Saint Savina’s Cote

I want to make an easy-to-wear, late Medieval/early Renaissance dress to wear to Renaissance fairs, and since I’m at The Met a few times a month, I decided to go check out their Medieval & Renaissance art.

So here’s a depiction of Saint Savina, 1510-1520, France. It seems that artists of that time didn’t worry too much about the saints & Holy Family wearing historically accurate clothing, but would put them in medieval fashions, adding picturesque drapery. These medieval artists created a sartorial look for Christian icons, and it has become so accepted that nowadays, most nativity scenes have the Holy Family wearing some form of medieval clothing plus drapery.

The label for this statue reads that in Troyes, Saint Savina was depicted as a ‘youthful pilgrim’, with a characteristic staff, hat and bag. Maybe her appearance was based off of other pilgrims, or a stereotypical image of a pilgrim at the time. She’s also a saint, so she holds a gospel and a palm frond that symbolizes her martyrdom.

The long drapery is probably artistic license, but I think the bodice of the gown underneath is fairly contemporary. I’m assuming it’s a variation on the cote or cotte (sometimes called a cotehardie), a tightly-fitted gown worn underneath the looser robe, and over a chemise. It’s tightly fitted at the torso and has fairly narrow sleeves. The skirt is long with a decorated hem.

There’s some paint left on this statue, mostly red and a great blue-teal kind of color, which the cote was painted with.

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This cote has

1) a square, decorated neckline bound with a separate pice of cloth

2) no waist seam; the skirt flares from bodice pieces

3) either it’s lined with the lining turned over the outer edge, or the edges are bound

4) and the bodice is closed with about seven pins!

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That hat …

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A pretty utilitarian-looking shoe surrounded by reasonably impractical drapery.

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That great bag.

Now about those pins. The entire outfit seems, to me, to be a mix of practical clothing suitable for walking (a simple gown, plain shoes, a staff and a bag) and possibly exaggerated, possibly classically-inspired drapery. Which category do the pins fall into? I’m assuming they’re listed under the more practical heading.

I’m reminded of a good reenacting saying, though – be the common person, not the exception to the rule. If I have to go out of my way to try to explain this cote’s different front, is it really what most women wore, or is it an exception to the rule? I think lacing is probably the way to go for my own cote.

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About Amanda Goebel

I'm an Anthropology / Fashion History and Material Culture graduate from The University of Delaware, currently working on a Master's in Museum Studies. I'm a living historian interested in costume and culture from years before. I love researching the mundane and the everyday that has changed or disappeared since. I re-enact the 18th century, and I recreate clothing from that time. This blog is where I'll write about my research and projects. View all posts by Amanda Goebel

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