Fabrics in Medieval Dress in Pomerania
By Anna Rybarczyk
FASCICULI ARCHAEOLOGIAE HISTORICAE: From Studies into Ancient Textiles and Clothing, Vol.23 (2010)
Abstract: Regrettably, discoveries of complete or nearly complete outfits are extremely rare. Nonetheless, fragments of fabrics which must have been parts of dress can sometimes be spotted among other fragmented archaeological textiles. A dress fastening, a sleeve, headdresses, a mitten as well as an onuca (foot wrapper) are to be found in the archeological material coming from Pomerania.
Archaeological evidence gives us an insight into the variety of techniques applied to the creation of different pieces of dress in the Middle Ages. Besides ordinary weaving, needlework, sprang, as well as tablet weaving should be mentioned here. Excavations in Gdansk indicate that bias-cut garments were made. The use of colour effects – motives of stripes, colour ribbon and string additions as well as pieces of embroidery – is a testament to the decorative character of medieval clothes. Garment edges used to be trimmed with silk or colour woolen threads. Felt artifacts are known to have been in use in Pomerania as early as the beginning of the Middle Ages.
Hopefully, the latest large scale excavations which have been conducted in urban agglomeration areas will provide new archaeological evidence and thus open up a new field of further study of medieval dress.
Dress is frequently perceived as one of the distinguishing features of the human species. Since the Biblical fig leaf, clothing has always accompanied man, being an indispensable element of his everyday life regardless of time and place. Little wonder the history of attire has long been a field of study for humanists.
Reconstruction of historical clothing is based on surviving originals, iconography, written records and, last but not least, archaeological finds. Particularly, the latter, being a direct source of knowledge, provide invaluable informtion for costume researchers. Their main advantage over other types of historical material lies in the fact that they reach the researcher untouched. Their original form has not been spoilt by any changes or subject to conservation treatment, which may have affected the appearance of specimens kept in various collections for centuries. Archaeological finds, crucial to the study of dress of basically any historical epoch, are especially important for scholars dealing with clothing of the most remote historical periods, including the Middle Ages.