My study looked like an incident room. Prints of portraits from the French and English courts of the 1520s to the 1580s stared at me from the walls where they were grouped according to their similarities. It all started when I realized that the ladies’ headwear had to be the key to a detailed time line for the portraits and subsequently for the fashions portrayed.
It would have been a great help for a modern fashion historian if the artists had as a general rule kindly made notes at least on the back of the portraits giving the name of the sitter, the year and the occasion for the portrait. But such contemporary information is found only in few portraits. In some cases a name has been added at a later date, and in other cases we are down to speculations as to the identity of the sitter.
I would initially just distinguish between French hoods and gable hoods (like one would distiguish between a cat and a dog) and be happy with that, but the the many variations within these two groups of head wear started to present themselves forming a time line ... and then I was hooked. The portraits started to open up like fractals.
This close study resulted eventually in a new interpretation of the French hood; its time line as well as its construction and other findings. It is all gathered in my heavily illustrated paper “Hidden in Plain Black: The Secrets of The French Hood” which is to be published in Medieval Clothing and Textiles, Vol. 14 in 2018.
Then I turned to investigate the gable hood as presented in portraits and funeral effigies; its evolution as well as its construction, and once again my studies resulted in a new interpretation. Much to my surprise I found the construction of the gable hood to have a lot in common with the French hood even though they look very different.
These findings resulted in another heavily illustrated paper: “From Hennin to Hood: An Analysis of the Evolution of the Gable Hood Compared to the Evolution of the French Hood”. An abbreviated version of this paper was presented at the International Medieval Congess in Leeds in July 2017.
My study still looks like an incident room, so I guess this is not the end to my studies of medieval and renaissance headwear both as a key to a time line for fashion history and as a key to new interpretations and and experimental reconstructions.
Karen Margrethe Høskuldsson