St. Eugenia's Clothes Are Encoded

Jacobus de Voragine

Golden Legend, in French

Illuminated by the Master of the Jardin de vertueuse consolation

ca. 1460
379 x 270 mm

Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911

MS M.675, fols. 74vā€“75r
Page description: 

SS. Protus and Hyacintus wear the full-length version of the man's gown ā€” an alternate garment often preferred by middle-aged or older men. Above a full skirt, the torso was the same as with the short gown: pleats and padded shoulders formed a flattering male silhouette. Eugenia's attire, however, is anachronistic: the low wide neck and tippets hanging from her sleeves hark back to the fourteenth century. Her bejeweled turban (like that worn by the Roman emperor at the right) is complete fantasy. The illuminator used out-of-date and invented garments to place the martyrdom in a distant time and place, third-century Rome.

Exhibition section: 

Peacocks of the Midcentury

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.