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Perhaps to this act may be attributed the fashion of wearing wigs; for, in Stephen's reign, we first find them mentioned; and it is not unlikely but the profusion of flowing locks, left as a mark of the preacher's eloquence upon the floor of the church, may have furnished some cunning coiffeur with the idea of restoring them to the heads of their former possessors, in another form. Certain it is that but few months had elapsed before long hair again graced the heads of the courtiers, and Serlo and his sermon were forgotten.
This story reminds us of a similar anecdote related of Thomas Conecte, who preached so eloquently against the high head-dresses of the ladies, that, moved by his words, his fair listeners pulled off the obnoxious coiffures, and consigned them to the flames.
The length of the beard soon afterwards became an object of animadversion with the clergy, and also the extraordinary shape of the fashionable boots and shoes. The latter are represented as having had points like a scorpion's tail, and were named pigacice. Sometimes they were stuffed, so as to allow them to be twisted like a ram's horn. The boots, called ocrece rostrate, were of an equally ridiculous form. Both these extravagant fashions were inveighed against by the monks, though without success.
In the reign of Henry the Second, court manteaux, and jagged or fringed garments, appear to have been introduced, and the absurdities and extravagances of dress became every day greater. One fashion succeeded another in rapid succession, and the inventive genius of man and woman seemed exerted only to discover new methods of adorning the human frame. In too many of these ridiculous modes, taste was wholly disregarded or forgotten; caprice, or a love of singularity and variety, was frequently the author of many an extravagant costume, which, being invented, perhaps, by some person of rank, was, however frightful, followed by others in a lower grade of society, till gradually the mode became extended throughout the country.
So has it ever been, from year to year, up to the present period. Fashions the most ridiculous and outre have always found admirers, or, at least, followers; provided a dress is supposed to be fashionable, it matters little to the willing slaves of the fickle goddess whether it be becoming or not. Thus, the peaked shoes are said to have been invented by a gentleman who had a deformed foot; and, in later years, the ruff is attributed to a lady who first wore it to conceal a wen. Probably, could we trace the birth of many other fashions, we should find they arose from similar causes.
State garments, in this reign, were profusely ornamented; and gloves were worn by the men, some of them embroidered, and with jewelled backs; and even in the sacerdotal habits, splendour was carried to such an extent, that Lord Lyttleton declares the accounts of the magnificence of Beckett to be "incredible."
Alarmed at the extent to which pomp and luxury of attire were brought, the legislature interfered, and framed several severe laws and edicts on this momentous subject. It would afford no little amusement, at the present day, to listen to deep debates on the width of a tunic, the point of a shoe, or the length of a beard; to see the learning and rank of the country consulting gravely together about wigs and peaked boots, and solemn divines launching anathemas from the pulpit against absurdities in costume.
Matthew Paris says, that King Henry, when interred at Fontevraud, "was arrayed in the royal vestments, having a golden crown on the head, and gloves on the hands; boots, wrought with gold, on the feet, and spurs."
In an inventory of the dress of King John, hose are mentioned, and sandals of purple cloth, fretted with gold. The pantaloons, or chausses, were worn; also a pointed cap, or a capuchon. In the same reign, the petit-maitres are accused of curling their hair with irons, and binding it up with ribands.
The Normans, some writers affirm, were remarkable for choosing the gaudiest colours for their garments, yellow alone excepted, which was ordered to be worn by the Jews, as a mark of infamy. Their shirts are represented as having been made of fine linen; their doublets fitted tight to their bodies, and the nobles wore them reaching to the ankles: frequently, too, an embroidered girdle, adorned with jewels, encircled the waist. But it was upon the court manteaux that the greatest magnificence was displayed. One that belonged to Richard the First is described as having been "nearly covered with half moons and shining orbs of solid silver, to imitate the heavenly bodies."
About the beginning of the thirteenth century, the ladies found their long narrow cuffs, hanging to the ground, very uncomfortable; they therefore adopted tight sleeves. Pelisses, trimmed with fur, and loose
surcoats, were also worn, as well as wimples, an article of attire worn round the neck under the veil. Embroidered boots and shoes formed, also, part of their wardrobe.
In a work like the present, it is impossible to give all the numerous varieties in the costume of those early days. We shall, therefore, only mention the appearance of any great novelty in the annals of fashion, and dilate more largely upon those dresses, the shape, form, and materials of which are recorded in later times by the painter, the poet, and the sculptor.
Matthew Paris says, that in the thirteenth century, he was more disgusted than pleased with the foppery of the times. He also adds, that the nobility who attended the marriage of the daughter of Henry the Third with the King of Scotland were attired in habits of silk called cointises. Velvet is also mentioned as a new material just imported. Another garment, called an over-all, being a cloak with sleeves and a hood, was now worn. The shoes were embroidered in chequers; the hood had fringed edges; and round hats and caps came into fashion. Moreover, the sportsmen of those days, when preparing for the chase, enveloped their heads in a white coif tied under the chin!
Under the chivalric and excellent King Edward the First, few, if any, ridiculous modes appeared; the noblesse had a long tunic and mantle, and sometimes an upper tunic, called a cyclas, and a surcoat of rich stuff lined with fur. The hose were worked in gold, and the hair and beard were carefully curled. We hear, too, of purple robes, fine linen vestments, and mantles woven with gold.
The ladies' costume, during the reigns of Henry and Edward, was very splendid. The veils and wimples were richly embroidered, and worked in gold; the surcoat and mantle were worn of the richest materials; and the hair was turned up under a gold caul.
Towards the year 1300, the ladies' dress fell under the animadversion of the malevolent writers of that day. The robe is represented as having had tight sleeves and a train, over which was worn a surcoat and mantle, with cords and tassels. "The ladies," says a poet of the thirteenth century, "were like peacocks and magpies; for the pies bear feathers of various colours, which Nature gives them; so the ladies love strange habits, and a variety of ornaments. The pies have long tails, that trail in the mud; so the ladies make their tails a thousand times longer than those of peacocks and pies."
The pictures of the ladies of that time certainly present us with no very elegant specimens of their fashions. Their gowns or tunics are so immensely long, that the fair dames are obliged to hold them