This exhibition explores the evolution of courtly clothing from the
"Fashion Revolution" around 1330
This exhibition is generously underwritten by a gift in memory of Melvin R. Seiden and
by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.
Major support is provided by The Coby Foundation, Ltd., with additional assistance from
the van Buren family in memory of Dr. Anne H. van Buren, and from the Janine Luke and
Melvin R. Seiden Fund for Exhibitions and Publications.
Clothing Reflects Character and Status 1493
Clothing reflects the moral nature and social standing of the characters
in this edition of Roman playwright Terence's Comoediæ. In this woodcut
from "The Eunuch," for example, Thraso, the protagonist's rival, is
dressed very foppishly. He wears a brimmed hat with multiple ostrich
feathers and a cape with a striking black border. His boots are slashed
at the ankle. The gown of his servant, Gnato, has an outlandishly dagged
hem, symbolic of his parasitic personality. Parmeno, the protagonist's
faithful servant, wears fashionable stocks with striped boulevars and a
simple doublet. His linen shirt is visible at the doublet's open chest and
cascades from its slit sleeves.
Terence, Comedies, in Latin
France, Lyons (printed by
Johannes Trechsel), 1493
Woodcuts designed by the
Master of the Club Feet
This was a period of transition in northern Europe—the Middle Ages were not yet over, and the Renaissance had not yet begun. Both King Charles VIII and Louis XII invaded Italy, and these military campaigns exposed France to Italian art, culture, and fashion. At the same time, the Late Gothic style still dominated the arts—and clothing—of northern Europe. Fashions of this period reflect these conflicts.
In the 1480s, the look for men changed abruptly. Padded shoulders and the V-shaped silhouette disappeared. Long loose open gowns came into style and, by the 1490s, these gowns became especially voluminous and bulky. Round-toed shoes replaced the pointy pouleines. New, however, and probably reflecting Italian influence, were the man's outer coat called a sayon, the man's hat called a carmignolle, and doublets with slit sleeves through which the linen of the shirt protruded.
Women's gowns of this period also became fuller, and bombard sleeves were revived. The neck got square. The turret disappeared, while its frontlet remained, now attached to a new small-crowned coif.