As I mentioned in early May, I took my textile interests on the road last month. And some good textile-researching friends, too. We drove ourselves to the Medieval Congress at Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo.
I learned about all kinds of nifty stuff. A good friend gave a talk about sumptuary laws. These are medieval laws that tell upper-class citizens what kinds of clothing and other objects they may wear or display. Apparently, between the 12th and 16th centuries, these were common all over the world, even Japan.
This image from Charles V of France’s coronation in 1364 shows the Chamberlain of France putting special (embroidered?) stockings on the king to symbolize his role personifying France. The characters in Chaucer wore clothes like these made of cheaper, less colorful materials. p. 106, From Margaret Scott’s “Medieval Dress & Fashion”, GT 575 .S363 2007
I went to a paper in which the novelist Candace Robb talked about her friendship and correspondence with Laura Hodges, who has written extensively about clothing in Chaucer. She read aloud some of the correspondence the two have had through the years, talking about costume details and color usage.
My favorite reference was that Professor Hodges talked about Michel Pastereau’s book “Blue: The History of a Color”, which I loved. FIT’s library has it: 5th floor, Main Stacks, BF 789 .C7 369 2001. This book is both very beautifully illustrated and full of interesting info about how people in earlier cultures saw color.
We also have the book Dr. Hodges is most known for, Chaucer and Clothing: The Secular Pilgrims in the General Prologue. This is also in FIT’s Main Stacks, PR 1868 p9 .H63 2000.
Other friends edit a scholarly journal that collects articles on medieval clothing and textiles. A lot of papers given at Kalamazoo are published later in this journal. Volume 8 will be out next month, but the library at FIT has all of volumes 1-7:
They’re on the 5th floor Main Stacks, GT 732 .M43
This cover image illustrates an article on the types of veils worn by women in northern Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries. The photograph is from the tomb effigy of Jacoba van Glymen in Beersel, Belgium, dated ca. 1460. Photo by the article’s author, Isis Sturtewagen.
Finally, me and my road-warrier companions had some great meals together, where we all sat around, eating schwarma or vegetable pakoras, catching up on our lives for the last year, and laughing and geeking out about old clothes.