Sunday, November 27, 2016

What Makes an Outfit Early 15th Century Part 3 continued

Today we come to the end of our look at the things that distinguish an early 15th Century (French/English) outfit from the periods of fashion surrounding it. Last time, we looked at upper class headdress and identified the general zones in which late 14th Century, and mid-15th Century hats occupied, and how the upper class styles between them sat in a transitional space between them. This week, we end by looking at the headdress of the lower classes: open hood and veiling.

Composition de la sainte Écriture, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Français 425, circa 1400-1410, fol.115r.

By far, the most prevalent headdress of the lower class in late Gothic fashion is the open hood. Closed or buttoned hoods were also being used in the 14th and 15th centuries, but appear very rarely on women, and even more rarely on lower class women (who are nearly absent from late 14th century art). The open variety, however, came into use at the beginning of the 14th century and evolved to become the most prominent headdress of the lower class for more than 100 years.
By the way, I compiled a concise document on the open hood for this year's Pennsic Known World A&S War Point. You can now download a PDF of that here.

There are four primary categories of open hoods, and they each have a considerable amount of overlap in their use, so it's not a simple matter of saying, "Late 14th century hoods looked like this, while early 15th looked like this." The primary hood variety of the early 15th century, one with a wing-shaped brim, long liripipe, and collar around the shoulders, was already being worn in the 1370's, and can still be found as late as the 1480's. So it's easy to assume that any version of the open hood that fits that model is appropriate for that entire length of time. There is, however, an evolution that occurs to the style that allows us to isolate what an early 15th Century open hood looks like, version one that is earlier or later.

Late 14th C. (Source) | Early 15th C. (Source) | Mid-Late 15th C. (Source)
The easiest way to observe that evolution is to pay attention to the shape of the wing brim. The brim as a feature of the open hood is as old as the open hood itself. It wasn't always wing-shaped, though. After some sporadic experimentation through the 14th Century with a a shaped brim, it finally caught on in the late 1370's. Calling it wing-shaped at that point, however, would be giving it too much credit. The brim was diminutive enough that it was often worn unfolded, like a bill over the face. It lacked the triangular, and outward form that is seen in the early 15th Century.

I've detailed the shaping of the wing brim during the 15th century in the past over on this post, so I won't belabor it too much here. Essentially, the wings of the early 15th Century open hood jut outward from about the point of the ears, sometimes rather extremely. The early 15th Century open hood's brim, in general, is larger and more prominent than the diminutive brim seen between 1370 and about 1410 at the latest. At the other end of the evolution, in the middle of the century, the scale continues to enlarge and the wings begin to drop. Eventually, they become two bottom-heavy triangles flanking the face and basically sitting on the shoulders.

The other headdress worn by lower class women in the 15th Century is a particular type of veiling. Veils are a tricky topic in both the 14th and 15th centuries. The use of a veil has its origins in antiquity, but the concept of using a separate piece of material to form a draped covering over the head goes back to the Saxon times. The veil was used by women of all classes in a variety of ways throughout the middle ages, so even as upper class women began using the veil in combination with other headdress pieces (or not wearing one altogether), lower class women of the late 14th century still used the simple draped veil as a cheap option for covering their heads.

Detail of the June page, Tres Riches Heures du Duc du Berry, circa 1412.
When the open hood began to take over leading into the 15th Century, however, even lower class women began to abandon the classic draped veil. What appears to happen is that women at the lowest end of the social spectrum started distinguishing themselves even more between women who could afford a wool open hood, and women who could not. For those women who could not, the veil turned into a working class headdress that was no longer even remotely fashionable. These new low class veil styles should be considered more headwraps than veils.

Source | Source
 There are two versions that appear to be a function of the wearer's age more than anything else. The older low class woman wore the veil wrapped around the neck and shoulders, then over the head, either letting the corner of the veil hang loose on on side of the head, or tucking it in. Younger women wore the veil in a style that covered everything but the face in a tightly wrapped manner that included a turban-like band around the head. It is important to note that they two styles distinguished women as being at the bottom of society, so while pretty to our modern eye, they were by no means something a woman would have likely been proud to wear.

It becomes harder to figure out the fate of the veil in the middle of the 15th Century. When veils show up, it is often in some symbolic religious context. It's possible that the veil simply faded out from use as the hood became easier to obtain, and as other versions of white head coverings (such as the tailed cap) came into use. What is clear, however, is that once the plain draped veil stops being used at the end of the turn of the 15th Century, it doesn't come back.

So, that's the end of this series. I ended up stretching it out longer than I had planned, but I hope you found it helpful in pinpointing how to look more specifically early 15th Century, rather than ambiguously "late Gothic". 

No comments:

Post a Comment