Monday 28 January 2013

Dress & Textile Sessions at the International Congress on Medieval Studies 2013

At the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, May 9-12, 2013. DISTAFF (Discussion, Interpretation, and Study of Textile Arts, Fabrics, and Fashion) are sponsoring four sessions. Being a medieval conference the bulk of the material is medieval, the only early modern paper is that being given by Melanie Schuessler --“At Hir Passing to the Quene”: Wardrobes of Sixteenth-Century Ladies in Waiting. Full details of the Congress can be found on the website

Details of the four dress and textile sessions are below.

Friday, 1:30 p.m., Schneider 1120
Session 259: Dress and Textiles I: Looking North
Sponsor: DISTAFF
--Viking Age Dress in Norway: Textiles, Quality, and Social Status - Ingvild Øye, Univ. i Bergen
--A Tale of Rags and Sheep: Dress Practices in Medieval Iceland, AD 1100–1500  - Michèle Hayeur Smith, Brown Univ.
--“Silk and Fine Cloth”: Distribution and Consumption of Textiles in Late Medieval and Early Modern Denmark  - Eva Trein Nielsen, Independent Scholar
--The Effects of Spindle Whorl Design on Wool Thread Production: A Practical Experiment Based on Examples from Eighth-Century Denmark
Karen Nicholson, Independent Scholar

Friday, 3:30 p.m., Fetzer 1005
Session 308: Dress and Textiles II: How Shall a Man Be Armed? (Demonstration)
Sponsor: DISTAFF
--Evolution of Armor during the Hundred Years War  - Liz Johnson, La Belle Compagnie
--Members of La Belle Compagnie, a living history organization focusing on English life during the period of the Hundred Years War, will dress four representative English “knights” (from approximately 1350, 1380, 1415, and 1450) in historically accurate reproduction armor to illustrate trends in armor design and techniques over this period. The presentation will include documentary, pictorial, and material evidence, supplemented by the knights’ feedback on the practical experience of wearing and working in each type of armor.
The knights: James Barker, La Belle Compagnie; Thomas Taylor, La Belle Compagnie; Bob Charrette, La Belle Compagnie; and Jeff Johnson, La Belle Compagnie.

Friday evening, 5:30 p.m. Fetzer 1035
DISTAFF Medieval Dress/Textile Arts Display and Demonstration
--A display of textile and dress items, handmade using medieval methods and materials. Items will include textiles, decorative treatments, garments, dress accessories, and armor. Exhibitors will demonstrate techniques and be available to discuss the use of historic evidence in reproducing artifacts of medieval culture.

Saturday, 10 a.m., Fetzer 2016
Session 372: Dress and Textiles III: Interpreting Surviving Artifacts
Sponsors: DISTAFF
--Material Values: Alterations of Medieval Egyptian Silks as a Reflection of Aesthetics  - Arielle Winnik, Bryn Mawr College
--A Typology of Pre-Tailored Men’s Garments Based on Key Measurements and Proportions, or, How Tall Was Saint Louis and Who Wore His Shirt? - Heather Rose Jones, Independent Scholar
--Political Iconography in the Medieval Italian Tristan Quilts: The Identity of the Real Knight-Errant  - Kathryn Berenson, Independent Scholar
--Martial Beauty: Padding and Quilting One’s Way to a Masculine Ideal in Fourteenth-Century France - Tasha D. Kelly, Independent Scholar

Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Fetzer 2016
Session 427: Dress and Textiles IV: Speaking of (and with) Clothing and Textiles
Sponsor: DISTAFF
--The Garments of Guy in the Bayeux Tapestry - Gale R. Owen-Crocker, Univ. of Manchester
--The Queen of Sicily’s Paris Shopping List, 1277 -Sarah-Grace Heller, Ohio State Univ.
--The Silk Metaphor: Threads of a Social Discourse in the Middle Ages - Thomas Ertl, Univ. Wien
--“At Hir Passing to the Quene”: Wardrobes of Sixteenth-Century Ladies in Waiting - Melanie Schuessler, Eastern Michigan Univ.

Monday 14 January 2013


Hollar - Muffs and other dress accessories
The term muff does not appear in English until the last quarter of the 16th century, and the OED (2012) gives its probable origins as from the Middle Dutch, mof and moffel or the Middle French moufle. Cunnington (1970) comments that earlier these were called snufskin, snowskin and skimskyn, the term snuffskin is used by Cotgrave (1611) in his definition of the French word contenance, “one of their snuffskins or muffes, so called in times past.” Harrison (1577) wrote that muffs, together with masks, fans and wigs were, “first devised and used in Italy by Curtezans, and from thence brought into France and there received of the best sort for gallant ornaments, & from thence came into England about the time of the Massacar in Paris.” The reference is to the 1572 Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

Sixteenth century
Queen Elizabeth I’s skinners appear to have made muffs for her, though they are in the records as snuffskyns. Adam Bland was paid for muffs, in 1583 for “furring of a snufskyn of heare colour satten embrauderid with three blake jennet skins”, and in 1585 for “furring of a snufskyn of blake velat furred with fower grey skinnes and edged with one luzarne skynne.” (Arnold, 1988)  Arnold gives jennet as a type of civet cat and luzarne as lynx, she quotes from Minsheu (1617) that “Lucerns... the bigness of a wolfe...mayle like a cat...bred in Muscovie and Russia” and “Genets...a beast... of the nature of a cat...the blacke the more pretious furre, having blacke spots upon it hardly to be seen.” There is an excellent illustration of a muff in the portrait of Eleanor Verney (Mrs William Palmer) painted around 1585-90, it is lined with some russet coloured fur and the outer is heavily embroidered with pearls in a design Arnold (1988) believes to be from Whitney’s A choice of emblems, published in 1586. Another example of an Elizabethan muff can be seen on the lower picture in this valance from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Seventeenth century
Hollar - Muff with brocade or embroidery
By the seventeenth century the fashion for muffs was extremely well established in England, and they were worn not only by women, but by men. Prince Henry’s Wardrobe accounts record he had a least two, “Embroidering two muffs, viz. one of cloth of silver embroidered with purls, plates and Venice twists of silver and gold; the other black satten embroidered, with black silk and bugles, viz. for one £7, the other 60s” (Cunnington, 1972). After the Restoration Pepys used a muff saying, “This day I first did wear a muffe, being my wife’s last year’s muffe, and now I have bought her a new one, this serves me very well.”  He also bought himself one at the Old Exchange in February 1665/6, and gave another to his mother pretending that it was from his wife.  Ribeiro (1986) comments on Anthony Woods 1663 diatribe on the “strange effeminate age when men strive to imitate women in their apparel,” listing muffs among the examples of this and stating that even the king’s soldiers wore muffs, though it seems unlikely.

Fashionable women used muffs throughout the cold seasons, of the 26 plates of Englishwomen published in Hollar’s 1640 Ornatus Muliebris, no less than seven are carrying muffs, six of which appear to have exteriors entirely of fur, and in his four seasons of 1644 both spring and winter of the three-quarter length figures have a muff. As can be seen from the three illustrations which are shown here, Hollar liked drawing muffs. A wide range of furs were used for them, and James Smith in 1658 extolled the English rabbit over the foreign sable, “Here is an English conny furr, Rushia hath no such stuffe, Which for to keep your fingers warme, Excells your sable muffe.”

By the end of the seventeenth century muffs were still around, but not as common as previously, and they had reduced considerably in size. The Spectator in 1711 commented that, “Last year’s little muffs had straggled into these parts (the country) and all the women of fashion were cutting their old muffs in two.” (Cunnington, 1972)

Arnold, J., 1988. Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe unlock'd. Leeds: Maney.
Cotgrave, R., 1611. A Dictionarie of the French and English tongues. London: Islip.
Cunnington, C. W. a. P., 1970. Handbook of English Costume in the 16th century.. London: Faber.
Cunnington, C. W. a. P., 1972. Handbook of English costume in the Eighteenth century. 2nd ed. London: Faber.
Cunnington, C. W. a. P., 1972. Handbook of English costume in the seventeenth century. 3rd ed. London: Faber.
Harrison, W., 1577. Description of England.
Minsheu, J., 1617. The guide into the tongues. London: Willian Stansby.
OED, 2012. Oxford English Dictionary Online,
Ribeiro, A., 1986. Dress and morality. London: Batsford.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Men's cloaks

Cloaks are among the oldest garments. It is thought that the 5300 year old Otzi was wearing some form of grass cloak, though the conjectural shape of the garment has been disputed. (Klaus 2009)  On the war panel of the Standard of Ur in the British Museum, which dates to about 2600-2400 BC soldiers in cloaks fastened at the neck can clearly be seen.

Felipe IV of Spain c.1627
By the early modern period cloaks were commonplace items of clothing, and for men from the mid 16th to the mid 17th centuries they were also fashion items. Cloaks rarely appear in illustrations of working men, though it has been commented that they are found in the wills and probate inventories of husbandmen and tradesmen. (Morris 2000). But it you want to see how common they were in the mid 17th century just have a look at the engraving of the Royal Exchange by Hollar

It is interesting to note that the almsmen of the London Mercers Company were, in 1609, to be provided with a new gown every three years, “provided that they be enjoined not to go forth in cloaks but in gowns as other almsmen about the town do.” (Cunnington 1978) This would seem to indicate that by the beginning of the seventeenth century the clothing of almsmen was being fossilised into an old fashioned form, whereas the cloaks, even at this level of society, were fashionable. Plain commonplace cloaks tend not to survive unless they are associated with someone special, for example the pilgrim cloak of Stephan Praun III. Praun was a member of a prominent Nuremburg family and obtained the cloak on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 1571, the garment is now in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremburg.

Among the fashionable cloaks often formed part of a suit of clothes, many of the suits Charles I paid for during the period 1633-35 were suits, consisting of doublet, breeches and cloak, for example for £42 15s 5d (one of his cheapest suits) he got, “a suite of  Cinnamond cullor cloth, all drawne with silver and silk buttons, lined with seagreene tabie, a cloke of the same cloth lined with plush turned up with buttons and loope lace on the breast” (Strong 1980)  Compare the cost of Charles’s cheap suit with James Master Esq of Yotes Court who paid in 1647-8, £3 15s 0d just for the making of “a sad colour cloath sute and a grey riding cloak.” (C. W. Cunnington 1972) Of this type of three piece suit very few survive, but the Victoria and Albert Museum has a beautiful yellow satin outfit dating to 1635-45.  

As is usual Philip Stubbes had a go at cloaks in his Anatomy of Abuses (Stubbes 1583), difficult to find an item of fashion he didn’t disapprove of. What he said was, in part, “They have clokes... of dyverse and sundry colors ...whereof some be of the Spanish, French and Dutch fashions. Some short, scarcely reaching to the girdlestead, some to the knee and othersome trailing upon the ground (almost) liker gowne than clokes. ... some have sleeves.. some have hoods... some are hanged with points and tassels...” He does go on a bit. So in length the cloaks range from a short waist length cape as in the engraving of the Duke of Savoy, through hip length as in the Van Dyck portrait of the brothers John and Bernard Stuart, to a knee length garment as in the portrait of Felipe IV of Spain from 1623-4, to a full length garment. Like those of Charles I the cloaks were usually lined, and the fastening could be none, or buttons or tassels. Many have collars as in this example from the second half of the 16th century in the Victoria and Albert Museum, or the very nice red velvet example in the Museum of London which can be worn with the collar flat or standing, unfortunately there is no image of it on the website. (Halls 1970)

 In shape cloaks at this period are usually made in the form of a half circle, a three quarter circle or a full circle. Patterns for six cloaks appear in Patterns of Fashion 3. (Arnold 1985). They range in date from 1560-1620.  Four are semi circular, one is more elliptical than circular, and one is cut in panels. One had a hood.

The cloak my son wears is based on an original from the Lauinger royal crypt, now in the Bavarian National Museum, and dating to the mid 17th century. (Stolleis 1977) The original pattern is very simple, it is a complete circle two metres (79 inches) across and made from four widths of fabric each about half a metre (20 inches) wide. A neck hole is cut, very slightly off centre as it sits higher at the back of the neck than at the front. The collar is 46 cm. (18 inches) long at the neckline, and 23 cm (9 inches) deep at the edges. The outer edge is cut to form a very slight point, the centre back is 25 cm (10 inches) deep.

Arnold, J. Patterns of Fashion: the cut and construction of clothes for men and women c. 1560-1620. London: Macmillan, 1985.
Cunnington, C. W. and P. Handbook of English costume in the seventeenth century. 3rd ed. London: Faber, 1972.

Cunnington, P. and Lucas, C. Charity costumes. London: Black, 1978.
Dalison, Mrs, transcriber. “The expense book of James Master, Esq., of Yotes Court, Mereworth, 1646-55.” Archaeologia Cantiana, 1883 .

Halls, Zillah. Men's costume 1580-1750. London: HMSO for the London Museum, 1970.
Klaus, Oeggl. “The significance of the Tyrolean Iceman for the archaeobotany of Central Europe.” Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, Jan. 2009: 1-11.

Morris, R. Clothes of the common man 1580-1660. Bristol: Stuart Press, 2000.
Stolleis, Karen. Die Gewänder aus der Lauinger Fürstengruft. Munchen: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1977.

Strong, R. “Charles I's clothes for the years 1633 to 1635.” Costume, 1980.
Stubbes, P. The anatomie of abuses. 1583.