Clothing and Accessories
The latter half of the fourteenth century was a period of rapidly changing techniques and fashions in clothing. Prior to Chaucer's lifetime, clothing fashions had been fairly static for centuries. Garments were generally cut on straight lines, which severely limited the possibility for variation. The fourteenth century witnessed the true emergence of the tailor's craft as clothesmakers began to experiment with curved seams, allowing garments to be more fully shaped. At the same time, buttons began to be used to allow a closer fit--in previous centuries garments had to be loose enough to be pulled over the torso. The history of costume was precipitated into the age of fashion, which has continued ever since.
In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the Parson comments bitingly on the new trends:
Superfluity of clothing ⇯ makes it most expensive, to harm of the people; not only the cost of embroidering, the elaborate notching of edges or ornamenting with strips, undulating and vertical stripes, folding or bordering, and similar waste of cloth in vanity; but there is also costly furring in their gowns, so much piercing with blades to make holes, so much slitting with shears, along the superfluity in length of the aforesaid gowns, trailing in the dung and in the mire⇯ .
Upon the other side, to speak of the horrible disordinate scantiness of clothing, as be these "cutted slops," or "hainselins," that through their shortness cover not the shameful members of man, to wicked intent ⇯ and eke the buttocks of them fare as it were the hinder part of a she-ape in the full of the moon. And moreover ⇯ in dividing of their hose in white and red, it seems that half their shameful privy members were flain. And if so be that they divide their hose in other colors, as in white and black, or white and blue, or black and red, and so forth, then seems it, as by variance of color, that half the part of their privy members were corrupt by the fire of Saint Antony, or by cancer, or by other such mischance. 1