18 December 2012

Heavenly headdresses

No, I haven't forgotten about this blog - or about the series I was writing about the 14th Century bust. I haven't just been somewhat consumed by work and by modern projects (lots of knitted Christmas presents) and now by Christmas itself.

However, this lady's page was just too inspirational not to share. In particular, her headdress interpretations here, her St. Brigitta caps and her AMAZING step-by-step photo-guide showing how she arranges her veils. (I particularly love seeing a fellow uberlong-haired lady demonstrating how the hair itself has the potential as a base structure for the fantastical headdress structures).

There is also an interesting series of headdress interpretations here.

I often feel headdresses are an underrated, underappreciated part of medieval dress. Far too many people ignore or forget headdresses, either out of ignorance of ways to wear them, fretting about them being "uncomfortable" or because they let modern sensibilities and/or politics tell them that "it looks stupid/ugly" or "it's anti-feminist".

Personally, I don't see the point of going to all the effort of making a beautiful, accurate outfit only to ruin it by missing out the crucial accessories or by wearing the wrong accessories with your outfit (clue: a large, plain oval veil is not appropriate for all eras or all classes!). It is not that difficult to make a basic veil appropriate for your era. It only takes experimentation and practice to make it comfortable (or, at least not uncomfortable). As for them being ugly - well, men's hose, codpieces or the pregnant look of the 'gothic slouch' are pretty ugly to most modern eyes. Finally, whatever your opinions on veiling in a modern context, I think it does our forbearers (for-mothers?) a disservice to ignore what was a critical part of their dress and their everyday life.

Well, enough ranting from me for tonight. Happy holidays, all. I shall see you in the New Year.

25 November 2012

The 14th Century bust: Part 2

I started by considering the common methods of bust support used by individuals reproducing English/French 14th Century female fashions. However, of course, it is more important to consider the historical evidence: the silhouette of the era and any primary sources (documentary or archaeological) for bust supportive methods. This post will consider the historical silhouette. 

I shall not be considering the 15th Century - it is not my area of interest whatsoever. However, I hope I can convince you that for the vast majority of the 14th Century the female silhouette is completely different from that of the 15th Century and thus what applies to the latter will not necessarily apply to the former. 


Part 2: The Fashionable Female Silhouette 1300-1375 ~

18 November 2012

The 14th Century bust: Part 1

When it came to making an English upper-class 14th Century dress, there were lots of things to consider. Now, one day I will sew all the buttons back on it (!), acquire a camera that works (mine recently died), put it on and get some good photos for you all. In the mean time, I shall ramble a bit about my thoughts on English/French 14th Century female fashion and the bust in particular.

Part 1: Introduction ~

21 September 2012

Lace cowe de race: redux and analysis

Ages ago, I wrote about my first attempts at some fingerloop braids. Among those was the cowe de race, a rather intriguing braid which includes an instruction that is not seen in any other braids in the Tollemache, Harley or Serene manuscripts:

"...and then shall A right enter into B of the same hand from within outward and under all the bows of both hands take the over side of A left reversed..." (Tollemache)

21 August 2012

The missing 14th C sleeveless shift

I'm afraid work and hot weather mean no actual interesting things of my own to report on.

However, in more Lengberg-related news, Cathy Raymond has written an interesting blog post about late medieval underwear, specifically the Lengberg pants and whether they are a male or female garment.

She also links to a recent PDF by Rebecca Lucas, who has hunted through the literature to answer one of the great mysteries of late medieval underwear. Namely, the source of the sleeveless "chemise of the fourteenth century" shown in a black-and-white photograph in Kohler's "A History of Costume":


It is from a cash of objects found during building work in 1867 in Burg Rahnis, Thuringia, Germany. It is described as being made of coarse linen, not silk as has been previously speculated, with "inserted wedges on both sides" (translation by Rebecca Lucas). It was kept in a private collection, possibly the museum at Burg Rahnis - however, this museum was sacked in World War II and its contents stolen. The whereabouts of the shift is currently unknown.

However, that's a lot more information than I previously had - simply that it was lost in World War II.

14 August 2012

Germanic weirdness

Someone Germanic, please, please make a reproduction of this!

Oh, my goodness. How much weird awesomeness can you fit into one effigy? It's got utterly bizarre tippets, an off-the-shoulder dress for Elizabeth, and look at those slits with the three buttonholes on Ulrich's tunic. Interestingly, they both have long, loose, wavy hair and a band around the head - possibly this is because they were both children when they died, as is revealed in the inscription (see bottom of page).

4 August 2012

Fingerloop: primary sources

There are three main primary sources for 15th C European fingerloop braids: 'The Tollemache Book of Secrets', 'Harley MS 2320' and 'Natura Exenterata: Or Nature Unbowelled' (sometimes referred to as 'Serene', the surname of the attributed author of the braiding section). There are also 17th C European fingerloop braids which are quite different from the 15th C ones, but I will not be investigating those.

Cindy Myer has a list of publications for these manuscripts. Most notably, there is a free facsimile and transcription of the braiding section of Serene. Also, there is a free facsimile of the entire Harley MS 2320.

Serene is, perhaps, the most intriguing of the manuscripts. Despite being published in the mid-17th C but its braids are very similar (or the same) as those in the 15th C manuscripts, and unlike those in the other 17th C manuscripts. Its discovery was reported in L-M BRIC News, where you can read more about it and its braids.

1 August 2012

Fingerloop: a few braids

Here are a few of my recent attempts at fingerloop, all in cotton (as it's cheap and I have lots):


From left to right:

  1. A brode lace of v bowes
    • I attempted to learn more about the structure of this braid and how the moves produce the braid by using as many different coloured bowes as possible, so that I could see which move created which pattern. As I only had 4 colours of thread at the time, there are 2 brown bowes.
  2. A brode lace of v bowes
    • More of the same, to attempt to understand how the pattern is made. This braid uses 3 blue bowes and 2 brown bowes. The right hand acted as instructed, but the left hand picked up bowes unreversed instead of reversed. The result? The tension in the braid is uneven, resulting in the entire braid spiraling somewhat annoyingly.
  3. A brode lace of v bowes
    • Yet more of the same. This braid uses 3 light blue bowes and 2 brown bowes. I did a section as instructed, then did an overhand knot to mark the change, then did the remainder with both hands picking up bowes unreversed. The result? Picking up unreversed makes the same braid but upsidedown - what was the upper, visible face when braiding now is the lower, invisible face.
  4. A lace common round
    • Using 3 green bowes and 2 dark blue bowes.
  5. A lace maskel (Harley 2320 version)
    • Using 4 pale blue and 4 pink bowes. This lace spirals somewhat and the holes are not visible unless it is purposely stretched out. The lace compacts a lot when held under tension vertically, rendering the pattern less visible.
  6. A lace maskell (conjectural Serene version)
    • Cindy Myers suggests the lace maskel instructions in the Tollemache and Harley manuscripts are incorrect and suggests a conjectural version based on the Serene MS instructions and the name ('maskell' apparently means 'a voided lozenge')
    • This produces a nice lace-like braid, though it too has a tendency to spiral and requires purposeful stretching to look its best. The lace-like pattern collapses when held under tension vertically.
    • My braid has a fair few mistakes (that may or may not be visible in the photo). I kept forgetting where I was and how many repeats of the horizontal exchanges I had done. However, the principle of the pattern is there.
  7. Lace cowe de race
    • I kept trying but could not make this look like Cindy Myers' example. The problem is with the instruction "A goes through B right from within outward, under all the loops of both hands, and takes the over side of A left reversed". I am unsure quite what is meant by the underlined section.
    • I tried several contortions to attempt to "take the over side of A left reversed" but neither were satisfactory: one resulted in the 'vertical' threads changing colour (see between the second and third set of 'stitches'), the other resulted in the 'stitch' threads pushing up through the 'vertical' threads (see below the fourth set of 'stitches')
    • It is clear that, however this move works, the same colour should remain on the top half of the bow - if this doesn't happen, the 'vertical' threads will change colour
So, those are all of my experimental braids so far. I did do some others at a show I was at last week, but those are just more 'brode lace of v bowes' and 'lace common round of v bowes' that were to keep myself from boredom and to have something to talk about. 

I also taught a friend's daughter the 'brode lace of v bowes'. She was quite content to only learn that pattern, but was amazing at creating colour combinations (including several I'd never even considered) - she kept fishing in my thread bag and drawing out amazing combinations, with colours I didn't even know I had. Unfortunately, I am no where near as talented at the colour selection as she is!

30 July 2012

Lengberg underwear: thoughts on the pants

Just pondering on the Lengberg underwear some more...

I am curious as to why some people (often re-enactors, or SCA) are so adamant that the bikini-like pants must be a female garment. The argument of "women must have worn pants" doesn't make much sense to me. We know that in many later eras women did not routinely wear pants (or wore crotchless ones), making that argument (at least in its most blanket form) false.
I can certainly understand the argument that "women must have done something at that time of the month" - but why does it have to be pants (a la mens'), and why does wearing something for one's period automatically equate to wearing something for the rest of the month too? This argument seems particularly nonsensical to me when it comes to the mid-1300s and before, when mens' braies were huge baggy things that would not be able to hold any conjectural medieval sanitary pad close against the crotch.

In any case, the argument I've been reading about the Lengberg pants in particular is that they look nothing like the mens' braies seen in 14th C and 15th C manuscript illustrations. True. However, a lot of those illustrations are French or English. Also, may I direct you to a woodcut and a sketch by Albrecht Durer: The Men's Bathhouse (c. 1498) and Self Portrait as an Act (c. 1507). Yes, these are at the very end of the 15th C / very beginning of the 16th C. However, I don't know how precise the Lengberg radiocarbon date of "15th C" is. Also, the images are from the correct country. In any case, they definitively show men wearing bikini-style pants.

28 July 2012

Lengburg underwear: more articles

Seeing as I know there are a few of us out there who are waiting with baited breath for any fresh details regarding the Lengberg underwear finds, I thought I would share these two articles from medievalists.net. The latter article is particularly interesting as it describes the four 'bras'/'corslettes', including the placement of the sprang which had been mentioned previously. Apparently it is between the cups on at least one of the 'bras'.

And, of course, now that I go look there appears to be several new articles that have popped up over the last few months, which I have not noticed before:

19 July 2012

Oddities: Full-face Veiling

Every once in a while I come across something that stands out as being rather different. Something rather odd.

Here is one of those things: in a detail from a Durer altar painting (All Saints' Picture, Landauer Altar, 1511) is a lady. She sits at the extreme right of the painting and wears an otherwise pretty typical example of late 15th C / early 16th C German clothing. However, her veil completely covers her face, revealing only her eyes.

That's the only example of full-face veiling I've seen in a Western European historical context. Please do enlighten me if you know of any other examples!

15 July 2012

Cuisses: pattern-making

Well, I was going to be good and get some photos of the blue dress to show off, but that completely didn't happen. So, now for something completely different, as the Pythons would say.

Himself has been scheming over a late 14th Century harness of transitional armour. Some of it he has already bought, some he is going to make and some he has yet to buy. However, it (along with most re-enacting things) got shelved when we moved. Now, finally, most of our stuff is out of storage - including the half-completed armour.

8 July 2012

Fingerloop: references

Here are some useful websites I've found so far for fingerloop braiding (or, more correctly, loop manipulation braiding using a finger-held method).

Fingerloop braiding ... gotta catch them all?

So, I promise to write about the wedding outfits soon. I just need to find some time to actually get back in them and get some nice photos of everything from a constructional perspective.

In the meantime: fingerloop!

I've been thinking about what I would have in a display of medieval textiles and crafts, given endless time, skills and money. ^_^ Of course, some of those ideal things are not at all feasible and others (e.g. weaving, netting) I do not know how to do (yet...?). Others, however, I have dabbled in and can talk about reasonably intelligently (at least to complete novices). It's just nice display pieces that are lacking.

I had a big debate with Himself about what one should do when reenacting and how it is best to display things. Basically, my feelings are that one can go down two routes - to be representative (and show things in terms of their frequency) or be complete (and show as much as possible, even unusual things or things a bit off your scope in either date or geography). I'm going to follow the latter in terms of items, then try to make sure I am representative via my actual conversations. I think it's easier to engage with people if there's more things on display - it is more likely that a visitor will find at least one thing interesting. Also, it is easier to talk about development, progress and history if you can compare it to other things not only verbally but also visually and tactile-ly.

Anyway, this all boils down to my first planned project: to be complete and have a full display of all the known 15th Century fingerloop braids. Which, having done a little reading, now seems to be quite a task! There are 67 braids in Tollemache/Harley 2303 alone. I'm not yet sure if I'm going to be able to find a like-minded nutter or two to do the multiperson braids with, or if I'm going to have to attempt to use this lady's method of doing braids F-fell so they can be singleperson.

In any case, it should keep me occupied for a while... so, watch this space.

15 June 2012

14th Century Upperclass: A Sneak-Peak

Well, the deadline passed and thus I should probably show you the outfits. However, I have to say: this is not my work. Real Life decided to take over during the time I had planned to sew and -amazingly, incredibly- Himself took up the gauntlet and nearly single-handedly sewed both outfits. The doublet was mostly sewn by his mother.

So, let me present to you the fruit of their labours:

Re-creating this image, which we had adapted for invitations, etc.
(Note: this dog is much heavier!)
Photo (c) G. Roissetter Brown.

More details to follow...

5 March 2012

Sprang: medieval references

Again, another post mainly for my own reference purposes. This one is to detail references to sprang, particularly those that are medieval or later.

4 March 2012

14th Century Upperclass: the fabrics

So, having finally been at home when the light is good enough for photographs, I thought I would show you the fabrics we have thus far managed to amass for this project.

1 March 2012

Cosmeston Medieval Village - Petition

[20/01/13 - Edited to add, there are now promising signs that Cosmeston is being returned to a true living history site. Volunteers are being sought to maintain the buildings, gardens and land, plus to populate the houses in costume. Renovations and improvements are being planned. It is looking promising...]

22 February 2012

Useful manuscripts

I wanted to write a little about useful manuscripts for costume research/inspiration for the 1300s. There are, of course, a few well known favourites (like, say, the Luttrell Psalter). Luckily, more and more libraries are putting high quality facsimiles of their manuscripts on the web. The issue is, of course, finding them - often they are not terribly well publicised and, as an amateur, one often does not even know which manuscripts will be useful for your project, never mind which museum or library currently owns them.

So, I present to you a run-down of the useful illustrated manuscripts I have come across and where to find them. This list is liable to be updated from time to time - it's as much a reference for myself as for others!


Luttrell Psalter (British Library Add. MS. 42130, f.171)

Dated c. 1320-1340; Lincolnshire, England. Famous for its illustrations of the life of the rural poor. Also, a couple of illustrations of richer individuals. This has finally been completely digitised!

Le Roman de la Rose (University of Chicago Library MS. 1380)

This copy is dated c. 1365; France. Lots of illustrations of courtly men and women, a couple of illustrations of armoured men, a couple of illustrations of poor men and women.

Le Jeu des échecs moralisé (University of Chicago Library MS. 392)

Dated c. 1365; France; originally bound together with University of Chicago Library MS. 1380. A few images of courtly men and women, a fair few images of armoured men.

Romance of Alexander (MS. Bodl. 264)

This copy is dated c. 1338-1344; Flemish. Plenty of illustrations of courtly men and women, and of armoured men. One notable feature is the detail afforded to the clothing - unlike nearly all other Northern European pictures of this era, the clothes are depicted as being decorated with embroidery or patterned cloths, not simply plain. A higher resolution copy is available here.

Manesse Codex (Cod. Pal. Germ. 848)

Dated c. 1304-1340, with the majority of the illustrations completed c. 1304; created in Zurich. Full of images of knights (often jousting) and ladies (often watching the joust). There are 137 full-page images, each dedicated to a singer (plus one additional image that has been unassigned).

Maciejowski Bible, aka Morgan Bible (Morgan M. 638)
Dated c. 1250; France. Illustrated bible, famous for its highly detailed battle scenes.

Bible Historiale (Den Haag, MMW, 10 B 23)

This copy is dated c. 1372; France. Illustrated 'history bible'. Mostly illustrations of men and armoured men, some illustrations of women.

Chroniques de France ou de St Denis (BL MS Royal 20 C vii)

This copy is dated c. 1380-1400; France. Illustrated history of France. Plenty of illustrations of armoured men. Interesting for its illustrations of coloured coat armour and of furniture (being looted).

Chroniques de France ou de St Denis (BL MS Royal 16 G vi)

This copy is dated after 1332 but before 1350; France. Illustrated history of France. Plenty of illustrations of armoured and civilian men. F. 64 ('witches burnt') is intriguing, for its depiction of women in their shifts.

Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (Chantilly, Musée Condé, MS 65)

Dated 1412-1416 (Limburg brothers' illustrations) with some illustrations completed or added 1485-1489 (by Jean Colombe). Illustrated book of hours. Includes full-page illustrations for the months of the year which are highly popular with amateur costumiers for their depictions of early 15th C women's clothing (though it should be noted that these are not paintings of real life, but are composed scenes as requested by the patron - thus, though they are naturalistic they are not necessarily completely realistic). 
Useful to view in conjuction with this website which has vastly inferior copies of the illustrations but has (occasionally slightly dubious) written descriptions/interpretations of each image and notes which illustrator worked on which page.

Roman de la Rose Digital Library

This incredible site has listed every single (known) extant copy of La Roman de la Rose and fragment copies - and, in many cases, there are links to online facsimiles. The only slight issue is the often broad datespans ascribed to the manuscripts which can make it difficult to form coherent timelines for the fashion. This is made up for by the ability to search by illustration title which enables one to analyse how depictions of allegorical figures, such as 'Vanity', changed with time.

Europeana Regia manuscript collection

A page with links to masses of full digitised manuscript facsimiles, searchable (among other things) by date. Wonderful. I have only taken a cursory look through currently.

French manuscripts 1300-1400 and Dutch manuscripts 1330-1430

Two more pages I have yet to fully explore. These are from the Museum Meermanno in the Netherlands.

Manuscripts from the Werttemberg State Library, Stuttgart
Yet more manuscripts I have not investigated.

12 February 2012

14th Century upperclass: clothing musings

So, this is mostly the products of my current musing on the basis for the wedding clothes. Namely, trying to get things more specific. We're aiming for the 14th Century ... but then things get a little more complicated. We're rather used to peasant clothing which has the handy attribute of being pretty unchangeable for centuries at a time. Now we're attempting upper class (and trying for high authenticity standards, so we can wear these clothes again and again) things become rather more difficult.

11 February 2012

First post...

Hello there,

What with this being a first post, there isn't really much to say. I'm a reenactor who fell hard and fast for 1370s England. I've been on a bit of a hiatus, what with Life deciding to take over, but I'm planning on getting stuck in again - both with the 14th Century and a little bit of Viking stuff too. I'm hoping to take inspiration and impetus from this blog - after all, once I say I'm making something on here, that means I have to make it, right?

Oh, and there's also a little matter of making a full English 1370s upper class costume for myself and Himself by May for our wedding. So, no pressure then...