Fashion in the Middle Ages by Margaret Scott

*I did receive a digital version of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review*

    Fashion in the Middle Ages by Margaret Scott is an interesting little book that covers several dozen medieval images in just a few pages. It is essentially a museum exhibition catalog and this is the first book of this kind that I have read. Essentially, many medieval manuscripts are examined and the author describes how the image should be viewed in its historical context. Akin to “reading between the lines” the author is able to relate the importance of the image in regards to how the contemporary viewers of the image understood their own world as well as how they understood an even earlier past.

It is important to note that this book is not encyclopedic or comprehensive, being an exhibit catalog. It is also important to know that the book is certainly much more about “fashion” as the title states and not simply about the different kinds of medieval dress and clothing. In regards to fashion of the 14th and 15th centuries, this book is superb. It relates how the varying social orders and economic classes were perceived in a very stratified society based on outward appearances. An interesting highlight of the book was an understanding of how some foreign people (both of the contemporary time and of the historical past) were understood. The author does a great job pointing out and examining details that reveal a wide array of information that someone untrained in viewing medieval manuscripts would pass over or not know to even look for. Some weaknesses of the book are that the vast majority of the images are from the same time period of the 14th and 15th centuries. While this is necessary for a cohesive museum exhibition, this does lead to the title of the book to be a little misleading. Also, a somewhat more connective narrative would have been appreciated. While there is some general discussion and summarizing at the beginning of chapters, much of the book feels a little disjointed as being simply individual examinations of different images without a wider context to always place them in.

    Overall, Fashion in the Middle Ages by Margaret Scott is a neat little book if you are interested in the sense of fashion in the Late Middle Ages and using its high quality images as a resource, though the casual medieval reader may wish for a little more meat on the bone from this volume.
    3 out of 5 stars.

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