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Buy our downloadable pattern for Men’s 15th century Doublet and Hosen. Pattern includes Doublet with Plain (A) or Balloon-Top Sleeves (B), and Hosen with straight (C) or Italianate slanted back seams (D). Detailed instructions. Embellishment suggestions. Historical notes.
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Hosen: wool twill (gabardine, wool flannel)
DO NOT use wool jersey
Doublet: wool twill or heavy silk
(optional) Lining: 3-5oz linen or light (8mm) silk
(optional) Interlining: heavy linen or buckram
Hosen 2 yds 60” wide
Doublet 3 yds 60” wide
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Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:
Doublets and Hosen in the 15th century
The history of doublets and hosen must begin with a brief history of hosen since the doublet evolved for the function of holding them up.
In the early Middle Ages and probably for some time before, leg coverings were supported by garters around the knees or cross-gartering along their whole length. This is an easy way to keep knee-high hose from falling down. However when the hose extend much past the knee, the flexion of that joint poses a problem. Every time the knee bends, it loosens the leg covering around it. And the more it loosens, the less it stays up when the leg is straightened. This would cause great difficulty for a working man in particular.
So as hose lengthened, another method of suspending the hose was tried. The most successful method was tying the tops of the hose (usually cut in points due to their being cut on the bias) to a belt tied around the waist. This early “garter belt” held up the hose adequately and was in use for some time.
However in the late 14th century when men’s fashions began to show the gluteus maximus, this method of suspension was not enough. Although the hose were still fastened securely, the man’s anatomy between the two hose legs, front and rear, could now be seen. The solution was to sew the hose legs together and cover the front opening with a removable flap soon to be known as a “codpiece”.
As these joined hosen came to be worn more regularly, it was discovered that two points on the front of the thighs was not sufficient to hold them up. So more points were added all around the waist of the hosen. Soon the belt was not enough to handle the strain and a new invention was needed — the pourpoint (literally “for pointing to”). The first pourpoints were vest-like garments to which the hosen were pointed around the lower edge. But soon, the pourpoint would evolve into a garment all by itself. When lined, it came to be called a “doublet” (for its double thickness of fabric) and along the way, it acquired sleeves and closures of its own.
In the 16th century, the doublet evolved into outerwear and was seen commonly worn by noblemen and commoners alike paired either with hosen or the new breeches. However in the 15th century (and even the early decades of the 16th), the doublet was an undergarment that was not meant to be seen. The best evidence of what doublets looked like in this period are pictures of builders and other manual labourers. And executioner from Dieric Bouts the Elder’s “The Execution of the Innocent Count” circa 1460 (shown at left) gives great detail of the doublet as a functional garment. His hosen are obviously held up by it as evidenced by the ties at the tops of his thighs. But the rest of the doublet, though form-fitting, is insubstantial and the shirt shows through at the elbows, front opening and above the hose. Since the figure is carrying the decapitated head of the Count, it could be suspected that he removed his outer layer of clothing so it wouldn’t get dirty.
This idea is substantiated by other paintings of executions of saints and the beheading of John the Baptist in particular. The men doing the dirty work are in their doublets and hose. Sometimes their overgowns are even shown on a nearby gatepost.
Another source of views of doublets comes from depictions of construction scenes. Ercole de' Roberti’s “Predella of the Griffoni Polyptych: Miracles of St Vincent Ferrer” in 1473 shows quite a few men working in their doublets. The detail, right, show a worker bent in his duties. This and other such workers in the painting give great information on how the doublet moved as a garment when the wearer was working. The separation of the front and sleeves easily accommodated movement and we can see why this garment was seen as underclothing and not outer wear.
Another workman in Fouquet’s “Life of Etienne Chevalier” shows the usual attachment of hosen to the doublet. For the hosen to look well-fit, they had to be trussed up tightly when standing upright. But this makes a tendency for the back points to blow out when the wearer bends over. It is common to see men with the back points undone while they are working. Only the side and front points are essential for keeping the hosen on the body. The others only allow a better fit while standing.
Another interesting feature of mid-15th century doublets are the ball shoulders. At first glance, these strangely-shaped decorations do not seem to serve any purpose. On a garment whose primary function is to hold up the hosen, they seem out of place and extraneous.
However, if we look at the fashions worn over them, a purpose emerges. The illustration below from “The Court of Law” shows a gentleman in the garment of a scholar or older man. Younger and more fashionable men wore version of the same gown, but knee- or thigh-length. Two elements mark this gown as representative of the style worn in Burgundy in the mid-15th century — it is heavily pleated and the shoulders stand out as if they are propped up in some way.
And so they are. Another detail illustration from The Court of Law (right) shows a younger man about to get into a brawl. His gown is sleeveless, so we can see the sleeves of his doublet. They have this protruding stuffed ball at the tops. An examination of men’s gowns of this period will show that these ball-topped sleeves were necessary to hold up the dense fabric of the sleeves of the Burgundian-style men’s gown.
For more, purchase this pattern.
This information © 2006 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History
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