Late Medieval Fashion Redressed

Figural art that supports the look of straight front seam tailoring

Boucher, Francois. 20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment. New York: Harry N. Abrams

  • p. 203: Boccaccio of the Duc de Berry, c. 1410, Paris, ms. fr. 598 fol. 49v; woman wearing fancy over-gown with pendant flaps lined in fur.
  • p.204: Italian breviary, c. 1380, ms. lat. 577, fol. 380; multiple women
  • p. 205: “Virgin and Child”, aka “Agnes Sorel” by Jean Fouquet c. 1460 (or 1480); famous ‘baseball boobs’ portrait; though the picture clearly shows a straight front seam closure, it also shows a six-part construction, which provided additional tailoring opportunities.
  • p. 206: Queen Jeanne, panel from Narbonne, c. 1373–1378; Queen Jeanne wears a sideless surcotte over her gown, but the height of her bosom could indicate a straight-front-seam construction method.

Camille, Michael. The Medieval Art of Love. London: Harry N. Abrams, 1998.

  • p. 76 Lovers go shopping from Le Chevalier Errant, Paris, c. 1410; woman in blue gown on the right; side-view.

Pognan, Edmond, ed. Boccaccio’s Decameron: 15th Century Manuscript. Fribourg–Geneva: Productions Liber S.A., 1978.

  • Throughout this text there are multiple instances of bust shaping that could be achieved with the straight-front-seam method. Note: Although the editor dates this manuscript to 1330-1340, I have a hard time believing that it was done much past 1410, as the styles appear dead-on for that earlier time period.

The Belles Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1958.

  • book-plate 30: A woman praying in fancy overgown — though painted by the Limbourg brothers who also painted April, May, and June of the Tres Riches Heures (cited as examples of silhouettes achievable with the curved-front-seam method), the bust shaping in this one picture strongly resembles the push-up-and-shelf effect of the straight-front-seam method.

Spencer, Judith, trans. The Four Seasons of the House of Cerruti. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1984.

  • Notable for its many large-busted female figures, this manuscript is peppered with many fine examples of gowns that can be recreated using the curved-front seam method. To be fair, it also portrays gown styles that more closely resemble the look of the straight-front-seam method.

Sronkova, Olga. Gothic Fashions in Women’s Dress. Prague: Artia, 1954.

  • p. 167: Bible of King Wenceslas IV, fol. 69, c. end of the 14th century; Woman on the left with ‘frounced’ headdress wears a particularly good example of a gown that achieves the high lift and shelf-like cleavage of the straight-front-seam method.

Thomas, Marcel. The Golden Age: Manuscript Painting at the Time of Jean, Duke of Berry. New York: George Braziller, 1979

  • p. 42: The Tacuinum Sanitatis fol. 25 “Orgeat (Aqua Ordei)”; a lady in close-fitting beige gown (side-laced) with dagged ‘angel’ sleeves in the Italian style of the very late 14th century and turn of the 15th century.

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