Clothing Embellishments & Embroidery
JEWELLED BANDS & HEMS - EMBROIDERY - SPANGLES
- PRESSED METAL SPANGLES or GAUFFRES
finishing touches to a woman's garment defined who she was or
in many cases, who she aspired to be. Sumptuary Laws fought alongside
the clergy urging women to dress moderately and not above their
station in life, but this was largely ignored by the rising merchant
classes who were eager to mirror the fashions seen at court and
worn by their social superiors. The upper classes, therefore,
trimmed their clothing even more richly to combat this trend.
bands and hems
Many artworks from the medieval period show heavily decorated
bands along the edges of cloaks and along the bottom of overgarments.
The detail at top right comes from the 1410 painting from Campin
of Saint Veronica and shows the typical jewelled band at
the hem of her outer gown. Her brocaded undergown or kirtle can
be seen underneath.
Many surcotes, like that shown in
Campin's The Nativity, at left, painted in 1420, show a
similar band at the sleeves and on the deep V of the neckline.
Both of these appear to have a gold, metallic band with many small
gemstones attached. The Nativity painting appears to show
what could possibly be pearls edging the band also. A garment
such as these would be worth quite a sum and certainly set a wealthy
woman apart from the less well-off woman who might have a garment
cut the same but without the trim.
on medieval clothing
Embroidery was an
acceptable pastime of the noble lady and indeed it was considered
one of her finer accomplishments. Many of the embroidery techniques
used in the middle ages are still in use today- couching, split
stitch and appliqué.
was used to provide finishing touches to almost any garment. A
kirtle neck band, sleeve edges or hem or the edges of a mantle.
Veils might also be embroidered at the edges. Popular art shows
many surcotes with embroidered bands. Popular motifs included
heraldry, mottos or phrases of love, animals, flowers and botanical
themes and religious scenes and characters like the Virgin and
Son or a patron saint.
The detail above from the 1445-1450
painting by Rogier van der Weyden of Saints Margaret And Apollonia
shows embroidery, possibly gold thread, around the neckline of
the garment. Another detail at right from the same painting also
shows the bottom edge of a mantle with its heavy gold embroidery.
The kirtle underneath and brocaded surcote can clearly be seen
are very few existent fragments of medieval embroidery remaining.
A beautiful sample of can be seen below at left, on an embroidered
band. The embroidery was sewn onto a separate strip of fabric
which was then stitched to the garment. Dated at the 13th century,
it is a band of fantastic animals in roundels embroidered with
gold thread on silk twill.
Photo ©Timothy Mitchell, Victoria Albert Museum of London.
(Currently seeking permission to use image)
Looking almost identical to our sequins of today, the spangles
which used to decorate medieval clothing among the upper classes
are effectively exactly that. Small metal discs with a hole punched
in the middle were stitched onto clothing with only a stitch or
two to permit the spangle to move freely. Again, something afforded
to the upper classes and not to others.
metal spangles or gauffres
Another decorative clothing embellishment is the pressed metal
decoration. Patterns were pressed or embossed onto inexpensive,
thin metal plates and die cut. The
decorations were then possibly sewn onto clothing or belts.
The image at left shows small metal
decorations sewn onto an altar cloth.