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RH020 - 14th century Women's Accessories

CODE: RH020


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You need our 14th century accessories pattern

Buy our full-size paper pattern with complete instructions and historical notes for 14th century Woman's accessories including hood with and without liripipe, shift or smock, hose (cloth stockings), veil, wimple, and instructions for arranging your hair in braids 14th century style.

Fits busts 27"-50". All Sizes in one envelope. Historical notes and embellishment suggestions included.

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Suggested Fabrics: 

light weight to coat weight wool for hose and hood
light to medium weight linen for shift, veil, wimple

Let us help you! At Reconstructing History, we want to see you wearing the best garments you are capable of making. Call us Monday through Friday from 9am until 4pm Eastern Time (or email us at info@reconstructinghistory.com) and we will answer any questions you might have.


Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:

Women’s Accessories and 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 depicted a lot of martyrdoms of saints in the Middle Ages. This gives us a great shot of the clothes we never see. A 1372 manuscript in the Hague, reproduced at right, shows Susannah being led to her execution. In this picture, she is stripped to her shift. Other pictures of similar execution and martyrdom scenes show shifts of the same type.

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 a peasants doing the heavy work of threshing grain (only the woman in the picture is shown here).

Please do not assume from this evidence that it was socially acceptable to wear underclothing wherever 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 upper garments in colour, hose on their legs and shoes. They did not appear in public in their underwear. They simply disrobed to perform their heaviest work.

Other depictions of women’s underwear come from situations from daily life. In the mid 12th century Gratian, a monk and teacher at Bologna University, one of the great European centres for legal studies, compiled the Decretum, a collection of nearly 4,000 extracts from Early Church writings, Papal edicts, Church Councils and Roman law, designed as an aid to study and teaching. It was the first and most influential attempt to codify and make sense of 1000 years of often contradictory church regulations. At right we have a detail from one of the illuminations in an early 14th century copy of the Decretum showing a wife and her lover in flagrante delicto. You can clearly see their hose, gartered at the knee.

Other revealing pictures expose women’s hose. An illumination from the 1350 Roman de la Rose shows a woman flashing her backside, also showing her knee-high gartered hose.

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 or cloth hose 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.

However, this particular pair of the Greenland stockings have points at the top, a feature that is not observed in the pictorial record of women’s hose because they are not suspended from a belt but rather gartered at the knee.

Items at BC72 in the London excavations (documented in Crowfoot et al.’s Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450) include several well-preserved sections of hose. These pieces are all bias-cut medium weight wool tabby, dyed red with madder. They are believed to date to the late 14th century. Two characteristics stand out: first, the leg pieces have horseshoe-shaped cut outs, indicating that the rest of the foot was formed with an attached vamp or spat; the other is the seams. The top edge of one piece is folded over and finely back-stitched in place. The back seam of the leg fragments were closed by running or back stitches, but the seam allowances were then pressed open and held in place by tiny running stitches 2-3mm from the seam. A reconstruction based on the Museum of London fragments is shown at right.

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.

In contrast to previous centuries, in the 14th century women tended to show their hair. It was not done, of course, to have your hair hanging freely down your back (unless you were a child or the Virgin Mary). But many women are shown in 14th century manuscripts with their hair exposed but elaborately braided. The 14th century manuscripts of the Romance of Alexander and the Roman de la Rose show women with their hair almost exclusively braided. Some wear headcoverings such as veils, wimples, and hoods over their braids, but the braids are still the main element of the hairstyle. Indeed, they are the foundation upon which some of the more elaborate styles depend.

Bibliography

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