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It’s not just back-lacing dresses that we have a problem with. We have issues with the really random lacing inserted into clothing in historical costume movies and TV shows. It’s endemic to medieval and renaissance costumes, presumably because people think, since they didn’t have zippers, how else could people get in and out of their clothes? Never mind the fact that functional buttons have been used in clothing since, what?, the 14th century — something else we’ve ranted about, but hey, let’s remind y’all here:
Using pins as a closure was also super-common in the pre-zipper, pre-velcro eras, such as:
But maybe a costume designer out there (or a director or someone else involved in the production; I’m happy to spread the blame around) is thinking that surely buttons and pins were, if not too far advanced technology, well that’s just too expensive for the stinking, slovenly poor folk running around in muck and mud in ye olden times in their show.
OK then, but that doesn’t mean poor folks would have GIANT FUCKING LACING OPENINGS using metal grommets (which haven’t been invented yet) laced up VERY LOOSELY and using fat, inept, useless laces that would be difficult to tie up modern shoes with. No, this is what folks would look like:
Now, in a few very specific times and places, multiple sections of lacing in a garment were used as a decorative element in fashion. But when you get to decoration, that’s going to be for high-status people. Such as…
Lacing as a decorative element was a fairly limited thing, however, most popular in the very late 15th century and in the 16th century. Otherwise, lacing remained functional, such as for underwear.
Because people, even in the past, weren’t stupid and didn’t want giant gaps in their clothing unless they were so idle rich that they could sit around somewhere, IDK, enjoying the breeze that created.
In case there are any movie-makers out there, let me list the ways to depict laced-up clothing in a historically accurate fashion:
- No metal grommets on outerwear before 20th century.
- Lace tightly, the goal is to close the garment up.
- If there is a gap in the lacing, no skin should show through, only undergarments.
- The cord used to lace should be thin and simple, not a chunky shoelace.
- Use the least number of lacings needed to actually close up the garment, unless the character is clearly wealthy enough to afford wholly decorative lacing.
Now let’s see how they get it wrong!