Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Costumer's Manifesto: The 16th Century Part 1

For anyone interested in fashion history or just costuming in general, The Costumer’s Manifesto is a ridiculously useful website/compendium of links.  A little while ago, I was researching a little something for my latest writing project, Twilight: The Re-Vamp (yes I am a whore thank you for noticing), and I was trying to figure out what Highland Scots would have worn around the year 1555, and I found all the information I could need on here.  It’s kind of an old website, and a lot of the links are dead, but you should be able to find some good information about what you’re looking for.  Plus, it’s meant to be used by reenactors, who are the most meticulous people in the WORLD about being historically accurate (always the people I consult when trying to figure out what a historically-based character would be wearing).

Bishop’s mitre ca. 1500-1550 via The Victoria & Albert Museum
 This 16th-century head-covering is a mitre, the established headgear for bishops by the 11th century, and also worn by the Pope (Bishop of Rome) and high-ranking abbots. By the 12th century mitres were usually made in white linen or silk, and often had figurative scenes showing saints. They gradually became decorative rather than figurative, so that by the Renaissance their patterns were often quite secular in appearance. In this case the embroidered images are positively secular, the only reference to the Christian faith being the hands holding palm branches in the centre of the decoration. The palm branch was the symbol of the triumph of faith over the suffering of martyrdom.

This mitre is thought to be Italian. It reputedly belonged to Cardinal Matteo Palmieri, Archbishop of Acerenza and Matera from 1518 until 1538. As befitted a man of his high rank and precocious abilities (he was elected Archbishop at the age of 25, under a special dispensation, as the canonical age was 27), the magnificent embroidery on the mitre is a true feat of virtuosity.

The grotesque-style designs have been worked in silk embroidery threads, using a clever combination of long, short, satin and chain stitches, combined with different colours to create naturalistic shading. Such skilled needlework would no doubt have been executed in a professional workshop or convent.”


Cope ca. 1475-1500 via The Victoria & Albert Museum
"From the 11th century onwards, higher Catholic clergy were entitled to wear the sacred garment known as a cope for processional occasions on feast days. The cope developed from a Roman cloak-like garment and was semi-circular, opening down the front. Orphrey bands ran the full length of the front opening. On the back, the cope retained a vestigial hood which was triangular or shield-shaped.
Some of the saints depicted on the orphrey bands probably connect this cope to a Cologne church, or at least a church nearby. St Ursula and St Severinus were Cologne saints and St Hubert belonged to a military order established by the Archbishops-Elector of Cologne. Their embroidered names identify them.”
 “The Danny Jewel” ca. 1550 via The Victoria & Albert Museum“

Renaissance pendants were sometimes made as amulets as a protection against danger. At that time people believed that the horn of the dolphin-like narwhal came from unicorns. They valued it highly as a detector of poison in food and drink. This pendant formerly belonged to the Campion family of Danny in Sussex.”

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