Haute couture gets medieval...

A recent article in History Today remarks upon a somewhat unexpected fashion trend: Parisian designers creating collections inspired by medieval texts, images, and writers -- as well as medieval clothing styles themselves. As Benjamin Wild writes of Vivienne Westwood,

The septuagenarian’s Parisian show in March was especially striking because it was based on a book of illuminated medieval manuscripts. Voluminous fabrics of deep purple, crimson and ultramarine were enlivened with gold embroidery and printed patterns, replete with birds, flowers and berries. Gowns were long, shoulders were angular and sleeves were puffed.

And Westwood isn't the only designer turning to the distant past for contemporary inspiration; the late designer Lee Alexander McQueen's final collection is even more strongly influenced by late medieval/early modern fashion and art, as Medievally Speaking's review of that show suggests. Moreover, for any of you interested in medieval concepts of "fashion," Wild also provides a quick introduction to medieval concepts of fashion (which really got off the ground in the 15th century, as clothing technologies developed).

Who knows? Maybe the pointed headdress (fashionable for about 20 years in the later fifteenth century) will come back. Certainly Westwood's ornately embroidered gowns (featured in the article) and enveloping capes (on her website) would still be a little recognizable to a fifteenth-century fashion-conscious woman.

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