Siege Diaries 6/14/2021

Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: Do I have a hold on the right handle of this situation?

I’m not currently in a situation that needs this, but it’s a potent metaphor: Sometimes, when trying to carry something awkward, switching handles can be a way to determine whether the thing can be carried in a different manner. Sometimes you find that you’ve got it completely the wrong way around. Sometimes you just need to give your hand or arm a rest, or hold it a different way. Sometimes you discover it requires two hands, or a helping hand. It’s all about perspective: stopping for a moment, looking things over, and considering whether you’re approaching it in the best manner. The same thing goes for handling difficult situations. Sometimes you need to change your approach. Sometimes you just need to put it down for a moment and rest. Sometimes you need help or expertise, or just another person to help you carry it.

A little bit of an inertia day for me. We popped out briefly to make a run to Zarky’s out ahead of tomorrow’s date with the driveway pavers, and to pick up some moth traps at Canadian Tire (seeing as how they seem to be out of stock with Amazon). Earlier, I conducted my impromptu speaking workshop again for ACCES. We had a go/no go meeting for a migration at work that ended up being postponed until Wednesday, which is getting awfully close to the wire. I also found a voicemail from a week ago from Gitta’s regarding my online order; I’m now really glad I went in in person because they hadn’t sent my order yet because a colour was out of stock, and I’d still be waiting.

On the other hand, I was disappointed because I thought the bag of googly eyes I ordered was not the stick-on variety. I checked the original listing, and turns out I was wrong–I just needed a fingernail to get under the backing and peel it off. I now have a pair up by my the camera on my laptop to help me with making eye contact on phone calls. I also now have lots of googly eyes for future shenanigans.

I did just complete an answer on the AskHistorians subreddit, the first in awhile:

The question:

What led to the changes in tailoring and fashion in 13th Century Western Europe?

It’s a commonly repeated fact in fashion history circles that “changes in the 13th century lead to a revolution in tailoring, leading to the creation of Fashion as we know it”. It’s rare to see this claim sourced, much less explained in any detail. I know part of the changes are more fitted clothes, but that’s about it.

What changes took place? Were there any specific reasons (technological, social, cultural etc) that advancements in tailoring took place? Did these changes really ‘create fashion’? Where did this originate?

My answer:

Before I answer, a gentle correction: The changes in tailoring you’re referring to date to the mid-14th century, which is the 1300s. That aside, art historians have long noticed the changeover that happens in the mid-14th century to first men’s, and then women’s high-status clothing, and noted the similarity in the men’s clothing to padded garments meant to be worn underneath armour (often known as pourpoints). In particular, the requirement for a close-fitting garment to also provide the ability to move one’s arms led to changes in the way sleeves were fitted, pivoting away from the straight-cut sleeve head to curved heads, culminating in the extreme example often known as the “grand assiette” sleeve. Knowledge of a few extant examples of these garments (such as the pourpoint of Charles de Blois) give credence to this theory, probably best presented in Stella Mary Newton’s classic Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince. It’s usually thought that these fashions got their start in Italy and moved northwards. The changes in cut did lead to changes in tailoring in general for high-status clothing and eventually, by the 16th century, innovations such as patterning books and the sense of various courts being seen as “fashion leaders” (for instance, Spanish fashion being prominent in the 16th century, as the discovery of new dyestuffs in the Americas led to better ways to dye black, allowing it to supplant red as the colour signifying wealth). With these changes well documented both in artwork and in literature, early 20th century fashion historians such as Boucher and Laver definitely seized on it to posit that the changes in the 14th century signified the emergence of “fashion.” Often a popular reason (aside from the influence of military fashion) given for the changes was that the ravages of the Black Death led to a love for the extreme (and, indeed, some contemporary chroniclers do point at the “extremes” of male clothing as an example of the kind of depravity that arose in the wake of the Plague. ) However, none of the changes of the 14th century are sudden. For instance, you can start to trace the close fit of sleeves starting in the 13th century for both men and women, even as the bodies of garments remained loose. For men, the length of tunics was also starting to shorten, and hosen were known for both sexes dating back even farther. More recently, Sarah-Grace Heller, in Fashion in Medieval France, has found significant support for the fact that the idea of “fashion” was not necessarily born in the 14th century, but can be found in literature as far back as the 11th century. and was becoming well established in France by the 12th century and flowered in the 13th century. In other words, the tailoring changes did not create “fashion as we know it”, but reflected the growing importance of clothing and dress in noble society–a process that had been developing for over three hundred years. Another significant factor was the development of the cloth trade–both high-quality wools as well as increasing access to silks.. Heller makes a good case for the overlooked 13th century as being the century where the idea of “fashion” begins to mature, especially in the use of fabrics. The 13th century featured long, fairly simple, draped styles for high-class women (in particular), evolving out of the increased use of silks in the 12th century (the century associated with the tightly-laced, but also flowing bliaut styles). I really recommend Heller’s chapter “The Seduction of the Well-Dressed Form” if you’d like to get an overview of how the idea that nothing be