A few months back, I decided that I was going to nix the outfit component of my "Garb Quest"A&S entry and concentrate instead on submitting a research paper. I've struggled for a long time, since making that decision, on what exactly I wanted the topic of the paper to be. I knew that I did not wish to deviate too far from my interest in early 15th century women's clothing, but beyond that, I wasn't in love with any of the ideas I'd come up with. Until now.
I've looked at a lot of manuscript images from my chosen time period of the first half of the 15th century, and the more I've looked, the more I've began to perceive that women's clothing depictions from this time begin to look a bit cookie-cutter. Which is a bit odd, considering that illumination styles had reached a turning point in the 15th century with their heavier leaning toward realism. With this new way of depiction, one would think that illuminators would jump at the opportunity to paint any score of unique outfits, just for the opportunity to depict something new in a medium that was finally ready to show it off. So why should the opposite start to appear to be true? Or is it not true, and this "standardization" of women's depictions is merely a side effect of unstructured observation? Just the mind trying to categorize and make sense of each image against the rest by attaching commonalities to each, despite more key differences. True or not, however, what sort of class and culture information can we glean from making those categorical distinctions more clear?
I won't go into all the details here (since that's what the paper is for!), but basically, I've selected 5 manuscripts, all from France (including 1 from Flanders) and all produced between 1400 and 1435. Each one of these manuscripts offers a variety of depictions of women, of all classes. I will attempt to sort each of these depictions (my initial estimate is 250 total depictions) into "style" classes. Once the styles have been identified and counted, I'll be able to first state if that "cookie-cutter" perception is valid, then share my findings in a type of early 15th century "Look Book", which can then be used for deeper costume study.
I'm super excited about this project. No matter what I find with this survey, it's the type of analytical research I can really sink my Capricorn teeth into!