Thursday 5 April 2018

Clothing the Past – Book Review

Clothing the Past: Surviving Garments from Early Medieval to Early Modern Western Europe, by Elizabeth Coatsworth and Gale Owen-Crocker. February 2018. Brill, ISBN: 978-90-04-35216-2, £198

This is a seriously expensive book, which I have not bought for that very reason. However I can give an outline of what it includes and to an extent what it excludes. For even more information go the the Brill website at

The first thing to say is that although it says “to Early Modern” in the title, the scope of the book is actually to the end of the fifteenth century though, as the authors say, they have extended slightly into the sixteenth century by looking at the gibbones (doublets) of Cosimo and Don Garcia de Medici, but none other of the Medici grave garments, nor any other 16th century items are included, except Archbishop William Warham’s glove. 

The garments covered are grouped into chapters by type: Headwear, Outer garments, Priestly garments, Body garments of wool and linen, Rich body garments, Upper body (coat like) garments, Leg coverings, Minor vestments, Footwear, and Accessories. 

For each garment you are given the date, where it is, a general description, the materials it is made from, construction details, dimensions, a list of further reading, and an image. 

Obviously many of these garments survived because they were associated with a particular person, some of the examples included are Eleanor of Castile’s pellote (sideless surcoat), and the pourpoint of Charles of Blois. Others garments are from archaeological sites, particularly the Greenland garments, but also the Orkney hood and the Bocksten tunic. Some of the Lengberg Castle finds are also included. 

The book brings together one hundred surviving, mainly complete, medieval garments.

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