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RH022 - 14th century Man's Cotehardie

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CODE: RH022


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You need a Cotehardie! 

Buy our full-size paper pattern with complete instructions and historical notes for 14th century Man's Cotehardie with buttoned or laced front and tight-fitting sleeves.  Thigh-length "slim" and knee-length "skirted" versions both included. NOTE:  patterns does not include hose or hood (see http://store.reconstructinghistory.com/14th-century-man-package.html for the full outfit).

Fits chests 34"-54" and waists 28"-50". All Sizes in one envelope. Historical notes and embellishment suggestions included.

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Suggested Fabrics: 

light weight to coat weight wool, silk, or linen
light linen or silk for lining

Yardage Requirements:
4 yds 45" or 3 yds 60" wide

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:

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 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 fashions of French visitors. Simultaneously, the English blamed it on the French. The French refrained from comment.

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) 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 change as portrayed in the surviving accounts. It was instead a simple progression of the prevailing style. 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, not a radical change in 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. 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. In his work De Moribus antiquorum, della Flamma looks back fondly on the clothing of the 13th century when men wore mantles of leather or coarse wool with no fur or lining. This was, presumably, more desirable than 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. 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 patterns (dagging) and liripipes often reached the ground. They wore long beards to make themselves look fiercer. Knights dressed in tight-belted overtunics with hanging sleeve pieces (tippets) lined with miniver or ermine, also reportedly ground-length. Villani attributed this change to de Brienne’s weakness for women and subsequent repealment of the sumptuary laws. Villani thought this change would lead to the young spending too much money and falling into sinful practices to satify 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 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.”

The author of the Grands Chroniques de France writes of the destruction of the flower of French knighthood at the battle of Crécy on 26 August, 1346 as God’s punishment 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 and nether regions showed. 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 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 -- wearing clothing made from different colours on the left and right or top to bottom. Because of the cost of various dyestuffs, wearing clothing of multiple colours 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 what 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 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. 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).

For more, purchase this pattern.

This information © 2009 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History