Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles

Get access Subject: History
Edited by: Gale Owen-Crocker, Elizabeth Coatsworth & Maria Hayward
The single volume Encyclopaedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles c. 450-1450 is a unique work that intends to bring together in 582 signed articles the latest research from across the range of disciplines which contribute to our knowledge of medieval dress and textiles.

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(1,384 words)

Author(s): Sarah-Grace Heller
Fashion is conceptual, in contrast to dress or clothing which might be characterized as material, or costume (especially the German equivalent, Tracht), which carries connotations of regional, political, or ethnic identity. It is a concept promulgated by expressions of admiration for certain items, and likewise by derision for the unfashionable and criticisms of extravagance and vanity. Fashion is social. It raises its arbiters to a unique position of power, makes slaves of those obedient to its imperative to confor…


(2,447 words)

Author(s): David Hinton
Many different metal items were used to fasten clothing, and its accessories such as belts (girdles). Bone was also occasionally used, for buckles and strap-ends, as perhaps was wood, but copper alloy could be cast and therefore was a quick manufacturing process, once the stone mould had been cut or a model had been pressed into a clay mould; clay three-piece moulds would not have been needed except for a few complex openwork items. Copper alloy could be gilded to look like precious metal; gold …


(454 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
Feathers cover the bodies of birds; they are soft, they trap heat and they can be found in a variety of sizes, types and colours. They are made of keratin and the basic feather structure consists of a central tapering rod supporting a fringe on either side. The central rod is divided into two sections. The quill or calamus is the base of the shaft which goes into the skin; it is transparent, hollow and cylindrical. The second section is the shaft or rhachis which supports the vane and is solid and quadrangular. The fringe, vane or vexillum is made up of barbs or rami and each barb has a double row…

Felbrigge Psalter embroidered book cover

(431 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
The Felbrigge Psalter is associated with the oldest surviving embroidered book binding from England (see books: covers). The two panels of embroidery are incorporated into an 18th-century, leather book binding. Each panel measures 12 x 14.5 cm. The panel on the back depicts Christ crucified, with the Virgin and St John; the front has the Annunciation. The book takes its name from Anne Felbrigge, a nun of a House of Poor Clares, Bruisyard, Suffolk, who owned the book in the late 14th century. She was the daughter of Sir Simon Felbrigge, standard bearer of Richard II and his …


(593 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
Felting is an ancient method of textile construction or modification. Felt is formed from (usually) wool fibres or other hair with a surface scale pattern, causing the fibres to be interlocked irreversibly through matting them together with the use of heat, pressure and moisture, either deliberately, or as in the case of some archaeological textiles, through chance circumstances. Finds of purpose-made felt in the British Isles have been relatively few yet spread across the whole period. An 8th-century site in Cumbria has been suggested as possibly having been used for th…