With the cold weather creeping its way into the forecast, a new season is ushered into our fashion wardrobes. Spring clothes go into hibernation. Fall and winter garments enter the scene to arm us for the cold weather fronts. This year, I’m really gravitating to fashion inspired by Medieval & Byzantine art. This same inspiration was used by Alexander McQueen in the final collection before his death.
The Fashion Revolution Explodes: ca. 1345–50
The four young men in this miniature are all dressed at the height of the new fashion. They wear the new short garment, the cote hardy: buttoned down the front, it is tight at the skirt, bodice, and sleeves. All sport chaperons, two of which are dagged (cut into decorative strips). Some wear delicate shoes, while the youth in blue wears chaussembles: hose with leather soles. The two women at the left wear the open surcot. The woman in blue wears the closed surcot, furnished with a lined slit for access to the kirtle. She also wears tippets: thin decorative bands of cloth falling from the elbow.
Other great sources to consult for inspiration are works of art from the time period. A lot of mosaics still remain throughout Europe. In the US, The Cloisters holds a collection dedicated to medieval art and architecture.
The Byzantine Empire amassed even greater wealth under Justinian I and his Empress Theodora (above). A former actress and dancer, Theodora caught the eye of Justinian with her beauty. Apparently, Karl Lagerfeld felt the same way back in 2010, as he explained that Theodora was his muse for the pre-fall 2011 collection:
The season’s theme, Paris-Byzance, Lagerfeld explained, was inspired by the Empress Theodora and the lost culture of Byzantium. In typically rapid-fire mode, he noted: “Theodora was a circus artist who became empress, like Chanel, who was a little singer and became a fashion empress.”
Byzantine jewelry continued Greco-Roman traditions but was also influenced by Eastern decorative arts. A hybrid style, Byzantine jewelry used lots of pearls, a variety of colored gem stones, and enamel. Coupled with expert metal smiths, the jewelry is lavish with detail.
While most of us can’t afford a McQueen or Chanel wardrobe, there are some key elements to look for when piecing together this type of look.
- Deep-hued, richly colored fabrics
- Ornate costume jewelry
- Long, ankle-skimming skirts
All these ideas, and you’ll be looking like royalty.
GHTime Code(s): nc