Review
Books

Close study of fashions in medieval manuscripts is key to understanding interactions of literature and dress

Book of illuminations show various fashions that shed light on literary styles

The 15th-century Story of Two Lovers by Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 68, fol. 8

This beautifully produced book is a reprint of the hardback published in 2011 and as such will serve a wider readership among those who want better to understand illuminated manuscripts. Fashion history is now acknowledged to be a crucial instrument for the interpretation of paintings and other works of art. Margaret Scott provides the keys to unlocking the open secrets of medieval dress in illuminations—how to spot everyday clothing, national costumes (this French illumination, around 1460-70, of the 15th-century best-seller tale, The Story of Two Lovers by Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, shows the buttock-revealing tunic of the man at the right—restricted by a 1463 English law to the upper classes); court, academic, ecclesiastical and peasant dress; medieval notions of biblical and classical dress—and the implications for the manuscripts first readers.

  • Margaret Scott, Fashion in the Middle Ages, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 120pp, $17.95 (pb)