Monday, July 12, 2010

Frankenblogging part 4: Medieval Half-Circle Cloaks

Author's note: The Frankenblogging feature is a republication of older content from my former personal webpage, with some annotations. It occurs every Monday morning. 

More Old Content! Please feel free to post comments, questions, and crticism :)

On the wearing of half-circle mantles

At least one surviving (non-ecclesiastical) example has two ties, one on either side, which are rather farther down than you would expect. This fits with my experience of wearing one, and actually helps to 'fit' the
garment to the body so that it stays.

My heavy, fulled wool, winter mantle is a pure half-circle, calf-length, and is worn opening at the front, clasped with a heavy double pin (bridged  by a chain of approximately 6 inches). It does not tend to slide down the back, but that is because the double brooch is pinned at shoulder level, /after/ arranging the cloak so that the extra cloth wrinkles up at the back of my neck (nice and cozy in cold weather). This is usually
about 16-18 inches down from the crease when the cloak is folded in half.

My summer mantle, being a little shorter and of finer wool, can be pinned to my gown with lighter brooches and doesn't wrinkle up much at the back of my neck because the lighter fabric drapes more easily across my shoulders. It is light enough that it can be comfortably pulled over my head (in the veil/mantle manner) if I need to do so. 

Note: This observation really has not changed at all in the intervening 10 years since I first made it. 

On decorating mantles

Virtually all of the surviving cloaks from period (And yes, I mean the whole 1000+ year stretch) that we have are decorated in some way. Some, like the 'Schnurmantel' and the coronation mantle of Roger II of Sicily are elaborately embroidered with designs that stand out from the base fabric, some are only 'trimmed' with embroidery (the Mammen cloak). The cloak from the Burgos collection is decorated in that it is made of an elaborately patterned textile of Moorish origin.

Due to artistic evidence of undecorated cloaks, I'd venture that lower classes wore them, and that these would be unlikely to have survived as they would be ideal candidates for recycling into other things (and also
because the richer garments were given into the care of the Church after a period of secular use, which helped to preserve them).

Half-circle cloaks were pretty much the norm from about 1100 on, although scattered survivals of the earlier rectangular cloak (mostly among poorer or isolated peoples) continued on for some time. The more extravagant 3/4 and full-circle cloaks seem to have evolved as weaving technology became more efficient, just like the rest of the world's fashion did. If you want easy, rectangular cloaks are very easy and practical, in that
they convert quite easily to blankets.

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