Download our 14th century accessories pattern!
Get our full-size downloadable pattern with complete instructions and historical notes for 14th century Man's accessories including two- and three-piece coif or arming cap, hood with and without liripipe, shirt, long or short braies (drawers) and chausses (hose or cloth stockings).
Fits chests 34"-54" and waists 28"-50". All Sizes in one envelope. Historical notes and embellishment suggestions included.
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light weight to coat weight wool for chausses and hood
light to medium weight linen for coifs, shirt and braies
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Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:
Men’s Underwear in the 14th century
The biggest question of the clothing historian is often “What did they wear under their clothes?” Linen, a vegetable fibre, does not survive the passage of time and exposure to the elements in the same way the animal-derived fibres like wool and silk do. Linen was also used in the production of paper. As underwear got dirty and worn out, it was sold to rag merchants who shredded it for paper production. So in many cases we are forced to rely on pictorial evidence to round out the knowledge obtained from a very few extant garments.
Lucky for us they liked fart jokes in the Middle Ages too. A certain earthiness marks the medieval sense of humour, at least the humour displayed by manuscript illuminators in the margins of their work. In a folio from the Romance of Alexander, reproduced at right, a patient appears to be having a wound on his bottom treated. His shirt is pulled up and his braies down, exposing his posterior from which some “scent lines” rise. This gives us a great shot of the clothes we never see.
Other information on underclothing is provided by picture of peasants at work. The Taccuino Sanitatis, a medieval handbook on wellness, based on the Taqwin al-sihha (Tables of Health), an eleventh-century Arab medical treatise by Ibn Butlan of Baghdad, shows peasants in a variety of occupations, from strenuous to casual. Peasants are seen threshing wheat, milking goats, eating dinner, crushing grapes, et cetera. At their most vigourous work, it is not unusual to see the men clad in braies, a shirt, and a straw hat without hose and sometimes even without shoes. The illustration to the left depicts peasants doing the heavy work of harvesting grain. To the right, the illustration depicts a man carrying bags of olives into a storage shed.
Please do not assume from this evidence that it was socially acceptable to wear underclothing whereever one pleases. In the first place, these are working-class people: peasants. In the second, even these peasants only dressed this way while undertaking strenuous labour. Other pictures of these same peasants show them wearing hose or chausses and upper garments in colour. They did not appear in public in their underwear. They simply disrobed to perform their heaviest work.
Other depictions of men’s underwear come from situations from daily life. A child being birched for disobedience to his teacher (shown at left) gives us an insightful glimpse at what he wears under his clothing. His red tunic is pulled up showing his baggy white braies and the extent of his green chausses. The picture is too small to see the attachment of his chausses, but they must tie to the belt that holds up his braies as no other belt is visible.
This way of suspending chausses is illustrated clearly in the bronze statue at right, by Donatello. It shows the chausses pointed to a wide decorated belt. The boy in the statue has wings and is therefore allegorical. He wears no other clothes.
We are aided in our understanding of the construction of hose and chausses by the Greenland finds. In May 1921, Poul Nørlund travelled to Greenland to lead an excavation at Herjolfsnæs church ruin. All told, 70 pieces of textile were excavated from this site comprising seven distinct types of wool gowns, two types of hoods, wool hats, cloth stockings, and other fragments and smallwares, all dating to the settlement of Greenland.
Six stockings were found in the Greenland digs. Those shown at left are thought to have originally been a matched pair. They are cut from a 2/2 twill wool on the bias. Other cloth stockings from the dig were cut on the straight grain from tabby wool which does not stretch enough to allow shaping. Those stockings have longitudinal slits over the ankles to allow them to be pulled on and off. The pair at left need no slits as the bias cut allows them to stretch and mold to the shape of the leg.
They are cut using the 90° angle at the corner of the fabric as the top which will be attached to a belt or garment as shown in the pictures of chausses, above. The leg has one seam running up the back of the leg. The foot consists of six pieces which fit together to make up the foot.
Another result of the Greenland excavations yields us information on the construction of the hoods that are so prevalent in 14th century art. The Greenland digs produced two general types of hood, called “Type 1” and “Type 2” by Østergård. Type 1 consists of a hood with a shoulder cape. This cape is sometimes cut one with the hood (in one instance, the whole hood is cut on the bias). Most of the time, the shaping is provided by a gore under the face opening in front. Sometimes extra width is added by a larger gore at center back. This type of hood pulls on over the head. It can have a liripipe cut in one with the hood or sewn on from another piece of fabric. There were four of this type found in Greenland and others were found elsewhere. Despite their rarity in the extant record, they are the hood most often seen in medieval portraiture.
Type 2 hoods tend to be a little shorter but full shoulder capes are seen on a few. Some have liripipes cut one with the hood, some have them attached, some were clearly there once but are missing and others have no evidence of liripipes at all. The hoods are shaped with a single gore inserted into a slit on either side of the hood. The Greenland examples (of which there are 12) are either sewn closed at center front or were worn open. The London hoods that resemble them, however, are closed under the face opening by cloth buttons. It has long been assumed that buttoned hoods were feminine items, but men are depicted wearing buttoned hoods as well. The face openings tend to be stab-stitched and the hems sewn down with overcast stitches.
Hoods were not the only male head covering in use in the 14th century. The white linen coif had been a staple of male wardrobe since at least the 12th century and was still being worn by both peasant and nobleman in the 14th. At left we have a illustration of King Charles V receiving a copy of his bible from Jean de Vaudetar. He wears a coif made from linen so fine that it is almost completely transparent. Coifs of various types also survive as arming caps and for wear under other headwear such as hoods.
Boucher, François. 20,000 Years of Fashion. 1987: 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.
McGann, Kathleen. Unpublished notes made at the National Museum of Ireland, July 1998, and July 1999.
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.
Walton, Pennelope. "The Small Finds: Textiles, Cordage and Raw Fibre from 16-22 Coppergate." In Archeology of York, Vol 17. 1989: Council of British Archeology, Dorset.
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This information © 2009 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History