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Late 14th Century & 15th Century Women's Gowns

There are a few other variations of medieval dress which are outside my main field of interest, so I'll include a very brief overview on what they were and what they looked like. There is a wealth of specific information on these types of medieval dresses online for those who are particularly interested in those time periods.

The Italian kirtle
This is the 15th century dress which has a separate bodice which is cut at the natural waist line. Shown at left is a detail from a 1475 painting by Botticelli, Portrait of a Young Woman.

It laces at the front and has separate sleeves which lace on. This style is often referred to as a kirtle, but it is not the same kind of kirtle which is written about in England and France in the 13th and 14th centuries. This style was widely popular in Italy and other parts of Europe, well before the waisted-style of kirtle is seen in England.

Sleeves were often made of a different material and could be quite rich or brocaded. It was worn to the ground or just above and did not have a train. It would always have been worn with an overgown in public.

Late European 14th century gown
I'm not sure if this gown had a specific name, although I suspect it was often referred to as a gown. Although predominantly seen in the late 14th century, this style of gown can be seen throughout the medieval period in European artworks. It appears in Spanish and Western European art and does not appear to have been worn in England or France.

This gown has the distinguishing feature of a wide elaborate embroidered band at the wrists, neck and down the front of the gown. Often the sleeves also has a strip of gold-thread embroidery down the back of them.

Occasionally, these appear buttoned to the elbow allowing the chemise to be seen underneath. Often the sleeves are laces up to the elbow permitting the chemise to show through. This style of sleeve continued to develop well into the renaissance. It is shaped through the body.

The detail at left dated at 1381 is by Stefano di Sant Agnese from the Coronation of the Virgin.

The Burgundian Gown
This seems to fall into two distinct styles- those which are cut in one piece and those which are cut with a bodice. The detail at right from 1450 by Petrus Christus Portrait of a Female Donor .

To be honest, most paintings of the gown known as the Burgundian gown look to me more like a version of the houppelande, only worn a slightly different way. It still looks like a large, warm overgown with the collar folded back even further than before and the cuffs of the fur-lined sleeves turned back.

The front of the kirtle underneath is visible and it was extremely fashionable to wear bIack or another dark colour underneath. The wide belt was usually buckles at the back and draws the gown in forming pleats under the bust and only a little over the breast. The A line of the gown sometimes looks like the bottom part is sewn on separately. I believe that the collar is not a separate piece at this stage.

The detail from the 1449 painting by Christus of St Eligius in his Workshop, shows a gown which does not have a separate bodice and is also drawn in with a belt.

Other medieval gowns
A little later in the 15th century, the gown abandoned the collar and cuffs and the V opening at the front widened even further. It was often worn with a transparent neckerchief which was worn around the neck and tucked into the front of the underdress.

This style of gown can be seen at right in the sculpture from 1487-1488 by Laurana, Bust of a Lady. This style is also sometimes referred to as the Burgundian gown and almost certainly has a separate bodice which sits high under the breasts.


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