hooked up"
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Similar "stress-wrinkles" may be noticed here (at the maid's dress of course)
And have a look at her shoulder seams - similar small to the cut of the Housebook dress.
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For reference sake - the whole of the picture. Have a look at the maid in the far background, at the fit of her dress. And have a look at the pillowcases, at the shelf with vessels behind the lady holding the baby (I apologize for the quality - it wasn't allowed to take pictures in the exhibition)
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The hooked up skirt of the woman with the bowl is just a necessity for working when the dress has overlength, also that the hooked up part in the back is a wee bit smaller... (self experiment by me, as the dress has overlength)
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I am not saying, "There are but fitted dresses" - but the use of such fitted dresses for late 15th century in our region seems to be rather intrusive. A lot of unfitted dresses may be seen, usually on "elderly" women, women nursing a baby, saints when slain, pregnant women. But there are a lot of fitted dresses for women in circumstances other than just mentioned.

But as you may have seen, we are a long way of the graceful lines of 14th century clothing, we all adore that much, when seeing on those charming illustrations and tomb brasses (Note - the following three pictures are French & Flemisch, NOT from the Upper-Rhine-Area)
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or early 15th century  (Duc de Berry)
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I think we should make a difference between "wishful thinking", "maybe" and "maybe a bit more". I rate my theorie about _late_ 15th century Upper-Rhine-Region-Bodice-Construction into tha "maybe a bit more" range.

For the 14th century I discovered that I couldn't use my 15th century "very very fitted" pattern, due to the lines. If one would like to reconstruct any period, it's (in my humble opinion) an absolute No-Go! to ignore the lines. It comes always back to the silhouette. Therefore my attempts into 14th century are fitted, but not that much. And differently.
But all comes back to a good fitting about the shoulders and the side seams.
High up, not too wide cut under the armpit(the back is another story) - whether it's pictural-image-fitted, Gothic-fitted, Cotte-simple-fitted, very-much-and-nearly-over-fitted or unfitted at all.

It isn't about costumers vs SCA vs Non-SCA vs Dress-Historians. It's just my musing on (very) late 15th century dresses :-) I could rattle on for hours, but alas, it took my whole lunchbreak already to write these few lines .....

Date: 2009-07-22 12:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] operafantomet.livejournal.com
I love your research.

I don't really have anything else to say.

:)

Date: 2009-07-22 12:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kass-rants.livejournal.com
Thank you for posting this, A. I tend to agree with your assessment. I have not looked into this area of the world, but your arguments are sound and valid.

You read my post on Sarah's LJ so you know my thoughts. In the 14th century manuscript illuminations, we don't see photo-realistic detail like we see in the late 15th century pictures you show here. And when the extant record contradicts it too, I think there's a false lead being followed for the 14th century.

Date: 2009-07-22 12:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fiofiorina.livejournal.com
Exactly the one, I started to type there, until I realised that I am talking about 15th century regional fashion, while you were conversing on "gothic fitted dress". That's why I decided my rather Offtopic musings here instead of spamming in Sarah's LJ.

For me getting my feet wet in 14th century the last few weeks resp. months made me much more aware of the stilistic differences between early, mid and late 15th century (not only in dress, but in architecture, pottery and shoes. Especially in shoes) Sometimes it's a good thing to stray of a much walked path :-)

Date: 2009-07-22 01:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kass-rants.livejournal.com
We don't often notice it, but there is a bigger gulph between the 14th and 15th centuries than we are usually ready to admit. The late 15th century slips so easily into "Early Tudor" (as we call it in the States, really 1490s-1520s). As you say, even the decorations of the rooms in these paintings and the style of painting itself is far more "Renaissance" than "Gothic".

The simple truth is that, when I look at manuscript illuminations of 14th century women's clothing, sometimes we don't see breasts at all. So I've always been confused where this "supportive kirtle" in the 14th century idea came from.

Date: 2009-07-22 03:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] viennabelle.livejournal.com
fascinating...thanks!
Edited Date: 2009-07-22 03:17 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-07-22 04:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] historicfashion.livejournal.com
THANK YOU! There is a tendency among many (not all) online costumers to take what they fancy out of costumes of a similar date, with no reference to geography, culture, surviving evidence or context.

As you pointed out, one should evaluate every painting because so much is allegorical. This doesn't mean the observation of the artist is flawed: like you said, realism in other objects is often a sign the textiles are well-observed too. But we should understand the meanings of the painting which the artist used to create it. A garment in a painting may depict a real garment, but the way it is worn, its fabric, accessories or context may be quite false.

We should gather many types of source, not just relying on one medium but a variety. Purely painting research isn't really research, it's just looking at paintings. Paintings are good but limited in scope. We need other evidence to back it up.

Later developments in styles and technologies are undoubtedly helpful in understanding earlier items. But they're only an aid to understanding, they're not the key. It may be possible, but it is never professional as a historian to reverse engineer history starting from an end product.

Equally, we should be wary of seeing innovations as being entirely without precedent. Eg Dior's New Look of 1947 is often recorded as an innovation out of left-field, because he knew women were tired of rationing and wanted to look feminine. But French and English fashions just before WWII were moving towards a fuller, curvier silhouette anyhow. The boxy earlier 1940s look in some ways was a blip; the war could be said to have disrupted the natural progression of western European styles. Dior was just quickest to pick up the threads again.

It is easier to go for a gothic fitted dress in this respect: it's most similar to our modern ideas of how period dresses should fit. But that doesn't mean loose or fitted but untightened dresses are somehow wrong. Even now there are so-called 'primitive' cultures where they are OK with women letting it all hang out, either with or without clothing to cover them. Yes, as they age this can look unattractive to western eyes. But that doesn't mean it is wrong now, and it doesn't mean it was wrong in the 14th century.

And I'm suffering a little ennui with these personality-led crazes that intermittently sweep the online costuming world, based on the theories of the latest costuming "IT-girl". Just because someone's lectured and written a web-page on it, doesn't make them right. The ideal is historians who thoroughly research their topic themselves. But I also admire those costumers who research as much as they feel able and then say "This is not the last word on this subject, but this is where I'm up to now and here's my conclusion so far". Or even "I know this is wrong, but I'm doing it this way because of time/money etc".

And either way, I most admire costumers and historians with a little humility, a quality that's out of fashion these days.

Date: 2009-07-22 04:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] historicfashion.livejournal.com
Sorry about clogging up your entry. I didn't mean to write so much!

Date: 2009-07-22 08:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tashadandelion.livejournal.com
You wrote: It is easier to go for a gothic fitted dress in this respect: it's most similar to our modern ideas of how period dresses should fit. But that doesn't mean loose or fitted but untightened dresses are somehow wrong. Even now there are so-called 'primitive' cultures where they are OK with women letting it all hang out, either with or without clothing to cover them. Yes, as they age this can look unattractive to western eyes. But that doesn't mean it is wrong now, and it doesn't mean it was wrong in the 14th century.

Is anyone actually saying this somewhere? That there's only one way to do the fit for dresses of the 14thc and that they were all bust-supportive and tailored one way to achieve that effect? If so, I'd like to know who says it. I don't, nor do any of the other 14thc clothing enthusiasts I know personally. So I'm wondering where this assumption is coming from?

Granted, I haven't yet read the [livejournal.com profile] modehistorique entry from which all this discussion apparently springs. I'll go over there and catch up. Or should I avoid it to keep my blood pressure down?

Date: 2009-07-22 10:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] historicfashion.livejournal.com
"So I've always been confused where this "supportive kirtle" in the 14th century idea came from"
Me too. Closely fitted, yes. Actually supportive? No idea.

Date: 2009-07-22 10:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] historicfashion.livejournal.com
Yes I have heard it. Online and offline, though I can't find anything online to show you that isn't in a friends-only journal or members-only forum.

I should point out that this wasn't a hit at you or anyone else you know. I only know you from your website but I know you haven't been as ignorant to make claims of this kind.

What I was trying to say is it's really the people who have done little research of their own who misunderstand and claim "Well So-and-So said this" or "this is the only way to do something". People get hung about A's way to cut hose or B's way to make French Hoods, getting hung-up on the person, rather than the research that person did.

And so many people use info out of all context. EG extrapolating from construction in 1560s Florence, say, to 1620s Buckinghamshire. Which is just mad!

Sorry, I'm rambling again. Anyhow, no offence meant :)

Date: 2009-07-23 12:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kass-rants.livejournal.com
Precisely. My favourite phrase about this is "a medievaloid solution to a modern problem". I think the people who desire a supportive kirtle are looking for bust support in a century when that just wasn't an issue. If you grow up without training bras, you really never develop a need for them.

Date: 2009-07-23 01:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tashadandelion.livejournal.com
Thanks for the further clarification; I appreciate it. I have been faced with reductivist assertions supposedly born out of my writings way too many times, and I guess I get a bit cranky about it now. Sorry about that. I probably came across more annoyed than I should have.

As for the websites, there aren't that many of us who have the exact type of content that is being discussed here, so I always wonder which of us it is when someone makes the complaint you made. Though I know I'm careful not to command people in their thinking and interpretation, I also know I can say one thing and be interpreted in a cock-eyed manner anyway. It's just a little frustrating, is all. Thanks for listening.

Date: 2009-07-23 01:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kass-rants.livejournal.com
I kinda want to say something here, both because I know Tasha personally and because I've been subject to this kind of stuff myself from time to time. And no, I don't think you were in any way attacking her or putting words in her mouth.

When you put a theory out there on the internet or lecture on a subject frequently, sometimes it just doesn't matter how careful you are to couch your words in conservative "this is not the only way" lingo. People misquote you. Fans glom onto an idea -- especially a new shiny one that solves their problems like this bust-supportive thing -- and tell all their friends. Then before you know it, you're the person who said that this was The One True Way[tm] when you never said anything of the sort.

It sucks. But cults of personality tend to spring up all the time in hobbies like ours. And it doesn't matter how intellectually honest you are or how humble. Words you've never said get broadcast with your name attached to them.

Date: 2009-07-23 01:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tashadandelion.livejournal.com
I suspect that my personal preference for the kind of support I get with my own dresses is probably pretty extreme, if it were to be placed on some possible spectrum of dresses in the time period. I do think though that the evidence for lacing is a pretty strong hook on which to hang the concept of "snug", which isn't too far of a leap from "giving some support", but like everyone seems to be violently agreeing, how MUCH support/structure is utterly debatable.

BTW, Robin is the mom of the fully-supportive lace-up concept. It hit us all between the eyes and we were all off to the races. I will never abandon my full-support version -- because it works so well for me and gets me a great 1380-1410 look for France, but I'd've probably muddled along without getting to where I got a bit longer had I not stumbled across Robin's theories.

Date: 2009-07-23 06:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fiofiorina.livejournal.com
Edit: I added a new post, for sake of easier understanding...
Edited Date: 2009-07-23 09:35 am (UTC)

Date: 2009-07-23 10:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fiofiorina.livejournal.com
It's OK. But in order not to reply that long, I just added another entry

Date: 2009-07-24 08:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fiofiorina.livejournal.com
Well, thank you. It's not "real research", only some thoughts about the matter :-)
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