Fashion in the Middle Ages

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

This is a fairly light look into the fashion of the Middle Ages. I received this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review, in the form of an ebook. Unfortunately the pictures were extremely small and impossible to see, and the formatting wasn't finalised so the captions were out of order (making it impossible to see if the manuscripts were available to view online). As such, this is not a review of the selection of images in this book. It's a shame, because a book like this lives on its photographs and it's very difficult to review without at least a sample.

The text itself is a little dry, even for a historical clothing nerd like me. It basically just describes what people in the images are wearing, and occasionally talks about why (for instance, to show status, profession, or a historical figure).

My particular clothing interests lie a little later than the Middle Ages, so I don't hold myself to be an expert in this period, but some of what the author was saying made me a little suspicious of the text. She repeatedly states that the lower-class people depicted in the illuminations are wearing bright colours purely at the artist's fancy. This seems outright wrong to me. While lower-class clothing from the period is extremely rare, we do have evidence that bright dyes were used by the poor in Europe hundreds of years prior, and later. Many, many natural dyes exist that produce bright results, and which would have been readily available during the period. I'm not saying they were walking around in lurid primary colours, but a bright red was both achievable and affordable. Woad creates a bright blue and was incredibly popular. Surely it's unreasonable to expect that peasants just decided to dress in undyed wool for a few hundred years?

Nevertheless, if the physical copy of this book is filled with large images of the beautiful manuscripts, it's probably worth it. From what I could see, the images contain a substantial number of people wearing a variety of clothing. Studying these primary resources for clothing enthusiasts is valuable enough even without the text.
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This little book is very quick to read and it gives you an insight into the culture of fashion in the Middle Ages. The author bases this book on manuscripts and illuminated volumes that represent scenes of human life at various times of the year and especially at various times in European history. There are texts that describe invented stories, legends, myths, stories of saints, stories by Boccaccio and philosophy. The portrayed characters belong to all social classes, from peasants to great lords, from priests to bishops to popes, from children to the elderly, and each of them has his own wardrobe. This book it's in the middle ground between an art essay and a costume essay: while describing clothes, for example, the author often describes the material of which clothes are made up, whether in reality or on paper. 
I was a little disappointed by the shape of the text, because it seems a catalog without a long introduction that could link the various iconographic sources that make this book really interesting and curious. I recommend it a lot, but I would have preferred another form of essay, more detailed and with more descriptions. I hope, then, that in the printed book the photos are large because they speak for themselves for their beauty and their opulence.
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Thanks to NetGalley I received access to a digital ARC of Fashion in the Middle Ages by Margaret Scott in exchange for an honest review.  

A foreword by Elizabeth Morrison is followed by an introduction and then the three main chapters, Dressing for the Moment, Dressing for the Job, and Dressing for Another Time, Another Place, before a glossary of terms, and suggestions for further reading.

This book is fascinating and I’m so grateful for having the chance to read it. Tons of interesting information illustrated by lots of pictures with illuminating (heh) captions. In my copy many photographs were of very low quality making it hard to make out the details described by in the text, but I assume that is a feature of the digital ARC and not part of the final copy. 

I enjoy reading historical fiction, biographies of historical figures, and playing faux-medieval fantasy roleplaying games, so this book was very much a delight for me. The glossary alone is exceptionally helpful when trying keep the difference between miniver and ermine straight in my head, or remembering just what samite was again. I will happily add a copy of this book to my collection as soon as possible.
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This title is great for anyone studying culture in the Middle Ages or those interested in historical fashion. It has pictures of art work that details the fashion as well as images of actual pieces to help readers see what is being described. It also includes a glossary for a detailed description of fabric and dyes to assist anyone with things they may not have a great deal of knowledge about. The author provides in-depth descriptions of common fabrics and their exact uses as well as the colors that they dyed these fabrics and the purpose of those. I would highly recommend to anyone needing a factual source, or anyone simply interested in fashion.
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Considering the lack of actual fabric and or clothing remaining to us from the Middle Ages, Scott does a lovely job of highlighting the details and meanings of various styles, fabrics, and materials.  When we get dressed today, we don't need to consider any particular ramifications or messages relayed by our choice of dress, but Fashion in the Middle Ages will teach us that this was not the case until recently.  This book will not appeal to the masses as the subject matter is pretty specific, but it is a fine addition for those interested in sartorial or Middle Ages history.
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Fashion in the Middle Ages was originally published as an exhibition catalog accompanying a historical retrospective at the J. Paul Getty museum in 2011. The book was apparently organized in relation to the physical exhibits in the museum, because it's not arranged in any obvious relation to time period, culture, or world location. This causes some amount of confusion and 'cultural whiplash'. I did enjoy Dr. Scott's commentary on sumptuary laws and the use of different materials.

There are interesting and well written notations about the curated objects. Many of the illuminated pages are very well notated with interesting observations about the depictions being of a different culture or time period from that in which the objects were produced.

I received an electronic galley of this book and many of the illustrations were so pixellated and unclear as to be virtually unusable. The historical notes were very clear and well written, so I assume that a print copy of this book would solve the problems which plague the e-book. Roughly 1/3 of the illustrations in the electronic version are sub-optimal. As noted before, the exhibit notes are well written and accessible and the illustrations could be better.

I enjoyed this small volume. I would have liked to have seen the original display. There is a

Three and a half stars, most likely more (4 - 4.5) for the paper versions with better illustration reproductions.
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This is greaet for those who have an interest in the Middle Ages and /or fashion. Great primary sourcing and all levels of class and in religion. It is really interesting to see how the author interprests and gives the inofrmation on the sources.
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I requested Fashion in the Middle Ages mainly as reference material for my art and to learn more about fashion in the middle ages. 
This book was an interesting read and the illustration complemented the text well. I only wish there were more illustrations in the book, but this comes only from my artist's point of view.
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*I did receive a digital version of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

    Fashion in the Middle Ages by Margaret Scott is an interesting little book that covers several dozen medieval images in just a few pages. It is essentially a museum exhibition catalog and this is the first book of this kind that I have read. Essentially, many medieval manuscripts are examined and the author describes how the image should be viewed in its historical context. Akin to "reading between the lines" the author is able to relate the importance of the image in regards to how the contemporary viewers of the image understood their own world as well as how they understood an even earlier past.
    It is important to note that this book is not encyclopedic or comprehensive, being an exhibit catalog. It is also important to know that the book is certainly much more about "fashion" as the title states and not simply about the different kinds of medieval dress and clothing. In regards to fashion of the 14th and 15th centuries, this book is superb. It relates how the varying social orders and economic classes were perceived in a very stratified society based on outward appearances. An interesting highlight of the book was an understanding of how some foreign people (both of the contemporary time and of the historical past) were understood. The author does a great job pointing out and examining details that reveal a wide array of information that someone untrained in viewing medieval manuscripts would pass over or not know to even look for. Some weaknesses of the book are that the vast majority of the images are from the same time period of the 14th and 15th centuries. While this is necessary for a cohesive museum exhibition, this does lead to the title of the book to be a little misleading. Also, a somewhat more connective narrative would have been appreciated. While there is some general discussion and summarizing at the beginning of chapters, much of the book feels a little disjointed as being simply individual examinations of different images without a wider context to always place them in.
    Overall, Fashion in the Middle Ages by Margaret Scott is a neat little book if you are interested in the sense of fashion in the Late Middle Ages and using its high quality images as a resource, though the casual medieval reader may wish for a little more meat on the bone from this volume.
    3 out of 5 stars.
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This is a wonderfully laid-out and informative book, which covers a massive range of fashions in the Middle Ages. It was absolutely fascinating to read - my favourite parts were the pictures of the beautifully textured fabrics which survive to this day! 

One small note is that the images were very small in the e-book copy, and could not be enlarged without becoming fuzzy. This is one to get in hard copy, for sure.
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I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  
From the publisher --- From the costly velvets and furs worn by kings to the undyed wools and rough linens of the peasantry, the clothing worn by the various classes in the Middle Ages played an integral role in medieval society. In addition to providing clues to status, profession, and/or geographic origin, textiles were a crucial element in the economies of many countries and cities.
Much of what is known about medieval fashion is gleaned from the pages of manuscripts, which serve as a rich source of imagery. This volume provides a detailed look at both the actual fabrics and composition of medieval clothing as well as the period’s attitude toward fashion through an exploration of illuminated manuscripts in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum. The last portion of the book is dedicated to the depiction of clothing in biblical times and the ancient world as seen through a medieval lens. Throughout, excerpts from literary sources of the period help shed light on the perceived role and function of fashion in daily life.   

As a lover of history, this book was right up my alley: al the Tudor novels and non-fiction books that I have read have gone on at length about clothing and cloth and fashion.  (Even in the day of Downton Abbey, cloth was so expensive that dress-lengths for uniforms were often given to the women at Christmas time as a “bonus” as that its cost was sometimes more than their annual wages. That’s why ladies’ maids and other female servants were so happy with their employer’s hand-me-downs: this seems to have been in place for 700+ years ago in the middle ages.)
The book is expertly researched and written and the illustrations made it a definite window into the past. Anyone with a love of costume or fashion would love to read about all that went into just basic clothing at the time: it wasn’t like today where one buys cheap, synthetic materials’ outfits from H&M or Old Navy that only lasts a few weeks in fashion and shreds in the washer within said weeks. History lovers would appreciate it as a companion to the books they are reading that describes the clothing – this book is a perfect reading gift this holiday season on so many levels. 
Now I known I NEED to go to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles: hopefully, it did not burn down in the fires of the last few weeks. 
📚 📚📚📚📚
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I was really looking forward to this, and hoped it would be fun but still informative – I've been reading a lot of medieval books lately as research for my next novel, and some of them are pretty dry, so I was looking forward to one with lots of pictures. This was interesting at points, but it didn't feel very focused – it jumped around in time and theme, rather than moving either chronologically (by decade/period) or thematically (clothing for clergy, for royalty/upper class, for poor people/serfs etc.). Also perhaps it's just the way it downloaded onto my iPad, but some of the images were so pixellated and poor quality that I couldn't see them, which defeats the purpose.
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Fashion in the Middle Ages is a fascinating read. This beautifully illustrated volume comments on medieval dress by considering its portrayal in illuminated manuscripts of the time; therefore it is an interesting blend of fashion, history, and art. Some periods are better represented than others, but over all it is an informative work that is also a pleasure to flick through. It provides an excellent overview for those new to the study of medieval fashion, including a handy glossary at the back to explain the clothing terms used.
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I'm fascinated by Middle Ages and interested in fashion and lifestyle through the  ages.
I was happy to get this book as it seemed perfect for me. 
All my expectations were met: it is well written, full of interesting facts and information, and lovely pictures.
I loved to discover some less known Middle Age works as much as I liked the historical part.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to Getty Publications and Netgalley for this ARC
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The Getty Museum publishes a number of small books looking at different aspects of the art in their vast collection. This one, looking at clothing in Medieval times, does not disappoint.

Using pages from illuminated manuscripts, often books of hours, we see how people in all classes dressed from the 12th through the 15th Centuries. Each work is described and discussed, looking at the clothing.

These tiny works of art are so often neglected. This book is lovely for the light it shows on this era.
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