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Thoughts on Today’s Paper Doll
So, I am still working on the 1100s, 1200s and 1300s paper dolls. The 1300s paper dolls aren’t even drawn yet. So, I’m sticking with the 1100s and 1200s. I’ll get to the 1300s when I have a moment.
Anyway, meanwhile, there’s this 1100s gown known as a bliaut. Can I confess that I’m not sure how to pronounce that word? Anyway, it’s the wide sleeved garment that most of us associate with the medieval era. Despite being popular in pop culture, it’s actually gown there’s a lot of debate about how it was constructed.
The bliaut was worn by men and women, often in layers. The length seems to have been regional. In France, they look really long, but in Germany there’s often a shorter bliaunt illustrated over a longer kirtle. So, there seems to be some variation in the regional styles.
Inspiration for Today’s Paper Doll
Okay, so I looked at a lot of pictures and a lot of statues and I read a bit. Here’s what I understand: The bliaut is the subject of a lot of debate, as I mentioned above. Statues of the time show a very wrinkled, almost pleated fabric effect (like this), but illustrations by and large don’t. When they do show horizontal wrinkles across the abdomen they tend to be more subtle (like this). Additionally, smaller statuary (like this one) doesn’t show wrinkles across the abdomen.
There are, at the moment, several theories as to why and how wrinkles abdomens got formed, from cutting the fabric on the bias and lacing the sides (to create wrinkles across the stomach) to making a separate bodice and attaching it to the skirt.
I chose to go with a more subtle wrinkled look in my illustration, because outside of the giant statuary outside French cathedrals, the wrinkles just don’t seem the tight or distinct in the art of the time.
Specific Source Images: Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres Statuary (see this picture) & Stuttgart WLB, cod. bibl. fol. 57, origin: Zwiefalten abbey circa 1125-1130, f. 55 as pictured here (retrieved 9/9/2019).
On the Blog: More Jewels & Gemstones paper dolls, more paper dolls from the Medieval era, Topaz with her 1100s underwear
Around the Internet: Illumanu (a tumblr devoted to manuscript illustrations of clothing & dress), an interesting webpage with lots of pictures, and an interesting site with lots of pictures in German (I think?)
While I don’t have a real opinion on how bliauts were constructed, I do find it interesting the amount of debate there seems to be out there on the topic. The only theory I find least plausible is the separate bodice with skirt theory. I’ve seen some illustrations that seem to back it up, but never with proper citation. Cite your sources people! Additionally, separate bodices would have had to have been invented and then ignored for like 300 years and that just seems implausible. Not impossible, mind you, but implausible. However, I always love to hear from folks to know more than me on these topics, so share away in the comments.
(But do try to keep it polite. I’ve had strange debates and oddly angry emails over medieval clothing before which, odd the true, still boggles my mind.)
Mean while, on Patreon, there’s an extra paper doll outfit every Friday! Plus previews of what I’m working on, polls and whole different paper doll series called Vivian. It’s a fun group. Check it out!
And if you need a paper doll with proper hair and undies for this era, grab Topaz in her 1100s underwear. The 1200s Lapis can also do in a pinch, if you’re more partial to redheads.