Visual evidence for clothing of the Low Countries comes from a variety of media. Paintings are the most obvious and well-known, however there are also the engravings and drawings of Lucas van Leyden, illuminations from various Books of Hours especially those of the Ghent-Bruges school, and finally there are the magnificent tapestries from Flanders.
These tapestries were prized for their detail and quality, often hanging in the halls of some of the largest and richest establishments in Europe.
They also show a very opulent style of dress, more opulent than is seen in any other source. So, if you are craving a way to add some glamour and shine to your projects from this era, I’d recommend checking out some of the tapestries from the period. I’ve desired these dresses for quite a while, and will be tackling a couple once I have become more proficient and comfortable with some of my other theories – or when I need a gorgeous court dress.
Kimiko Small recently got the flemish tapestry bug, and as part of her research for the project has scanned in images from the David et Bethsabée tapestries that were made in Brussels around 1515. She has set up a slide show so that others can peruse the tapestries (thanks Kimiko).
One point to note when looking at tapestries:
It’s unclear whether the embellishment, hats and cuts of some of the dresses are a reflection of the artistic needs of the tapestry makers, or whether they are allegorical i.e. depicting a biblical story and the clothing communicates the artist’s idea of exotic clothing of the biblical era, a fair amount of Turkish influence tends to indicate this. Other contemporary images don’t show these styles they show women and men dressed in more sombre colours, with minimal decoration, and wearing either a french hood style hat, or a hovetcleet.
So, if you’re going for something ultra-documentable and period, then these tapestries are probably not where you should be looking. However, if you want a highly embellished court gown which is not-quite-Tudor then this is certainly a great place to look.