fiofiorina: a rather big white linnen headdress (Haube)
[personal profile] fiofiorina
This post resulted out of a comment I wanted to post at [ 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.

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")

Meister des Marienlebens (girl in pink dress)

Marienaltar (Staatl. KM Karlsruhe)

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"

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.

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)

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)

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)
Photobucket Photobucket
or early 15th century  (Duc de Berry)

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]
I love your research.

I don't really have anything else to say.


Date: 2009-07-22 12:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
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 03:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Edited Date: 2009-07-22 03:17 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-07-22 04:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
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.


fiofiorina: a white haired fay in a dark blue dress (Default)

July 2009

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