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Buying accurate patterns for your garb is tough. We've made it fairly easy for you with this Reconstructing History Pattern Package. The package includes the patterns needed to provide a full outfit for a real adult noble man living in Western Europe from 1340 through 1380 (or regular peasants 1400-1500). Choose from the tunic, gown, pourpoint, or cotehardie for your outermost layer. Accessories pattern includes all you need for your ensemble, from underwear to headwear. Everything important but the footwear! For wear under armor or on its own. Make great replicas of mediaeval outfits with this specific selection.
Reenactors Irish to Polish, from Scotland or Germany, Norman or Saxon, each pattern also includes the research supportive of our designs based on archeological examples and reconstruction. All the resources you need we present for your tailor.
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- RH010 -- Kragelund Tunic
- RH015 -- Greenland Gown Type 2 ("G63")
- RH021 -- 14thc Men's Pourpoint (great for under armour)
- RH022 -- 14thc Men's Cotehardie
- RH024 -- 14thc Men's Accessories
A $62.00 value on sale for only $55.00!
(Fabric requirements including how many yards shown on individual pattern pages and on the back covers. See 14th-15th century women's packages for the female version.)
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Completely obsessed with looking through books and collected lists of links in your quest for information? See our historical notes.
Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this package:
A “Cote for the Hardy” -- the Man’s Cotehardie
In the mid-fourteenth century, a new style began to appear among the fashions of Western Europe. This new way of dressing 595 years ago was fitted close to the body, revealing the curves that previous styles had hidden under voluminous folds of fabric. Writers in Italy blamed it on the loan of fashions of French visitors. Simultaneously, the English blamed it on the gifts of the French. Sounds like children's games! The French refrained from comments.
What are the possible reasons for this sudden change in style. Scholars have suggested that the Plague was over and that the people who were left were anxious to show off their healthy bodies to potential mates. This idea is rather shattered by the fact that England lost fully half its population to a Plague outbreak in 1348, after the new fashion was well established. Others posit that it was a show of England (or France’s or Italy’s) beginnings of newly acquired wealth. The fact remains that England was experiencing a period of famine-induced poverty during this time and France wasn’t doing much better. Stella Mary Newton, in her seminal work, Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince, attributes the change to the practice of setting in sleeves. Newton contends that this revolution in sleeve technology allowed both the sleeve and the garment covering the torso to be more tightly fitted than was possible with the previous style of rectilinear construction. However, set-in sleeves, while not common, existed centuries before. The most widely-known example is the Moselund tunic from Denmark This man’s garment was carbon dated to between 1045 and 1155 and has curved sleeve caps and set-in sleeves. So while set-in sleeves were certainly widespread by the 14th century, they cannot be held responsible for the fashion change in 1340.
The truth is that the new fashion was not such a dramatic nor quick change as portrayed in the surviving accounts. It was hardly as out of context as a cotton cloak or polyester pants! It was instead a simple progression of the prevailing style of beauty and perfection. But like the rise of hemlines into miniskirt extremes in the 1960s, it was the fashion taken to its fullest extent. And it was this break with the clothing of respectable older people that excited comment round the castle and community, not a radical change in the arts of clothing style.
Among the first to bemoan the fashions of “kids these days” were Galvano della Flamma and Giovanni Villani. Della Flamma was the biographer of the Visconti family, writing in 1340 in Milan. His description of the city’s young men is quite international (or at least European). They are wearing the tight and meagre clothing of the Spanish style, cutting their hair in the French fashion, tramping around like Germans, growing beards in imitation of barbarians, and cursing like Tartars. Gabesons and weapons loomed large in this fashion as did contention over hats and pants. Quite a range in the cards! In his work De Moribus antiquorum, della Flamma looks back fondly on the clothing of the 12th and 13th century when men wore ankle-length mantles of leather or coarse wool in comfort with no protection of furs or lining and certainly not expensive brocade. This was, presumably, more desirable than the sexiness of contemporary clothing.
Giovanni Villani is the author of the Cronica from 1342 which describes, among other things, the entry into Florence of Walter de Brienne II who was invited from France to occupy the highest office in that city. In book twelve of his work, Villani reminds the reader that de Brienne introduced into Florence a disfiguring style of dress from France to replace the noble and handsome Florentine style. Giovanni describes tunics so short and tight that young men could not dress without help. They also strapped around themselves belts with showy buckles and points until they looked like horses in harness. Helmet, cape, or purse represents differings kinds of protection. Elaborate pouches in the German style hung down over their fronts and their hoods hung like cowls reaching to their waists and below. The hoods and mantles were cut around the edges into pattens (dagging) and liripipes often reached the ground. Such shocking arts and crafts! They wore long beards to make themselves look fiercer. Knights home from the wars, carrying helms, dressed in tight-belted overtunics with hanging sleeve pieces (tippets) lined with miniver or ermine, also reportedly ground- or full-length, generally much different from ancient celtic or viking. Villani attributed this change to de Brienne’s weakness for women and subsequent repealment of the sumptuary laws. Villani thought this change in costs would lead to the young paying too much money to showcase their riches and falling into sinful policies and practices to satisfy their vanity.
It was not only the Italians who disagreed with the new style. John of Reading, an English chronicler, writes in 1344 about clothing that is short, narrow, hampering, cut all about and laced in every part. He describes the young men in the new fashion as “demons” wearing pointy shoes or boots and tippets and liripipes long enough to drag on the ground. A passage in the English chronicle, the Brut from 1344-1346, reflects this sentiment. Their clothes are “short, tight, dagged and cut and buttoned all about. The sleeves of their surcoats like their hoods have tippets, long and wide which hang down too far.” Developing styles such as the Tudor doublet had not yet appeared in the world.
The author of the Grands Chroniques de France credits the destruction of the flower of French knighthood finished at the battle of Crécy on 26 August, 1346 as God’s punishment upon the kings and chivalry for the sins of pride, greed and indecency displayed by the nobility of France and others who wore their clothing so short it scarcely covered their buttocks so that when men thus attired bent to serve their lords, their braies, leggings, and nether regions showed. Clearly this established a market for underclothing. He also mentions that clothes are so tight that men needed help dressing and undressing and indeed they appeared not to be undressed but rather peeled or skinned by their dressers.
Although the extant garments from the period pulled on over the head, some fragments from the 14th century show buttoned front openings and closures. The pictorial evidence often skips closure methods, but buttons are often described in the accounts. And when closures are depicted, we see round buttons from throat to waist or sometimes to the hem of the cote. Rare examples of laced fronts are seen although “laced all about” is a common descriptor used in the chronicles. Alternately garments could have had no closures at all. A garment of the cotehardie type can be made to pull on over the head. Indeed, contemporary writers mock the new fashion saying that the wearers of this style are "peeled rather than undressed" by their servants. If these garments always had front closures, why would their wearers need to be "peeled"? Yet this is exactly how one feels when one removes a cote made without closures - a friend's help pulling it off is always welcome.
The various writers also rail against the practice of mi-parti -- the license of wearing clothing made from different colours on the left and right or top to bottom. Because of the cost of various natural dyestuffs, wearing clothing of multiple colours trimmed around the neck with gold and metal implied higher expense and therefore was thought too decadent by these critics.
So what did this risqué clothing look like. Luckily we begin to see a change in style at about the same time it is described by these chroniclers. Matter of fact, we can find exactly the violations described in the chronicles in full colour in paintings from the period. The Romance of Alexander is a particularly fruitful source. This fragment of the original, housed in the Bodlein Library at Oxford and known as MS. Bodl. 264, consists of miniatures illustrating the legends of Alexander the Great and with marginal scenes of everyday life painted by the Flemish illuminator Jehan de Grise and his workshop, 1338-44. Everyone from royalty and lesser nobility to knights and their squires to courtly entertainers and common people working at their daily occupations are depicted, showing us the difference in styles between the social classes as well as a great variety of people of all classes wearing precisely the kind of thing the chroniclers described.
The gentlemen in folio 80 verso from the Romance of Alexander show a great variety of the early style of cotehardie. In this picture, we have a number of young men standing around the king. I have removed the king from the picture since he was not wearing a cotehardie.
The gentleman at far left wears a mi-parti cotehardie in blue and red with his pink hood thrown over his right shoulder and held by its liripipe. His cote is red on the right and blue on the left on his upper torso and blue on the right and red on the left on the skirts. His hose are pink and he wears black latchet shoes. His hair is curly and he is bearded. He wears a dagger through his pouch attached to his belt which is slung low on his hips.
The man immediately to his left wears a mi-parti cote in yellow on the right and blue on the left. Even his hood is mi-parti in the same colours, making him look like he’s wearing a space suit. A pink hat peaks out from under the hood. His hose break the colour scheme -- they are bright red. He also has curly hair, a beard, and black latchet shoes.
On his left is a gentleman wearing an opposite-coloured hood -- blue on the right and yellow on the left. It is pushed off his head, revealing curly hair. He is also bearded. He wears a red cotehardie closed with white buttons down the center front to the belt. At the belt, the cote changes to a muted pink colour. His hose are yellow and his lachet shoes black. Unlike the others, his cote sleeves end at the elbow with a possible white-lined tippet visible on the right arm. He wears something with charcoal grey sleeves underneath.
The first man on the right side of the page wears a pink hood pushed off his head. He is the first one to appear clean shaven. His blue cotehardie has white buttons to the belt and on the backs of the sleeves. Below his belt, his cote turns to bright red, the change indicates a waisted garment. His hose are pink and his lachet shoes black.
The last gentleman in this picture, at far right, wears a yellow hood pushed down, but it is difficult to see if he is bearded or not. His cote is pink, but the sleeves end at his elbow in white-lined tippets. He wears a blue cotehardie with white buttons on the sleeves under it. His hose are red on the right leg and blue on the left. His lachet shoes are black.
All the men in this illumination are wearing knee-length cotes that are tight through the torso and widen into skirts at the hipline or belt. The man on the far left has stress wrinkles on his torso, showing how tightly the cote fit him. All the skirts of the cotes hang in folds indicating a great deal more fabric in the skirts than in the body.
A 1350s illumination from the Roman de la Rose shows a gentleman in the next incarnation of the cotehardie fashion. His pink cote comes no lower than mid-thigh and then flares out below his belt. It is cut very tight to his torso and on his arms. The sleeves turn into white-lined tippets at his elbows, but he seems to be wearing another pink cote underneath it. His red hood is huge and elaborately decorated. It comes as low as his elbows as does the liripipe and he wears what looks like a white cap of some sort underneath it. He also wears dark green hose and black shoes.
Andrea di Firenza shows us the evolution of the style in this detail picture (at left) from his 1365 painting “The Way of Salvation”. At the bottom of the picture, two men stand wearing cotehardies not unlike those in the Romance of Alexander. The man on the left wears a red cote with a full skirt that reaches his knees with green hose and what looks like a yellow veil on his head. His friend on the right wears a mi-parti cote (red on the left, yellow right) of the same length and cut with no head covering and white hose. Stress wrinkles can be seen at his lower back. Both wear belts on their hips but no shoes are visible (or they are colour-coordinated with their hose).
The larger man in the background of the plate is our focus. He wears a dove grey cotehardie that barely covers his backside. It is tight-fitting throughout and does not flare into skirts at all. It fits like like it’s painted on and we can see why the church elders had such a problem with this style of dress. His hood is purplish and might possibly be made for silk for the way it bunches up so small on his shoulders. The liripipe hangs so low that it disappears behind his friends. His hosen are purple on the right leg and red on the left and his shoes match his hose.
Giusto de' Menabuoi’s 1376 fresco in the Padua Cathedral of the Marriage at Cana shows a great variety of fashions of the 14th century. In the detail drawing at right, we see two serving men (possibly lower members of the household, not servants) dressed in cotehardies. The gentleman on the left wears a brown cote with brown or olive green hose. The man on the right wears a pink cote with hose of which the right leg is brown or olive and the left is a light green. Both wear thin girdle belts well down on their hips. More interesting are the seams of their garments. The man on the left has obvious set-in sleeves and a shoulder seam. A side seam travels from under the armscye an disappears under the girdle, indicating that the skirt may be separately sewn on. The man on the right’s cote is considerably shorter and displays more seams. His travel all the way to his hem. Buttons close the front from throat to hem and close the sleeves. Both men have wider sleeves than we have seen thus far. It is possible this is an Italian fashion. Both cotes are fit so closely to the body that it is not possible to tell if there is a waist seam.
For many years, costume historians have been calling this style for both men and women "The Cotehardie". More recently, the tide of opinion has turned against this name, claiming that it doesn't refer to the women's dress at all but to the men's. The short, tight-fitting garment fashionable men came to wear in the 1340s and onward may have earned the pejorative "cote hardy" because it was the "outer garment " of the "bold ". (See Notes at the end of this document for the etymology.)
This begs the question: what did the wearers of this garment call it? Would those who had "cotehardies" made for themselves have called it by such a derogatory name?
The answer is not simple. There is no extant costume book from the 14th century that clearly spells out what people called the various garments in their wardrobes and what distinguished one from the other. In modern terms, what is the differentiating mark of "slacks" versus "trousers"? Perhaps to one person, there's a gender difference. And yet to another person, they are synonyms. This is the same problem we confront when naming historical styles and seeking to use the contemporary vocabulary. In truth, a man might have just called this garment a "tunic".
The Patent, the Close Rolls, and the Great Wardrobe Accounts from whence we derive much of our information on 14th century English clothing were written in Latin, using terms such as tunica (tunic), camisa (shirt), supertunica (overtunic) and roba (suit of clothes, not a robe in the modern French or English sense). Unfortunately these terms do not deviate badly from the words used before the change of fashion in the 1340s, therefore giving us neither new words for the new style of clothing nor terms in the vernacular that could have been used by the wearers.
Traci L. Austin's excellent work in her Doctoral dissertation, Women's Dress Lexicon from Fourteenth Century England, gives us an understanding of the terminology and the frequency with which the words were used in 14th century England. Although her focus is on women’s dress, she gives us enough examples of references to men’s clothing that we can glean a good deal from her work and learn about men’s dress as well.
Ms. Austin informs us that the most often used word for a garment in 14th century English literature is the word kertel or kirtle. This garment is a main body garment worn by both genders and all professions and social classes. Kirtles are described using the same terms (tight, exposing lots of skin...) as the garments against which the commentators railed. Additioanlly they are also described as being of all colours, multiple colours, and made from wool, silk and linen.
The word cote is also mentioned in Ms. Austin’s thesis. Cote is currently a favourite term among 14th century enthusiasts and Austin claims that it describes a main body garment like the kirtle. However, unlike the word kirtle, the word cote is only rarely mentioned in description of fit and cut. Cotes of various materials and colours are described in the literature, however. Only one reference using the word cote speaks of its cut. From Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the knight wears “a strayt cot ful stre3t þat stek on his sides” (“A straight cote full straight that sticks on his sides” -- possibly describing a straight-cut garment that clings to the wearer’s body). Also note that the wearer thus described is male.
How were cotehardies constructed? How can we figure this out from the paintings we have available to us? Seams are shown more frequently in 14th century depictions of men’s gothic garments than women’s, so we have a good idea of how men’s cotes were constructed. Although no extant examples of cotehardies survive, surviving tunics give us an insight into their construction. Survivals such as the 14th century find known as Bocksten Man’s Tunic show rectilinear construction. The Moselund Tunic mentioned earlier combines rectilinear construction with set-it sleeves. It is possible to create a garment that looks like the cotehardies in period paintings by constructing a garment with set-in sleeves and triangular gores widening the skirts and then fitting the side an back seams to conform to the shape of the torso. Cotes can be cut with skirts integral to the torso or added on as trapezoidal gores. Although a cotte for a woman, the Moy gown found in Country Clare in Ireland and other extant pieces offer hints at possible construction. Robin Netherton's contacted us and suggests that the Moy gown may be a man's garment, but its low neckline and feminine shape betray its original owner's sex.
cote -- c.1300, "outer garment," from O.Fr. cote, from Frank. *kotta "coarse cloth," of unknown origin
hardy -- c.1225, "bold, daring, fearless," from O.Fr. hardi, from pp. of hardir "to harden, be or make bold," from Frank. *hardjan (cf. Goth. gahardjan "make hard"), infl. by Eng. hard; from W.Gmc. *kharthjan "to make hard."
"cote" and "hardy." Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 09 Apr. 2009.
Bibliography and Sources
Austin, Traci L. Women's Dress Lexicon from Fourteenth Century England. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Nebraska, 2003).
Boucher, François. 20,000 Years of Fashion. 1987: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York.
Crowfoot, Elizabeth, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 4 - Textiles and Clothing circa 1150-1450. 1992: HMSO, London.
Dyer, Christopher. Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages: Social Change in England c. 1200-1520. 1989: Cambridge University Press.
Ewing, Elizabeth. Fur in Dress. 1981: B. T. Batsford Ltd., London.
McGann, Kathleen. Unpublished notes made at the National Museum of Ireland, July 1998, and July 1999.
Newton, Stella. Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince: A Study of the Years 1340-1365. 1999: Boydell Press, London.
Østergård, Else. Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland. 2004: Aarhus University Press, Aarhus, Denmark.
Payne, Blanche. History of Costume. 1965: Harper Collins, New York.
Piponnier, Françoise and Perrine Mane. Dress in the Middle Ages. 1997: Yale University Pres, New Haven, CT.
Veale, Elspeth. The English Fur Trade in the Later Middle Ages. 2003: London Record Society, London.
Wieck, Roger S. Time Sanctified. The Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Life. 1988: George Brazillier, Inc., New York in association with the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.
http://www.wga.hu/index1.html and pictures in the author's collection.
Personal communications with Maggie Forrest from 1998 through 2009.
Careful authors related documentation. The internet culture provided quality instructions.
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This information copyright © 1996, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History