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We get a lot of correspondence at Seamlyne.com. We try very hard to personally respond to each one; sometimes, it's a new costumer asking for advice, sometimes it's a more experienced costumer correcting my technique. It's all good.
And sometimes we get stuff that engenders a great deal of head scratching, and a lot of giggling...
The following is a letter I received via email on Sunday, February 21 , 1999. It took me some time to decide if "Mr. Buttmore" was serious or not, stoned or not, was actually possessed of a de Bergerac-ian dilemma or not. In the end, I decided that I didn't particularly care, I simply couldn't let it pass by without setting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard as the case may be.
Dear William Richard Morris,
I was dismayed not to find a nose wear section on your page, or at the very least a link to an authentic renaissance nose costuming resource. My nose like the nose of Ticco gets very cold in the mock European weather. Besides giving my wife a terrible fright it also attracts all the neighborhood dogs.
Will check back soon,
My Dear Mr. Buttmore,
Thank you for your kind letter. I'm afraid I must hang my head a bit in chagrin; I had no idea that anyone would take umbrage at the subject's absence. However, you must realize that the omission of the nose costume was a deliberate choice on my part. Allow me to explain:
Of all the different types costume, nose-costuming is the hardest to document because of the scarcity of extant examples and written documentation. The Treatise For The Manufacture of Clothing: A Guide For The Semster, published in London in 1604 (available now in hardcover from Bantam Audio Books), speaks very briefly of nose-costuming, or vÍtement a nez as it is called in the book, as being one of the most beautiful forms of adornment, second only to the ruff, a neck decoration that, thank God, fell from favor shortly after Elizabeth's death. The illustrations, as they are limited to woodcuts, give us only the vaguest notion as to the wonder and finery Elizabethan faces enjoyed, but even those are breathtaking.
In his book Exhale And It's Gone: The Vanishing Nodpiece, (Whitney & Whitney, London, 1953) Geoffrey Haversham explains that the only remaining portions of nose-adornment are the gold and silver chains used to hold them in place. He explains:
"No examples of this form of decoration survive due in large part to the very portion of the body they covered. The exhalations of the human lung are, by nature, humid; the level of humidity of the air from one's lungs at time of exhale is roughly fifty percent (Pearson's Study Of The Respiratory System, John Robert Pearson, George Washington University Publishing, 1947). This moisture, combined with the condition of the average individual's facial skin (sic) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the use of makeup by both sexes, has been the largest contributing factor in the decay of these pieces."
"In May of 1940, barely one month before Dunkerque, France fell to the advancing German army, archaeologist Francois d'Eloge stunned the world with his discovery of a fully intact nose piece, found under the altar stone of a church in the parish of St. Renee. After much discussion, however, Msr. d'Eloge revealed his hoax as an elaborately decorated muzzle, probably from a greyhound belonging to the Fifth Earl of Huntley, who lived one hundred years after the nose piece fell from favor. Msr. d'Eloge was unceremoniously handed over to the German commander on June 4, 1940, and, with an equal lack of ceremony, if, indeed, anyone actually noticed, was executed the following day."
I haven't included this form of costume on my web pages because of the scarcity of examples; it may surprise you to know that you are the first person to point out this omission. I will keep searching, rest assured, and include it when I can provide the necessary secondary resources.