One of the types of source that we came across when writing a guide to fashion history for the IHR’s annual Anglo-American Conference was church monuments. The IHR library has a good collection of books about these, many with illustrations and detailed descriptions.
A particularly striking image from The Ancient sepulchral monuments of Essex is an engraving of the monumental brass of Bridget Marney (d. 1549) in St Peter and St Paul’s church, Little Horkesley, Essex. It depicts the lady in her pedimental headdress and her two husbands in armour. She gave instructions in her will describing how she wanted herself and her husbands to appear. She wears ‘an under robe with a tight-fitting bodice and loose skirt with ornamental cuffs, over which is a mantle… her head-dress is peculiar, being arranged as a double coif curved inwards and reticulated’ (1).
The image is particularly poignant because Little Horkesley church was completely destroyed by a direct hit from a German bomb in September 1940. Fragments of the brass were found scattered across the countryside for a considerable distance around. The church was rebuilt in 1957-8 and houses the reassembled and restored pieces as well as a replica made recently. When the brass was being restored it was found to have been recycled from an earlier monument of around 1490, cut up and reused on the reverse (2).
There are other monuments in Little Horkesley church. Three wonderful oak effigies, probably of Robert of Horkesley (d. 1295/6), his son William and William’s wife Emma (d. 1332/3), show the two knights in armour and Emma wearing a robe, mantle and a wimple secured by a band across the forehead. A tomb chest nearby has the brass of Sir Robert Swynborne (d. 1391) and his son Thomas (d. 1412), showing differences in armour over two generations. The costumes are described in detail in The Ancient sepulchral monuments of Essex.
Find out about other sources for fashion history in the IHR library collections in the subject guide at http://www.history.ac.uk/library/collections/fashion-history.
(1) Chancellor, F., The Ancient sepulchral monuments of Essex, London, 1890
(2) See Montagu Benton, G., The Destruction of Little Horkesley Church, and the Discovery of a Palimpsest Brass, Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society NS. 23, 1942-5