Last week, we got to see my mid-1300s paper doll set in black and white. This week, here she is in color. Historical printable paper dolls always make me a little nervous. In inevitably, choices have to be made about what to include or not include and how to render a period’s fashion. These choices are easier the more you know about the period and harder the less you know. One of the reasons I often turn to Medieval inspired or Renaissance inspired rather than actual historical paper dolls is the knowledge that I don’t know enough to always make appropriate choices.
What I am not comfortable doing is always trusting the many sites out there that don’t cite their sources with enough detail to actually find the material if you needed it or want to confirm it’s authenticity. While I love the internet, I find that I don’t use it that much when I am doing this sort of research. I seem to fall back on my library training and rely on reputable secondary sources published in scholars with names in the field, backed up my own knowledge of solid collections of digitized medieval manuscripts where I can dig for source images, plus a few tumblers and blogs that seem to know what they are doing.
And this method worked great until I got down the problem of color. Now, I always think of the 1300s as being richly red and blue and gold, because those are colors I have seen in medieval manuscripts. Just because, however, they made a dress red in a book doesn’t mean the dress was commonly red in real life. Pigments used for illumination aren’t the same a pigments used for dyeing cloth and medieval art is heavy on analogy and symbolism.
What I really didn’t want to do was do a ton a research on natural dye processes, because a lot of people have written a lot on the topic. Textile fragments like this one, an incredible velvet cope or this equally amazing cope from the V&A Collections proved to me that colors were rich in the 1300 hundreds. So, I used those images along with this Medieval Colors article from Aux Mailles Godefroy. The resulting colors are a little more muted than was probably possible in the 1300s, but I just couldn’t get over my preconceived notions of muted tones despite seeing examples of bright yellows produced with natural dyes. The truth is that both linen and wool, common fabrics in the 1300s, take dye really well. The world was likely a lot more vibrant than my preconceived notions of history suggest.
By the way, most of my primary and secondary sources for this paper doll set are listed on the black and white version. It was a long list and I didn’t want to repeat it here. So go check that out, if you want to see what I used to create my mid-1300’s paper doll.