fiofiorina: a rather big white linnen headdress (Haube)
[personal profile] fiofiorina

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.


Date: 2009-07-23 10:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you for writing this! I am surrounded by so many converts to the "supportive kirtle" that I am sometimes afraid to say, "You know, there really isn't any evidence they did it this way."

Like you, A, I am small-busted. My first Moy Gown replica was made in the exact same size as the original and it fit me perfectly. Lucky me! When some people ask how they can make a Moy Gown that supports their large bust, I have to say, "I have no idea."

And then, of course, you see the people out there claiming to be "14th century French" when the silhouette they've made is clearly 14th century Italian... or 15th century French.

I was shocked when recently developing the 14thc Women's Accessories pattern not to find many examples of women wearing hoods. We see them all the time on reenactors. But apparently 14th century women didn't get the memo.

This is precisely why my personal motto is "Do not make the rare common and the common rare." We end up with a bunch of people wearing one style that was probably an anomally in the first place. And it just looks wrong.

Reenactorisms drive me crazy. We look at each other rather than the evidence. And it seems that somehow the thing that is most unlike anything that would have been worn in period is the thing that we see most on reenactors. It's like they're trying hard *not* to be period but to be like each other. For example, a Landsknecht group I know has a leader who doesn't like the clingy look of hosen. So he wears breeches that he slashes and puts a codpiece on. They're wrong, but they're his choice. But now all the men in his unit are wearing breeches instead of hosen. And none of the women are wearing Wulsthaubes because the lead woman decided she didn't like how they looked. So the effect is that they don't look like Landsknechten at all.

This spring, we went to our first 18th century Market and I kept seeing women with their aprons and kerchiefs pinned on by these gold-coloured pins with pigtail ends. They looked like corkscrews for opening bottles of wine! And ever pin they wore were like those. As you may know, Bob makes pins and he's studied a lot of extant examples. So I asked him about these weird pins that I thought would get caught on everything and become a nuisance.

It turns out someone misinterpretted "pins with wire-wrapped heads" and started a trend.

*shakes head*

If I ever stop looking at the period evidence, please slap me.

Date: 2009-07-23 10:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
:-)) you put it into a simpler line We look at each other rather than the evidence That's exactly the point.
Same goes for 15th century pins.

But somehow the Re-enactment scene for 15th century is running on two different set of rails since about 2 years (I guess I didn't notice earlier)
There are the veterans, usually following the "Gerry-Example" and "I always did it that way" and very young ones, who work nearly from scratch, base on evidence and work on their stuff.
Like Nina or Marta (Nina's pins are the best I've seen sofar, and she bases all her brass & bronzework on evidence. OK - Polish Evidence, but she loves to get her hands on other regions)

By the way - did I mention that Martas red gown isn't lined? As according to her lining ruins the lines for her.

Date: 2009-07-23 10:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah. I've been in 17th and 18th century groups that do "I've been reenacting since before you were born. I'm not changing anything now!" And they look awful. Unfortunately I find that many of the new people follow their example because it's easier. You don't have to "reinvent the wheel". And of course most sutlers aren't up to speed enough for you to buy stuff from them. Hey, we still have sutlers selling "English Bodices" that we all know were invented by Simplicity in 1976!

I'm not surprised Marta's gown isn't lined. I've never lined any of mine. That's what bothers me about Robin's method -- she says it uses only period-available techniques and then she insists on doing something that we know they didn't do with everything single garment.

I'm not trying to knock anyone off their horse. I'm just out here, trying to make sure people don't get too far away from the truth. =)

And now... breakfast!

Date: 2009-07-23 11:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My dresses are lined (at least the bodice is), because I usually use very fine wool, and I prefer a second layer there (plus I trust the seams much more, ripped seams and ruined fabric isn't my piece of toast)
I arrived there by seing (painted) mens doublets when taken off and put around the waist.

Enjoy your breakfast, for me the lunchbreak's just over

Date: 2009-07-23 01:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'll have to respond to the fit thing later, but I have to laugh about the hoods. Several years ago, I made a hood, then I decided to enter it into an SCA competition. So I started writing the docs, and couldn't for the life of me find any women wearing that kind of a hood. I eventually dug up a couple, but even for the 14th century, they're pretty rare.

Yeah, they look pretty, but I've never been able to really wear a hood much since then, except occasionally for very cold events. And for 15th century? I can proudly say that I've never worn one for that time period - I've never seen it anywhere except on reenactors.

And hi! I was going to respond to your comment in my journal, but I might as well here. I'm in the SCA, but I also play with Lord Grey's Retinue for 15th century, and La Belle Compagnie for late 14th century (I'm also ramping up a diatribe about grouping the 1340s in with the 1390s, but that's for after my meeting...). A while back, somebody from CoSG emailed me about my 15th century sleeve article - was that you?
Edited Date: 2009-07-23 01:51 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-07-23 02:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Nope - it wasn't me - what sleeve article are you referring to? Usually I don't comment on articles on the net, I prefer to orientate me to inventory lists and local sources...

What is possible to find are black and red "French Hoods" - as in the September vineyard scene in the famous très riches heures du Duc de Berry, or at van der Weyden's 7 Sacraments (women in purple houbelande, reading), or on some french tapestries. But I interpret those as "coiffe" - headdress, not as "hoods"
Image (

There are some more, one's a picture resp. illumination of spectators of a boating party (it's in one of my French books), and at Boccaces "des clères et nobles femmes", or Robinet Testard at bnf (,%20livre%20d-heures%20de%20change%20Angouleme%20par%20Robinet%20Testard,%20Paris%20Bnf.jpg) but those are all from (northern) France, and I daresay not hoods (chaperon) but coiffes.
Of course, I could be mistaken. I do admit that for warfare and or pilgrimage a hood might be acceptable, but not even the Schilling chronicle show any. (And Schilling shows a lot)
Edited Date: 2009-07-23 02:24 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-07-23 05:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Agreed, I consider the bigger hoods used for warmth, and the smaller open hood to be two separate types of items. I’ve seen people use evidence of one for the other, or suggest that they might be the same thing, just worn differently, but they really belong to two different times.

I wrote an article several years ago looking at the pin-on sleeve phenomenon as more of a reenactorism than reality, much like you describe above with the hoods. The article certainly has flaws in it, but my main point was that *usually* you see women wearing the sleeves when in some particular state of undress (up until about 1480 where my study ended), and that they were particularly common in Mary Magdalene portraits. I'm still not even entirely convinced of my own theory, but the important thing is to realize that there are other, more common sleeve styles than just the one. In any case, somebody who said she was from your group emailed me about it a year or so ago. Somebody named Helga?

Date: 2009-07-24 07:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Helga - yes, of course I know her.
She's a member of the Company of Saynt George as well of the Städtisches Aufgebot Anno 1476. And she's the mum of my first "big" headdress, I own the base construction to her.

The pin-on sleeves are a phenomenon I agree usually seen with commonwomen. I guess that might be the reason why it's very often depicted on Magdalenas, usually she's the only common-woman in a biblical painting.

But short sleeved dresses with different coloured sleeves pinned are figuring very often at midwife's helpers, or "commonwomen" in tapestries (again - I am referring to Upper Rhine region), as do they figure in inventory lists (I've got a marvellous set of 15th century Basel Linnenweavers inventories, those are so great, I own Simone Muscheid a lot for pointing them out to me)

There are a lot of different styles, and what I miss most are longsleeved dresses. Even in winter the company's women are wearing the short sleeved ones, and one after the other complains about the temperatures... I usually wear 2-3 dresses on top of each other, sometimes shortsleeved over longsleeved, the lacing accommodating the layers (and when it's that cold, nobody wants to be pretty, the more important business is to keep warm)

There is one thing what really bugs me - laced on sleeves. Like men lace on their trousers, there are some girls who lace on their sleeves. It developed out of another reenactors flaw (I guess an arming doublet was the father of the idea), try to convince the girls not to use that anymore is a neverending story for the 5 years past.

Date: 2009-07-24 01:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
One thing I noticed was that the sleeves were usually only worn (without another dress over, that is) in private situations. Prevailing theory that I've heard about Mary was that she was so distraught she didn't dress fully, or that she was a prostitute and may not have been fully dresses. Not *entirely* certain I agree, but she's almost always wearing them. Most of the other examples are in the birth room, a very private environment.

But, I've found a few that just can't be explained that way, so my theory could very well be incorrect.

I agree with you about the long sleeves. The most common style that I've been able to find (based on a sampling, of course) is a plain long sleeve. And then, of course, the V-neck gown for even more warmth over another couple of layers.

I've seen the laced-on sleeves, but never any evidence for it!

I read back through a few of your 15th century posts - very enjoyable! 14th century is so popular (and I do love it) but good 15th century discussions are a little harder to come by. :-)

Date: 2009-07-24 03:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's the opposite over here - a lot of 15th century things going on, while the 14th century is just - well - existing.

Date: 2009-07-23 05:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As for the fitted dresses, I’ll put this in a separate comment off the root of the entry.

I'm not sure that anybody that has really studied this has said "this is the one and only right way of doing things." I’ll certainly grant that there are people who would look at somebody like Tasha or Robin, or even me within my own groups, and do it because we’re doing it and teaching it, and treat it like gospel. Or they might even say “THEY said it was done this way…” but I think that most people doing the serious research would say “it’s a possibility”, and that’s all.

I think there’s a pretty big difference between saying that something is just a possibility versus a reenactorism. To me, “reenactorism” means that people are doing it because they’ve seen other people doing it, but that it’s pretty much outright wrong (or rather, there’s little to no evidence to back it up at all). Like wearing a nice warm hood over a v-neck gown – people do it because they’ve seen others do it, but there’s no evidence, archeological, textual, or pictorial to suggest such a combination.

But the fitted dress, while not really supported in the rather scarce archaeological record, does seem to at least meet what some of the images *look* like, which makes it more than a reenactorism such as the hood example. Because really, the archaeological record for this time period is pretty scarce. If we had dozens of examples, from a variety of areas (the Greenland examples don’t really say much about what was or wasn’t done in England and France), then the lack of supportive dress would say something. But as it is, almost everything that we do is a guess, to some extent. I do also have some textual references that I’d use as *very light* justification, but I don’t have them gathered or with me here. One day I’ll have to put them all together.

I should be clear that when I say it “looks like the art”, I’m definitely talking only about certain late 14th century examples (The La Belle Compagnie timeframe is 1380, at the earliest, with several later scenarios that we pull for some events). For the 1340s, I completely agree that it’s unlikely a fitted dress. It doesn’t *look* like a fitted dress, at very least.

“Close to look” possibility? Sure. Completely agree. Reenactorism? That, to me, at least, suggests that it’s outright wrong, and considering the body of all evidence that we do have, I don’t think that’s a correct assertion either. My opinion only, of course. :-D

Date: 2009-07-24 07:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I like your opinion :-)

Date: 2009-07-24 01:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"I didn't want to raise a new Burgundian war"
*Raises hand* Sorry that was my fault!

I was applauding Fiofiorina for highlighting the issue of regional variation in clothing. I think someone may have thought I was hitting at them when I wasn't. I really meant the number of people online and off who quote secondary research like it's gospel. And as I pointed out, many of them are misquoting others or taking comments out of context anyway.

There's nothing wrong with reenactorisms within limits - how many of us are up to killing a whale for its mouth cartilage or a cat for its scented glands? But there are lots of us (and most of us do it at some stage or other, including me) of taking a shortcut we know to be a shortcut, but which others see and think is OK. We should just careful about how we do, that's all.

I did not jump down any specific person's throat for their opinion - at least I don't remember doing it - so I'm sorry if it seemed that way. But yes, there are people out there who say their way is the only way. I didn't say anyone here was like that, but they do exist.

Date: 2009-07-24 04:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I did not jump down any specific person's throat for their opinion - at least I don't remember doing it - so I'm sorry if it seemed that way.

No, I didn't think that at all!

I just can't see fitted dresses for the late 14th century as a "reenactorism". I don't think that most people are doing them as a shortcut, per se, but as a genuine attempt to make something that looks like the picture.

I *love* these good discussions on the topic. They always get me to reconsider *why* I think a certain thing, and to do another review of the evidence. I've already went back and pulled out some old email conversations into something that I can better access, and maybe write an article on, sometime down the road. :-)


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

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