When did the real berets really appear, when the first top hats were worn, and when the ladies wore whole towers on their heads? It has been a very logical process of historical evolution, and apparently by accident, these headpieces appeared exactly in time, when the prevailing fashion style formula anticipated the emergence of such headdresses.
The Towers and Berets On Their Heads...
In the early 12th and early 13th centuries, a version of the female headscarf, called the barbette, took the form of a Knights Templar helmets. And this style was very popular in Western Europe. This headpiece consisted of several components: a headscarf, a veil, a forehead bandeau or a hoop, and a box-shaped or pillbox hat.
Meanwhile, during the late Middle Ages, in the Duchy of Burgundy, the most extravagant hats were made in the first half of the 15th century. The Gothic fashion style became well-known for the high tower-like headpiece called hennin, which was created by the French, but only in the court of the Dukes of Burgundy, these trends of verticalization led to the climax of style.
The origin of the term hennin is quite unclear, but the name is mentioned in the chronicle "Annales de Bourgogne", published in 1556, where the narrator echoes the name used by the chronicler Enguerrand de Monstrelet (c. 1400 – 1453) who described such hats as "high as bell tower peaks. ". Outside the court, the word was used as a disparaging term for a "horned headdress" that mocked the era's fashion fad.In historical fashion vocabulary, however, the word refers to a tower-like hat, with different names in different European languages (Dutch - toppenhoed; German -zuckerhut; English - steeple head-dress). In the first half of the 15th century, increasingly extravagant varieties of hennin were created in Western Europe. The most ridiculous was the French escoffion, the "horned headdress". The hennin variant, which resembled a split cone, or a variety of butterfly and cushion headgear, was widespread in England.
Men's hats were also very vertical at this time. In Jan van Eyck's masterpiece, Italian merchant Giovanni Arnolfini showcases the most expressive hat of the late Gothic period. Such hats were widespread among courtiers and wealthy townspeople. Its name bonnet was derived from a woolen fabric called bonnette. Milliners made a huge hats with high crown part and wide brims from this thick woolen fabric. Such a big hats had not yet been created! As a result of spread of the court fashions of the Duchy of Burgundy bonnet-hat gained an even higher portion of the crown, but the brims became narrower, and then were boldly decorated with furs or peacock feathers.
While late Gothic hats showcased upright shapes, but milliners were creating the most extravagant and upscale headdresses of their time, the contribution of the Renaissance masters were looking for a balance between horizontal and vertical proportions. It was the birthplace of berets - big and small, lined and soft, round and angular - a symbolic part of Renaissance artists and science genius apparel. In modern times, especially in the 19th century romanticism, beret became popular in the creative community, showing the direct reference to the Renaissance age. However, back in the 16th century, when all of Europe was being embraced by split-cost fashions, beret's shape once again became a playground for milliners. It was indirectly influenced by the German and Swiss mercenary soldiers called the landsknechts. In the first half of the 16th century, all costume pieces and accessories were split. Berets were no exception, but the landsknechts wore huge berets adorned with motley rattles and gorgeous bird feathers.
In the context of the Reformation, beret became a characteristic hat of German humanists. Berets with windshields and ear-shields continued to be very typical of an image of professors, judges, Protestant clerics. Meanwhile, the rectangular berets were a hallmark of an educated men and created associations with the Renaissance era's contribution to the history of fashion accessories.
During the late 16th century, in the late Renaissance fashion, women's hats were first derived from the shapes of men's headgear. This was fueled by the influence of Spanish court fashions during the Counter-Reformation period, which redefined women's clothing adequately to the structure of steel armor. Beret was again transformed.
At the French court berets were supplemented with narrow brims, but the Spaniards lined them up and added a frame. In the other words, - it was a hat made of soft fabric and with a gathered crown. Such hat soon was transformed into early top hat. It was a conical felt hat with a rounded crown called a capotain or copotain. It was at this time that men's and women's hats were almost identical. However, it was not a hundred years later that the hatters & milliners were once again ready to offer a new headgear styles.
To Be Continued...
The essay was based on the material from a previously published article by its author:
Parute E. Trako cepurnieku izdomas spēles./Māksla Plus #4/2010
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My name is Edīte Parute and I am a fashion historian and researcher from Latvia, association member at "The Association of Dress Historians" (UK) and author of the book "Stila un modes enciklopēdija"/"Encyclopedia of Style and Fashion" (2010) as well as author of many publications.
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