Since color matching is a component to the challenge, I decided that I'd look for outfits that mostly matched fabric I either already have or that I knew I could obtain at a reasonably good price. I also decided that I should look for outfits that offered a challenge to make something I haven't before, or try a skill I don't normally get to try.
The first outfit that came to mind was one of my favorite Albrecht Dürer drawings of a woman from Nuremberg, circa 1475. When I was first researching 15th century garb, I briefly thought I'd settle on late 15th century German garb, and I've always liked this outfit.
This outfit offers a considerable amount of stuff and would definitely qualify as a challenge for me. I do not have these colors, but the dress could possibly be made from Wm. Booth's Natural Flannel. There's also fur, a multi-part headdress, a leather belt pouch, a goller, and a double pleated apron (which is actually already on my project list.) That's a lot. While not crossing it off the list, I decided to look for other options.
I went to Pinterest and started mining my collection of images there. Among the Le Decameron (BnF Arsenal MS 5070, reserve)images I've pinned, I located this lovely ensemble (fol. 145):
Here's a close up:
Her dress is a pretty typical early 15th century fitted gown, but it has gold trim on the neckline and wrists (which is not really typical). Then she has a gold hair net (which may be styled over buns of hair, but may also have a supportive underhat), and a bourelette padded roll hat with some type of brooch. I have navy blue wool that would work for the dress, then this Blue Stuff from Wm. Booth would work for the corresponding hat. I've never made a hairnet, but luckily one of the experts on that is in my local region, and it would be a good challenge. Making my own trim for this would also be something I haven't had must practice with.
Not content to settle on either of those just yet, I continued to look. Some time ago, I'd pinned this image into my Garb Ideas board:
It's Christine de Pizan as seen in The Queen's Book (BL Harley 4431), fol. 178. I like this image for several reasons, but the primary reason I saved it is because it's one of the few times we see Christine (who is, safe to say, a fashion icon in early 15th century manuscripts) wearing something other than blue. Granted she's got a blue underdress, but a gray gown is not something we see very often. And I LOOVE gray. She's wearing a fashionable bourgeois horned headdress, as well as something I've been trying to pattern- a fitted wimple. In this instance, the wimple is really the "challenging" component, as there isn't much to the outfit otherwise, but perfecting the look of the horned veiling is also a challenge. Mood Fabrics has a few light gray options, like this Pale Heather Suiting that would probably work. I already have the navy wool for the underdress, but I could also opt for a linen, like this True Navy linen from Fabrics-Store.com to make this a summer-appropriate outfit.
Material-wise, option #2 (Le Decameron) gives me the best option, since I would not need to purchase the gown material. The silk for the hairnet and trim, however, may add up. Option #1 (Dürer) would probably end up being to costliest, since I don't have anything that's the correct color for anything but the apron, plus there are leather and fur elements. As much as I've always wanted the Dürer outfit, I really can't justify that expense as I focus primarily on early 15th C. French, and this outfit is decidedly not that.
I like option #3, but I feel it falls slightly short on my personal stipulation that there has to be something truly challenging about the outfit I choose. It is an outfit that I believe I could accurately recreate, and I do certainly hope to have in my kit someday. Option #2, however, has challenging components, but I don't have a particular love of it (except for my general love of all things having to do with 15th century women's headdress.)
In the end, I have to go with my gut. Christine's style may be a standard, and may not hold many technical challenges, but it is a style that my persona would have worn, and I wanted to make this outfit anyway. I am able to make a wool "day dress" out of my navy wool that I will get use out of, as well as making a gown that I both want and need. The elements about the other options that I like can go onto my project list as single items.
As a final note, those of you that have been reading for a while may remember that I abandoned my old Garb Quest, which sounds an awful lot like this challenge. I brought that up with myself as well, and determined that since the point of the challenge is to end up looking like you stepped out of a manuscript, without having to document your material and technical choices, helps this feel to me like a fun project rather than a daunting exercise.
What about you? Are you willing to take the Manuscript Challenge? What outfit image(s) are inspiring you?