This exhibition explores the evolution of courtly clothing from the
"Fashion Revolution" around 1330
Catherine of Cleves Shows Off ca. 1440
Although duchess of Guelders, in the northern
Netherlands, Catherine was also the niece of Duke
Philip the Good of Burgundy. For reasons of
culture — and snobbery — she leaned toward the
duchy of her famous uncle with its opulent court
and extravagant clothes. In this portrait, Catherine,
while humbly distributing alms, could not be
more richly attired. Her voluminous ermine-lined
houpeland, with cascading bombard sleeves, harks
back to the luxurious early decades of the century.
Her hair is enmeshed in reticulated gold temples.
The boy receiving her coin is dressed in a hand-me-
down, a handsomely tailored gown once owned
by a wealthy man.
Hours of Catherine of Cleves, in Latin
The Netherlands, Utrecht, ca. 1440
Illuminated by the eponymous
Master of Catherine of Cleves
192 x 130 mm
Purchased on the Belle da Costa Greene Fund and
with the assistance of the Fellows, 1963; MS M.917, pp. 64–65
In 1435, during the final chapter of the Hundred Years' War, Duke Philip the Good switched sides and supported King Charles VII. By the following year, the English occupation of Paris ended. When Charles VII regained Normandy and Aquitaine in 1453, the long war was finally over. In the ensuing period of peace and prosperity, fashion revived.
These decades saw the last of the houpeland. It continued to be worn by men and women in provincial areas, but in France and Flanders it was appropriate only for formal occasions. Men more often wore the gown: full or knee length, belted at the waist. Over the course of these thirty years, men's gowns, via flaring pleats and ample shoulder padding, assumed a flattering, V-shaped silhouette. While the chaperon remained popular, new hats also arrived.
Women's gowns featured wide V necks with contrasting collars and partlets (plackards worn at the midriff). Headgear atop the temples continued to evolve, growing ever more extravagant. Burlets got thicker and climbed higher. Butterfly veils, supported by wires, floated like sails above ladies' heads.