The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum

This length of braided silk and metal thread is the sort of passementerie, or decorative trimming, that was used for both dress and furnishings in the sixteenth century. However, the weighted knots at each end make it seem most likely that it was a dress accessory, in which the two ends would hang down decoratively. The majority of illustrations showing women wearing girdles in this period suggest that they were fastened by a clasp, for which there is no evidence in this piece, but there are occasional illustrations of girdles knotted. Other sixteenth century portraits show decorative braids or chains looped up at the waist. The relative fragility of this braid would probably not have allowed anything to be suspended from it, so it was presumably decorative rather than functional. It is also possible that it was used by a man rather than a woman. The portrait of Henry VIII after Holbein in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, shows the King with a relatively narrow sash, presumably of silk, passed twice around his waist and knotted decoratively. The length of this braid, at nearly 4 metres, would entail it being passed at least twice around the body, however great the height and girth of its wearer.

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  • Title: Girdle
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1535/1580
  • Location: Italy
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 375 cm, Width: 3.8 cm
  • Medium: Braided silk and metal thread

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