Medieval Martial Lovefest in Kalamazoo

This coming week is a busy one! I’m flying into Chicago on Wednesday and will then travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan with my beau to attend the 48th Annual International Congress on Medieval Studies held on Western Michigan University’s campus from Thursday May 9th through Sunday May 12th. Bright and early Thursday morning (8 AM), we’ll open the Freelance Academy Press booth in the Book Room. I will then spend a part of the day visiting dear friends in another town in Michigan. Lots of driving for me that day.

Friday morning at 10AM, I will take part in Greg’s Judicial Duel Demonstration, which is set to be a fascinating overview of judicial duels in Europe followed by a re-enactment based on a fictitious accusation. A cast of thousands (I really mean “maybe ten of us”) will thrill the audience with a salacious tale of alleged adultery followed by pitched combat waged between the accuser and the injured party. I play one of the accused, though not the one in armour defending my virtue.  That task falls to the other injured party. I sure hope he wins! My reputation in my guild will be forever tarnished if we are proven guilty by his loss. *bites knuckles dramatically!*

Friday evening at 5:30 PM, I will be displaying my reproduction of the Charles VI pourpoint as part of the DISTAFF exhibition. If you are coming to the conference, please come say hi!

Saturday morning at 10 AM I will be presenting a new paper, “Martial Beauty: Padding and Quilting One’s Way to a Masculine Ideal in Fourteenth Century France”. I present last as part of the DISTAFF session entitled Dress and Textiles III: Interpreting Surviving Artifacts. I will speak for 17 minutes, hopefully on the nose, and will be showing slides as well.

At some point I will fly home and collapse in exhaustion. My only regret is that this conference is consistently held over Mother’s Day weekend, which seems awfully unfair for the moms who want to attend. Nonetheless, I look forward to presenting my new synthesis of data and receiving feedback. I also look forward to the conviviality amongst those of us whose passion exists in the peculiar niche of late medieval martial matters.

Fourteenth Century Clothing Workshops in California

On Saturday, April 13th, at Loyola Hall on the campus of Santa Clara University, I presented an afternoon of immersion into the tailoring of two famous French pourpoints dated to the fourteenth century: The Charles VI and the Charles de Blois. It is impossible to study fourteenth century clothing without paying at least some attention to these two rare garments. I began by presenting a summary of the data I gathered on the pourpoint at the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Chartres, France, purported to have been worn by Charles VI of France. My study of the garment in July 2011 yielded fascinating new understanding of the construction details which the historical clothing community at large has not yet seen for this garment. Excellent discussion ensued throughout the presentation, and I had a great time sharing the material with such engaged attendees. When my slide lecture was through, I invited folks to examine the reproduction I’d made and to ask further questions.

After a break, we resumed, this time on the topic of the grande assiette, which is the French term for a form of tailoring seen in the 14th and 15th century, particularly in France. The armholes of a grande assiette garment were cut exceedingly large, and the sleeve cap required to fill that space was created with the use of triangular gores. By modern standards, this is an unusual way to cut a sleeved garment, and for many, translating the 2-D pattern pieces to 3-D is a challenge.

Grande assiette geometry for drafting

Grande assiette geometry for drafting by Tasha Kelly

Following a quick overview of evidence for this tailoring technique in the period mentioned, I demonstrated a way to drape the upper sleeve, including the gores. Next I demonstrated an easy way to use measurements to draft the upper sleeve, including gores. I had asked participants to bring a calculator (smart phones would do), their own measuring tape, and a yard stick. My hosts and I supplied paper, pencils, and string for make-shift compasses. Each participant was given a worksheet on which they recorded five measurements taken on their own body. These were labeled m1 through m5. Next, they derived four more measurements from provided equations, which were labeled mA through mD. Lastly, they drafted the upper sleeve and three different gores—one for the front, one under the arm, and one for the back (which would need to be cut twice). The simplified drafting mimics the pattern used on the pourpoint of Charles de Blois, the most famous extant example of the grande assiette tailoring technique. The goal of this exercise was to show how geometry can easily be used to draft seemingly complicated patterns.

A fair number of us retired to the Fault Line Brewery in Sunnyvale for dinner where I further got to know the fun folks who’d come out for the day. I was served a gigantic bowl of seafood gumbo which after eating two-thirds of it, I thought I might burst.

The next morning at 10AM, I held a fitting workshop for creating a 4- panel draped pattern to use in making a bust-supportive dress. This style of dress can serve as the foundation fashion layer for women who wish to recreate a popular look portrayed throughout the latter half of the 14th century, all over Europe. There are two basic schools of thought on this—curving the center-front seam, and keeping it straight. The benefit of the latter is that it also allows you to eliminate the center-front seam altogether and put lacing on one or both side seams. However, the former is my first love, so that is the method I taught. I also think it’s easier to get right on the body than the straight-front seam is, due to the subtleties of fit required around the side seams and armholes to make the bust look nice. I had asked everyone to bring a couple of yards of linen with them, which we used as the base fabric for the draping.

Fitting for 14th century Bust Support

A group of ladies fitting each other. Photo by Cilean Sterling.

Our hosts’ home is beautiful and there was lots of open room for people to work. I asked everyone to pair up while I grabbed one friend and fit her as a demonstration. Everyone quickly followed along, picking up on the concepts right away. We took a break for a pot-luck snacking/light lunch fortification, and then got back to work, this time switching roles, so that whomever had been fit became the fitter in the next round.

It was a great weekend. Everyone I met was a ton of fun to get to know. This was the perfect group of people—extremely welcoming and such quick studies. My hosts, Debora and Robert, were a delight, and beyond generous. Thank you, California, for your hospitality.


Change to Bay Area Plans

It appears more folks are interested in workshops/hands-on learning than in the lectures, so the offerings for the event at Santa Clara University on Saturday, April 13th is changed as follows:

I will be presenting the Charles VI research, including my reproduction, as planned, followed by a grande assiette sleeve workshop. This will occur in lieu of the other two lectures originally planned, on the topics of women’s bust support and the 15th century farsetti. If interested in attending or if you need to contact the folks handling registration, please visit the FaceBook page.

Grande assiette diagram

Grande assiette diagram

For the sleeve workshop, there will be some slide-assisted discussion followed by demonstrations and individual practice. I’ll show you how the sleeve can be draped, how it can be put together from a paper pattern (the one I sell), and how to adjust for fit, etc. Bring your own versions and/or questions/problems to discuss and get solved!

The women’s fitting workshop will still be on Sunday, as planned, and it will take place in the morning, starting at 10AM sharp. (Details on location to follow for those who are registered.) I’ve expanded it to allow six more attendees, so please spread the word, if you have a friend who would have liked to attend but missed the initial sign-up. Make sure you have the following items you will need to bring with you to participate:

  • 2 yards of linen (medium weight — 5.3 oz works well)

  • A large number of quilting pins (long pins with balls on one end)

  • A pen (make sure it will mark the linen and be visible)

  • Fabric shears

  • Needle and thread

  • Pen/pencil and paper for taking notes

  • A measuring tape

I look forward to seeing people there!


“Redressing What We Know”: slide-enhanced lectures in April

**UPDATE: The bust support and farsetto lectures are cancelled; in their stead there will be a grande assiette sleeve workshop. Please see the more recent blog post for details.

Plans have firmed up for a day of lectures by Yours Truly to be held on the campus of Santa Clara University in Santa Clara , California, on Saturday, April 13th, in the afternoon. The theme of the three slide-enhanced lectures is “Redressing What We Know: Extant Garments from the 14th and 15th Centuries in Europe”. To follow developments and find out about registration, please visit this FaceBook page. (You will have to be logged into FaceBook to see it.) On Sunday the 14th, I’ll be conducting a small workshop for fitting a bust-supportive dress — the kind that laces up the front and is worn as a basic foundation fashion layer. This is limited to ten women and I believe it is almost full, so if you are in the area and interested, please contact the page organizers immediately.

Loyola Hall, Santa Clara University

Loyola Hall, Santa Clara University

Here are the summaries of the lectures:

The Pourpoint of Charles VI of France: New Information about Padded and Quilted Garments

In Summer 2011, I undertook a detailed examination of the crimson silk pourpoint in the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Chartres, France. This revealed a wealth of information concerning the cut and construction methods used for making padded and quilted garments–especially for martial use–in the later 14th century. This lecture includes a reading of an abridged version of my paper on this topic (forthcoming in Waffen- und Kostümkunde in July 2013), supplemented with photographs of the original garment as well as contemporary figural art sources, and photos of the reproduction process. My reproduction of the garment will be available for viewing and examination, along with time for Q&A.

Containing the Ladies: The Latest Understanding in 14th and 15th Century Bust Support

The last few years have been an exciting time in dress history, as information has filtered out about the undergarments found in Lengberg Castle in East-Tyrol, Austria. These garments, dated across most of the 15th century, shed amazing new light on how women arranged their bosoms beneath their clothing. It had long been held that until the corset made its appearance in the 16th century, European women only bound their breasts, built bust support into their outer clothing layers, or went without. This survey of the current research will feature extant fragments, textual sources, and contemporary figural art, as well as photos of experimental archaeology–recently-made undergarments intended to help their wearers understand what women did.

A Tale of Two Farsetti: Comparison of the Malatesta and Cavaniglia Farsetti

Two beautifully preserved doublets, or farsetti, as they are called in Italian, give us a clear view into the sartorial techniques used for dressing the fashionable Quattrocentro male. A detailed analysis of the differences and similarities in the tailoring of these two garments–one from the 1420s and the other from the 1480s–will reveal how faithfully the figural art of the time portrayed them. In addition, by examining the tailoring differences between the two, it becomes possible to map the evolution of the style in the intervening decades. This lecture will feature photographs of both farsetti in pieces, diagrams that map tailoring changes over the middle of the 15th century in the area now known as Italy, and contemporary figural art.