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One more post for the road...

The jacket picture was from The Art of Dress, by Jane Ashelford. I do recommend this and The Embroiderer's Story; they have different slants, but both have interesting information and amazingly lovely pictures.

But this post? Is about attifets, for lo, they came up in the comments section.  I was asked about them, and I said that the thing costumers call an attifet is no such thing, and furthermore, that Herbert Norris in Tudor Costume and Fashion wasn't even referring to the headdress, but the wire in the front of the headdress that shaped it.  I was a bit broad in my reply, and probably wasn't specific enough when I said Norris had simply applied the wrong term to the coif, thereby confusing   jillwheezul  (sorry!  That was my fault, not yours!), who came back with some great references for the term, both in Italian and French (I had said the term was French for "headdress", basically).  She clarified that it seems that the attifet could well be wired, and possibly the term for a widow's headdress, or something that widows would wear. Possibly something like this

What I meant was that Norris was wrong when he said it was just the wire; worse,costumers got it more wrong when they thought he was referring to an actual headdress that looked like the ones he illustrated in his book.  In short, everyone was wrong.  The attifet is a real headdress, but it's not a French hood, and it's not a mutant cousin of the coif.

(Go read her comment; it's about halfway down the comments section, and you will all learn some good, good stuff.)

She also found an Italian reference, and I found you guys a couple of pictures that definitely seem to show something of the sort that she referenced. Again, they don't look anything like our teardrop attifet.

Why would this happen? How could a period term (for France and Italy; I can't find an English refernce for it, though the style of arched veil/hood is quite common in England at the time) be mutated into something that never quite looks right, and never seems to stay on properly?

Well, we have to go back to the days when all the wonderful books that fill your library weren't around. Back to when Herbert Norris, Braun and Schneider, and Elizabethan Costuming for the years 1550-1580 were the only references your average SCAdian costumer had. And Herbert Norris was the best of them.

Now, I'm not really knocking Norris; he kept us going for a long time. But he had a slight tendency to give the wrong name to things (this is how we get the "Spanish Surcoat"). Add to this the occasional tendency of people to look at the pictures a wee bit more than they read the text, and in the case of the attifet, you have a mutation waiting to happen.

Norris, when referring to an attifet, was only referring to the wire put in the front of the headdress. I quote:

"Shortly after the middle of the century a contrivance called an ATTIFET came into vogue (see fig. 546). This was a wire of brass inserted in the edge of the front part of the hood or headdress [emphasis mine] and formed a curve on each side of the temples with a point on the forehead - in fact, it gave a bow or top-of-a-heart shape to the front. Fig. 546 illustrates the use of the attifet with the French Hood". (pp.542-3)

And, fig. 546 does indeed show a shaped front French hood, but the title of the illustration just says "An Attifet". Looking through my pictures, it seems to be a heavily victorianized and romanticized version of a Limoges enamel of Marguerite d' Angouleme, Queen of Navarre. She is wearing a heart-shaped French hood, and she might well have referred to the whole headdress as an attifet (especially since, being French, she'd seem like an idiot calling it a "French" hood).

(She is also a lot more interesting and less blandly pretty looking than the Norris picture - dig that nose, baby!)

But this doesn't look like our mutant attifet - where did the damn thing come from? Further reading of Norris starts to show - almost every other reference to the "attifet" has an illustration of a wired coif. However, since they're re-drawn, and as we determined yesterday, many of them are only seen from the front, all you can tell from Norris is that it's a wired thing, and he keeps calling it an attifet.  

Here's where the poor research skills come into play. Most of the times he refers to it, he desn't say "attifet", he says "headdress with an attifet front" [emphasis mine] . An attifet front - which if we go back to pages 542-3, we can read again as the wire that shapes the headdress. No teardrop-shaped thing appears or is mentioned anywhere - but as you can see from the views of my wired coif, it looks just like the "headdresses" he describes as having an attifet front (that aren't French hoods):

From the front, it looks like what costumers call an attifet; from the side, you can clearly see it is simply a coif with a wired front. 

Mind you, Norris is still wrong.  The historic references seem pretty clear that they're talking about the whole headdress, not the wire that goes into it.  So, every time he refers to an attifet front, he's compounding his mistake, and reinforcing the mistaken costuming idea that an attifet is that damned teardrop.  The illustrations most responsible (in my humble but brilliant opinion *cough*) for this idea are figs. 875, 879, 822, and 727.

Modern costumers have a tendency to use modern skills and knowledge to solve costuming problems; given a pointed front and nothing much else to go on, they will create something that looks like the picture, without any real understanding of the period evidence (or, in this case, physics).  Given that we have a bunch of embroidered and plain coifs still in existence, and that they all have roughly the same shape (and are put together the same way), it seems silly to try and reinvent the wheel, especially if you end up with something that not only doesn't look like any of the extant headwear, it looks wrong when you put it on - kind of like a weird Juliet cap crossbred with a hooded cobra.

If you're wanting to make a coif like the classic English wired heart-shaped, lace edged, sitting on the hair like a perfect frame coif, make a coif and put a wire in the front.  Not only will it stay on without combs or pins, it will look more like the original, since the curved "cheeks" of the traditional coif pattern are what create that perfect heart shape.

We'll pick this conversation back up when I come back from Pennsic - I have a migraine (thank you, poor air quality and shops that have too many perfumed products!), and I still need to do a few things.  In the meantime, go and read your Norris again.  :)

Thank you, jillwheezul, for the references, and for giving me new stuff to write about.  You rock. 


( 22 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
Jul. 31st, 2008 06:39 pm (UTC)
For the record, I HATE that attifet thing that people wear! It never looks like the pictures. And it needs too much "engineering" to get it to stay on the head.

And applying the word "attifet" to something just because the word was used in the 16th century and some guy who screwed up our perceptions of historic clothing as often as he got them right mentioned the word demonstrates a lack of reading comprehension.

I wear wired coifs. They look like the pictures.
Jul. 31st, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
"Well, we have to go back to the days when all the wonderful books that fill your library weren't around. Back to when Herbert Norris, Braun and Schneider, and Elizabethan Costuming for the years 1550-1580 were the only references your average SCAdian costumer had. And Herbert Norris was the best of them."

I think that is what good costume research is all about. Artifacts perhaps turn-up that weren't available to earlier authors, new ideas occur and revolutionise the way we look at things and have believed how they were constructed originally etc etc. Clarity of expressing one's concept is also of paramount importance and quite difficult to achieve. Too concise and it becomes cryptic, too lengthy and it becomes a morass of words someone struggles to follow.

Great article and fascinating. Hope to meet you at War, I actually am flying out tomorrow night after three flight alterations, pending interviews, storage issues for the cats, lost salary cheque, moving ...

The excitement!
Jul. 31st, 2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
As an interesting side note, information on the Italian quote about the attifet was in a considerably older 19th century publication. I am finding it interesting to go back and glean things that were known but not chosen to be brought forward in subsequent works. I especially like the authors that spent their life skimming medieval manuscripts to then make lexicons complete with full citations.
Jul. 31st, 2008 07:13 pm (UTC)
I may wait until after Pennsic to look for more French examples, but Catherine de Medicis as a widow:


and Mary Queen of Scots in the blanc deuil:

may be wearing the attifet. Interestingly, there are no attifets listed in MQOS inventories, even though they are made in French. There are linen coifs and hoods and biliments called by their French name. I had noted that all of the "attifet" type pictures of her show headdress that were of soft linen in nature and not french hood in nature.

This one of Queen Catherine is also interesting:


Have fun at Pennsic!
Jul. 31st, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC)
So is this where we got the idea that the wired-front coifs were only for widows? Or is that actually a reasonable idea? I'd sure hate to walk around looking like a widow when my husband is right over there.

Edited at 2008-07-31 07:43 pm (UTC)
Jul. 31st, 2008 07:22 pm (UTC)
I think in general we (as reenactors) tend to over-engineer stuff. Like, lots of stuff, not just costuming! Food, furniture, manners and customs... hrm, someone should do a paper ;)
Jul. 31st, 2008 09:22 pm (UTC)
Someday, people will reenact the activity of someone posting on a Livejournal thread: First, they will build the computer using an overly complex process and ending up with something that looks rather like an electronic breadbox, but with more keys. Then they will perform the 'Ritual of Checking All Their Websites For The Day' (those with more research knowledge will simply access their RSS feed - but it will involve an elaborate effort to appear to be 'technologically superior' to their web surfing fellow reenactors), then they will 'post' their entry - however this will be hopeless unlike original posting because it will be done without a keyboard, and will involve a totally different source for their energy.

Or maybe I am simply describing a modern Steampunk...

Not sure...
Aug. 1st, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)
*laughs!* Perfect!

And someone will be thrilled to report to their friends how they got a Blue Screen of Death, just like it says in all the extant writings! ;) hee hee
Aug. 1st, 2008 03:51 pm (UTC)
Just think of the joy they will get from decoding 'smiley face' entries when they won't have a keyboard to reference...

Aug. 6th, 2008 04:14 am (UTC)
Re: future re-enactors
It's probably time for me to post this link again. It's a paper from the Interplanetary Costume Collegium, 2543 A.D.:

The Superwide Mystery

Drea Leed wrote this several years ago in response to my comment that future costume historians will wonder "How DID they keep their pants up?" As far as I know it's not linked to anything else on her site, but I checked and it's still there.
Aug. 6th, 2008 03:14 pm (UTC)
Re: future re-enactors
Then, of course, I have to add this little jewel...

(Deleted comment)
Jul. 31st, 2008 09:21 pm (UTC)
Re: OT: Blackwork? Sweet bag?
Oh, my! That's just gorgeous!

Some folks like to stitch Paperback Book Covers, but I really like that bookbag. :-)


And just remember, all blackwork is black ... except when it's not. :-D
Jul. 31st, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
Re: OT: Blackwork? Sweet bag?
This is awesome! Always fun to troll through these sites for the unexpected treasures like this. Thanks for posting the link.

I'd call it blackwork, but then I define the 'fashion' for blackwork in the 16th c as high contrast embroidery too :). Interesting how the pattern motifs run off the edges (ie; not drawn to fit), very similar to the coiling pattern bands on the coifs.
Aug. 1st, 2008 12:53 pm (UTC)
Re: OT: Blackwork? Sweet bag?
Oh, my. I don't know enough to reply intelligently, but I had to note how darned pretty it is.

So, it held a Bible (i.e., for a personal connection with God [a la Epicopalianism], vs.indirect channeling of God by appointed messengers [a la Mother Church/Catholocism])? Am I getting that right? -ish?
Aug. 7th, 2008 09:37 pm (UTC)
Re: OT: Blackwork? Sweet bag?
Yup - Protestant church is/was from the begining of the Reformation strong on personal Bible reading. Although the Anglicans have/had the "Book of Common Prayer," too. A Catholic would have been more likely to own a Book of Hours (containing prayers to Mary, a liturgical calendar, other aids to devotion)

Jul. 31st, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
...kind of like a weird Juliet cap crossbred with a hooded cobra.

I have one of those THINGS in my closet! I think I wore it exactly once... it hurt! I should take a picture of it and post it for giggles.

Actually, it was worse back in the Dark Ages... in the early 80s, Norris was impossible to get because it only existed in Legend. Most library copies were either Reference Only, or stolen. We had James Laver's survey from Egypt to the '20s (which now seems to be out of print), Doreen Yarwood's survey, Carl Koehler and... Winters & Savoy.

If I recall correctly, W&S ran with the attifet idea.

I still have my drawing notebook with my 'notes' from Norris the one and only time I sat looking at a photocopy-- which includes some of the coif/attifet section.
Jul. 31st, 2008 09:36 pm (UTC)
I still have my photo-copy of Norris - in six 3-ring binders! (I think the pages are all stuck together.) I also have Koehler and several of the other old "references". And, yes, I remember when that was all we had to go on.

This discussion of Coifs is interesting - I'm looking forward to the next installment after Pennsic. What kind of wire is recomended? I have a coif that I would like to try this on.

Have a good Pennsic. Wish we were going.
Aug. 1st, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC)
This is fascinating, thank you! I've always loved how the "attifet's" wired front frames the face, but I hate how dumpy coifs look. But since portraits don't show wired coifs from the side, I'd never put the two ideas together & just figured, well, that teardrop thing must be how you get the pretty shape. I'm *so* going to try this combo now :-)
Aug. 5th, 2008 02:38 pm (UTC)
"...kind of like a weird Juliet cap crossbred with a hooded cobra."

When I was new to garbing and didn't know much how things worked, I purchased an "attifet" pattern that completely resembles this. I never made it, because it just didn't look right. It was ugly.

God, the things I could tell you I wasted money on for Elizabethan! I bought an IRISH OVERDRESS. It was made of red and black denim twill and was meant to wear with a farthingale. You may slap me at will.

I'm glad I came across this, though. Whoda thunk it would be so simple?

I'm also glad I got a brain and researched, researched, researched before I started buying/making for 18thc. I'd be real disappointed.
Dec. 11th, 2009 05:17 pm (UTC)
l'attifet - the hat
Well it would have saved me a couple of hours searching if I'd found you sooner! So I might as well pass on the places I found attifet before I found you and the answer to my question.
#1 == 1836:Boyer's French Dictionary * Attifet, ad-fe, sm a woman's head gear,dress or attire
#2 == 1802 & 1780: The Royal Dictionary (François-anglois et Anglois-françois)by Abel Boyer * Attifet, f. m. a woman's head- gear or dress or attire
#3 == 1566 Lucius Apuleius;
Les 11 Livres de l'asne d'or , ou des Métamorphoses de Lucius Apuleius. (The two volumes of The Golden Ass being the Metamophoses of Lucius Apuleius.) Translated by W. Adlington in 1566.
I couldn't get the actual "jist" but have translated most that I know of the FRENCH:
...leurs beautez & bones graces, des
pouillent leurs vesstemens, oftent leurs attifets, guimpes & ollets, pour eftre trouuées plus agreables auec vn teint vermeil & rofin...TRANSLATES TO SOMETHING LIKE THIS
... their beauty and good graces, deportment, vestments
their attifets, braiding and ollets (ouches? jewels?), for eftre? found most agreeable with red tinting and rofin?...
#4 == 1550s
a. Lettres de Marie Stuart(1542 to 1587), Reine d'Écosse (Queen of Scotland), et de (and of) Christine Reine de Suède (Queen of Sweden);
b. Précédées de Notices (Preface) sur Marie Stuart, Elisabeth et Christine;
c. et suivies du Récit de la Mort de Monaldeschi, grand Écuyer de la Reine de Suède: ENGLISH: And followed by the story of the death of Monaldeschi, the Grand Horseman of the Queen of Sweden)
Publiées par Léopold Collin 1807, Paris.
This book was stored in the Library of Bayer, (Staats-Bibliothek, Munchen)
NOTICE sur Marie Stuart, Reine d'Écosse
Mary (1542 to 1587) where she mentions her particular headress attifet
NOTICE xli Ayant achevé, se mit la tête sur lw billot; et comme elle répétoit derechef In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum, le bourreau Iui donna un grand coup de hache, dont il lui enfonça ses attifets dans la tête, 1aquelle il n'emporta qu'au troisième coup, pour rendre le martyre plus grand et plus illustre, combien
que ce n'est pas la peine, mais la cause qui fait le martyre. ENGLISH: So the translator in 1808 refered to her headpiece as an attifet. The translator is describing what happened to the attifet during the execution. Enough said.
#5 "Yester-year"; ten centuries of toilette from the French of A. Robida Illustrated by the author
Albert Robida (1848-1926)
Frances Cashel Hoey (1830-1908)
Publisher: Sampson, Low, Marston & Company, Limited
St. Bunstan's House, Fetter Lane, Fleet Street 1892
Page 63:
Large sums were expended in jewellery and goldsmith's work, for the ornamenting of head-dresses — the 'attifet', the 'chaperon' and the 'toque'. Queens, noble ladies, and bourgeoises, im-poverished themselves by buying gold chains, enamelled trinkets, pearls, and other gems. La belle Freeonnière, one of the mistressed of Henri Quatre, who succeeded the Duchess d'Etampes, invented the fashion of wearing a carbuncle hung on a gold thread, in the middle of the forehead. One more jewell to be worn, when the head-dress, the bodice and the girdle, were already laden with the sparkling stones; what a charming idea! The head-dress à la Ferronnière achieved an immediate success. PAGE 75
The head-dress of the period was either the coif with a net - the pointed front making a face heart-shaped -- that we now know as 'the Mary Stuart' coif, or the black-velvet hood. The latter (in the author's opinion) was not becoming.

Susan J.
Dec. 11th, 2009 05:20 pm (UTC)
Re: l'attifet - the hat
PS - I love your website - very original!
Feb. 21st, 2011 01:34 pm (UTC)
blog casino en ligne
thanks for this nice post 111213
( 22 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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