Textiles and Clothing in the Household of Emmanuel Ximenez

A rich array of textiles and garments fashioned from high-quality fabrics are certainly to be expected in a wealthy household like Emmanuel Ximenez's, and this is indeed what we find in the inventory. We have ample evidence of furniture fitted out with curtains, coverlets and cushions, of household linen in large quantities, and clothing items – some of them sumptuously decorated – for both men and women.

Where textiles constituted an integral part of a piece of furniture or belonged to a particular object, they were recorded accordingly. Fine woolen broadcloth ("laken") was used to cover tables, benches, and beds, and sometimes these covers were decorated with silk or even gold fringe ("zyde" or "gouden freniën"). While many chairs had leather seats and backs, others were upholstered in velvet. All the beds were fitted out with woolen blankets (usually described as "sargië," or twill, which was a standard weave structure for woolen fabrics), pillows and occasionally coverlets ("overtrecsels").

Silk fabrics were the most costly materials used for both household furnishings and for clothes, and silk thus merited particular attention in the inventory; different qualities of silk – light-weight or heavy, plain or patterned – were therefore carefully recorded. One fine silk fabric with a glossy surface and a small pattern, called "armosyn," could be employed for clothing as well as for decorative covers on tables or day-beds; lined with a woollen fabric such as baize it would have gained more weight. For example, a "small changeant armosine tablecloth lined with baize" is recorded for the room for women's cloaks. "Sattyn" or satin, was a more substantial and therefore more costly silk fabric; it certainly was the material of choice for sumptuous clothing, especially when the garments were to be decorated with a slashed pattern ("round satin breeches, slashed"), with embroidery and/or gold braid ("a brown satin doublet trimmed with silk and gold), or with a fur lining ("a striped silver satin doublet lined with white rabbit fur"). Velvet ("fluweel") and caffa were both patterned silk fabrics with a pile. They could be employed in combination with other fabrics or even with fur, like the "caffa silk dressing gown lined with white ermine," thus making for particularly opulent garments. A delightful contrast would have been achieved with a fur lining in a garment otherwise fashioned from a silk damask, a patterned fabric with a smooth, shiny surface ("a violet damask night robe lined with marten").

Clothes were obviously considered as possessions of great value; they were stored carefully, either in locked wardrobes (as in a cleerschappraeye met een slote) or in chests specially secured with iron bands, of which many examples appear in the inventory. Seldom, however, do we learn who actually wore a particular garment, as only very few items are ascribed to an individual, for example shirts belonging to Emmanuel Ximenez ( hemden dienende ten lichaem van mynheer) or his "habit for when he takes communion," or "ten shirts belonging to my lady" (i.e. Isabel). Even if their wearers are not named, however, the descriptions of clothing are as precise as those of their materials: a violet silk nightshirt (violett zyden slaeplyfken), for example, is clearly distinguished from day-wear and formal attire, and the type of garment – breeches, doublet, bodice, overgown – is always mentioned. Of particular interest are those descriptions that allow an understanding of which fabrics and decorations were thought suitable for a specific kind of garment. Doublets (a men's garment) were mostly fashioned from "armosyn" or "sattyn." The heavier silk fabric was evidently appropriate to women's bodices and gowns, for the latter, velvet also seems to have been a suitable material. Cloaks could be fashioned from woolen cloth of finer or coarser quality.

The fact that fabrics were bought and then handed over to a tailor, who cut and sewed the garment, is reflected in the mention of material that still awaited processing: for example, eight ells of violet velvet, twenty-two and a half ells of blue satin, a hundred and two ells of green and grey silk "passement" (decorative braid trim), and - even more enlightening - "new black satin, cut for an overgown and bodice". If a garment originally decorated with gold buttons was discarded, the buttons would have been taken off and stored for a later re-use (loose buttons are listed in the inventory). The same evidently applied to the "seven feathers of diverse colors, and two egret feathers," which were apparently valued highly since they were stored and listed together with the jewelry.

Considering that several children lived in the Ximenez household, it seems remarkable that only very few children's clothes are mentioned; perhaps they were considered as personal belongings of the surviving children that could not be treated as saleable goods. Another, and more peculiar, omission concerns shoes: apart from a pair of "green velvet slippers" no shoes are mentioned in the inventory, although we may confidently assume that the wearers of silk doublets and gowns would have been shod appropriately.

Birgitt Borkopp-Restle, University of Bern


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