Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol XVIII - Historical Edition

When the Lord and Lady got up, servants and maids helped them wash and dress...Men's and women's dress was similar, both wore stockings made of wool or silk, then a shirt with long sleeves, which were often detachable and worn so fashionably tight that they had to be stitched on each time the shirt was worn. Detachable sleeves were a favorite gift, especially as a love token. A tunic or gown went over the shirt, secured with a brooch; above a full skirt a lady's gown had a tight-fitting bodice, while both the shirt and tunic might be slashed and laced above the waist to reveal her bare skin. Then came a coat, or surcoat, and in cold weather a fur-lined pelisse, often sleeveless, might be worn on top. Out of doors a mantle might be thrown over everything, fastened at the shoulder by another brooch. The poor wore shorter garments; for the rich the sheer length of their clothes was a way of displaying wealth- although the young Henry II became known as Curtmantle when he reversed the usual trend and set a fashion for short cloaks. Since clothes were made without pockets, coins and valuables were commonly carried in a purse attached to the belt, though they could be tied into a skirt or shirt sleeves...They wore thin soled leather shoes. It was said that the shoes of an elegantly dressed gentleman would fit so well that no one could see how he had got into them or imagine how he would get out of them again.

1215, The Year of Magna Carta; Danny Danziger and John Gillingham. 2003

My favorite part of history is learning how people actually lived their lives. And really, what could be more interesting that how other people lived hundreds of years ago? I love the fashion ideas from 1215 - slashed bodices and sleeves to show skin, (like torn jeans?), detachable sleeves (great idea!) and sleeves so tight that they had to be sewn on each time. Also what could be more itchy than woolen stockings? When you recall that they only had silk, wool and linen for clothes you begin to appreciate cotton and all of our modern fabric choices.

1 comment:

Claudine said...

This is fascinating. Thanks for posting this series. Actually, i wear wool stockings all winter. They are expensive and hard to find, but not itchy at all.

Re the post you did a while back about womens dress in the district of Columbia. I was there a few weeks ago, and, yes, most women were dressed as badly as you predicted. One thing I really liked, though, is that there are many women there in non western dress who look just fabulous. You don't really get that in other cities like New York or London. It seems like in DC, the foreigners don't dress to fit in, but instead wear whatever they are used to wearing. I sort of liked that.