Sunday, November 13, 2016

What Makes an Outfit Early 15th Century Part 3

So now we've come to the third part of my mini-series on what distinguishes early 15th Century women's clothing from the styles before and after it. I've been looking primarily at French clothing, as that's my area of study, but there is room for some of what we've looked at to apply beyond France's borders. In Part 1, we discovered that the later Gothic 15th Century silhouette is generally curvier. In Part 2, we determined that either no lacing, or at least inconspicuous dress lacing will provide a more accurate look than visible lacing. Today we'll take a look at headdress.

We can't fully understand the topic of headdress without taking class into account. As I discussed with my series on the basics of dress fashion during this period, not all women wore the same things. So while there are 7 primary categories of headdress that we can identify in the early 15th century, that isn't at all to say that all 7 headdress types were suitable for all women. So for the best comparison in order to distinguish early 15th century styles, and because this ended up being a longer post than I was anticipating, we're going to look at just upper class styles this week. Then next week, we'll look at the lower class.

The differences between 14th Century, early 15th Century, and Burgundian-era upper class headdress comes down, mostly, to the general "zone" each occupied.

The primary headdress type of the later 14th century is temple-based styling. Templar braids, in all their varied forms, are all positioned at the side of the face, over the ears. Veils, when worn. are draped flat over the top of the head, and drape down to the shoulders in this same way.

Tomb Effigy Bust of Marie de France, circa 1381
On the other end, the Burgundian headdress styles, mostly variations on the henin, center over the top of the head, sometimes at great heights. In England, this concept was expanded even further up and out off the crown of the head using wired veils, where the French henin stayed primarily conical.

Portrait of a Lady by Rogier van der Weyden, circa 1460
In the middle of these, in the early 15th Century, headdress runs between these two zones.

I love the image above from a copy of the Prose Lancelot. It shows a representative example of each of the four headdress types most often depicted on French upper class women. They are: padded rolls, crowns, horned veils, and styled hair.  We do have to rule one of these out, however. By the 15th Century, crowns were being used almost exclusively for important ceremonial occasions. The Queen of France did not go about her daily life with a crown atop her head. Instead, she is more typically depicted wearing the padded roll style. It would seem, therefore, that crowns are used as simply as a way to identify a queen in an illumination. While it can be useful for those modern women serving as crowned queens in organizations such as the SCA, it was not reality.

For the others, note the trend of positioning the headdress above the ears. Unlike the 14th century, where veiling would drape over the shoulders, the new style in the 1400's was to leave the shoulders mostly unconcealed. Even veils hanging from the horned structure often stopped at the shoulders if not above them.

The versions above can be considered rather tame examples, however, that relate more to the 14th century. When we dig in, we find other examples of these same styles relating more to the taller centered look of the later half of the 15th century.

This isn't necessarily much of a chronological transition (earlier versus later). Instead, the height and scale of the headdress seems to be partly connected to the style of the manuscript, and also, possibly, whether the figure is meant to be recognized as a real person living in the contemporary 15th century world. Most of Christine de Pizan's contemporary women, for example, are depicted with taller headdress.

Equally important to the zone is the type. Padded rolls can be found in the 14th Century, but at nowhere near the popularity as they are in the early 15th. Eventually, as they continue to grow in scale, they steadily become more V-shaped, and in the middle of the century, they are replaced with the forked henin.  All of the stages in between, whether flat or more "heart-shaped", the padded roll is a decidedly early 15th century hat.

The same is true of the horned veil. For women of a slightly lower stature, the new look of shifting the hair upward on the head inspired a completely new headdress- the horned veil. There are so many variations and versions of the horned veil, they are nearly impossible to sub-categorize, but the idea is the same across the board. Two mounds or protrusions sit above the temples, jutting either upward or slightly outward, and are covered with veiling. Sometimes the horns were left visible, revealing them to be cones of hair, or structures of netting. In any case, the horned veil was widely adopted by members of both the upper class and the rising middle class. It mostly faded out by the end of the 1450's, making this one also an exclusively early 15th century style.

Styled hair is a bit different. Templars, the same type worn in the 14th century, appear to be the go-to pairing with crowns among illuminators. One conjecture here is that the last time crowns were worn fairly frequently had been in the 14th century, so artists may have simply used what had been the preferred hairstyle when they were depicting crowned women. When a crown wasn't involved, however, a different hairstyle was used. It's difficult to describe, but it appears to be large balls of curled hair positioned over or just above the ears, while the top of the hair remained flat. It was worn, more often than not, with a circlet. This hairstyle can be found in the later portion of the 14th century, but it appears to be more frequent in the 15th, and worn by a larger group of upper class women. Just like the others, it also stopped being used in the middle of the century. The latest versions I have come from Le Decameron of 1432.

So that covers upper class (and some middle class) women's headdress. Stay tuned for the rest next week.

1 comment:

  1. There's an example of that frizzy hairstyle on a bust in the V&A with (huzzah) a photograph of the back. See:

    Mathilde GirlGenius also did a tutorial on how to do the hairstyle using ragcurls which ended up looking exceedingly like the original images. You have to use the Wayback Machine to view the pdf now, though.