Fiat Lux: Chartres Cathedral's Representation of Medieval Culture Seen Through 21st Century Design

Miquette Elliott

Abstract

Cathedrals are some of the last remaining artifacts that communicate life and values from the Middle Ages. Chartres Cathedral in France exists as a time capsule of its culture, an exhibition of material, religious, and social values, and a testament to the expert craft guild that flourished in the city. Capturing the structure of the society and the cathedral in a 21st century men’s and women’s wear collection was the objective of this project. The menswear collection focuses on the architectonic aspects of the patriarchal society and the cathedral itself. The women’s wear expresses the similarities between the cathedral’s stained glass and the cultural paradigms women faced in medieval society:  the didacticism of stained glass presents the juxtaposing values and positions of women in the medieval culture.  To grasp the complexity of the topic, I spent time at Chartres Cathedral and explored several other French medieval cathedrals.  My field research was informed by texts from both UC Davis and the University of the Arts London. The final product was exhibited during the Fashion and Design Society’s sponsored fashion shows during the 2012 UC Davis Picnic Day, and to professional and public audiences at shows in San Francisco and Davis.   

Download the complete paper (PDF)