The explanation often given for this problem is, “it’s the artist’s conception, it didn’t/couldn’t really look like that”.
I’ve never been comfortable with that reasoning.
Artwork in the 15th century was certainly stylized, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the clothing didn’t look essentially as it is depicted. I never like to assume that because I can’t get it to look right, that it just wasn’t so! Extant examples of clothing are rare; art is often the only clue we have. Dismissing it removes one of the few means we have to determine the success of a project.
It arguably gives more insight into “what was” if an object is made using period-plausible methods and patterns AND the result looks reasonably like those depicted by its contemporary artists. It’s also pretty exciting when it happens!
This brings me back to the mystery of this particular hood. Someone recently told me they thought it must be simple; just a piece of cloth tied around the head. That’s the same theory I’d been working with all this time. Her comment also made me recall a lady at Pennsic telling me the she believed medieval people would have done “whatever was easiest” to achieve a result, and this got me thinking.
Many extant objects tell a much different story. In our busy modern age we tend to be convenience-driven, much more so than our medieval counterparts. Consider as just one set of examples, the extant clothing finds from Greenland. Far from being “simple”, or made the “easiest way possible”, many show complicated cutting layouts, extensive seam finishing, and even unnecessary false seams added, presumably, for the sake of symmetry. The makers appear to be more interested in esthetics than ease or simplicity.
With this in mind I chose to approach the hood from the opposite perspective. I gave up simple.
My two new objectives were:
-I wanted a pattern that could be made with little-to-no wasted fabric.
-I wanted the finished result to look like the artwork examples.
The characteristics of the hood as shown in artwork examples are:
The crown is rounded and fits smoothly over the back of the head
The front edge is chin length or just slightly longer; it can be wider with a turn-back or not.
The “ties” are only long enough to tie on top of the head or overlap slightly, they don’t wrap back around the head.
The ties are wider in the back and gather or taper down to being narrower by the time they meet.
Lastly, the look I want most to achieve, the ties follow a gathered “swoop” from the back to the front without sticking out or being too bulky.
After two years, three completely different designs, four minor variations, many cups of tea, and at least a dozen more grey hairs, I finally hit on a design I think really works.
It fits well, is comfortable, doesn’t slip off my head, makes excellent use of fabric with zero waste, and ……….looks like the art! Yay!
It IS more complicated than just a piece of fabric tied around your head, but in the end it’s still fairly simple and works up very quickly – I can make one in just a few hours: Here is the pattern!
Final pictures and a photo diary to follow.
I have to take some better photos of this but here’s one – the crown has come untucked so it doesn’t look the best.