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Early and High Gothic

Ac 1150 - 1325
Russell, Douglas Costume History and Style; chapter 8, pp. 124-138


          The costume of the High Gothic Period demonstrated a new sense of sophistication in draping as well as a new appreciation for the human body under draped fabric, although there was little study of the anatomy of the body in art or medicine. Just as the art of the period stressed structure, simplicity, and a graceful spirituality, so the clothing stressed proportion, graceful draping, simplicity, and a lack of the tensions and zigzag edges that had been so much admired in Romanesque clothing.

          There were also changes brought about by refinements in weaving and fabric. Fine-woven woolens, domestically manufactured, allowed for a new softness of line, and the greater use of silk also created softer, more elegant effects. Since ornament in dress was kept to a min­imum, the line of the costume now attracted at­tention, not pattern or decorative detail.

          The Crusades did, however, introduce a symbolic decorative scheme in military wear to distinguish a person's family through certain emblems; this eventually led to the complex decorative development of heraldry that in­fluenced decoration in many kinds of clothing. But during the High Gothic Period, the simple crosses, lions, eagles, and dragons used to em­boss the surcotes worn over armor were kept for strictly military purposes and were not allowed to dominate civil dress, as in later medieval times. Even the use of family colors to achieve a particolored effect behind the family crest was not allowed to dominate the beauties of the almost classically draped lines of civil dress garments. Such particoloring remained pri­marily an aspect of military wear until well into the fourteenth century.




          This exciting period saw the foundations of modern western Europe established through the rise of cities, national states, and capitalism. It also marked the high point of development in the Catholic faith with spiritual values that spread from architecture to clothing. The beauty, balance, and simplicity found in High Gothic art and fashion caused it to be labeled classic. In clothing the soft, draped lines marked the first time since the Greek that so much attention was placed on the ideal beauties of the draped body. It was a period that released on the medieval world by late Gothic art and fashion.

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