Double Wars Classes

Earlier this month, I had the distinct pleasure of attending Double Wars, an SCA event held in the Shire of Attemark, located in Southern Sweden. If you ever have the chance, GO. Drachenwalders are friendly and very hospitable folk, and you will have the time of your life. I did, anyway.

Most of the classes I taught are ones that I’ve taught before, but I put together a few new things for the occasion. I refrained from putting the new information up until after I got back, and I wanted to make a page that listed links for all of the classes that I taught. The only class that doesn’t have a full set of slides/tutorial is the Charles de Blois fitting class, but I have webbed the single sheet that I hand out in class. The rest are full presentations or tutorials, along with a handout similar to what I print for classes.

Without further ado, here are the links:

Fitting the Charles de Blois Pourpoint

Gothic Fitted Dress Workshop, and Single Sheet Handout

Sleeve Fitting: Farmboy, Fetch Me That Pitcher, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Reach my Own Damned Pottery, and Single Sheet Handout

Discovering the V-Neck Gown: The Sexiest Bathrobe You’ll Ever Wear (link opens the linkspage to all of my 15th century dress info, and the presentation is the last link, a pdf), and Single Sheet Handout

Working With Fur: Keeping Warm in the Mini Ice Age and Today, and Single Sheet Handout


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Fur or Fabric on the V Neck Gown?

Back in 2003, Jeff and I visited London, and of course, we visited the National Gallery. While we were there, I noticed a dress detail that you could see in person, but I’d never seen a print or web image detailed enough to see it. In van der Weyden’s Portait of a Lady (sometimes called portrait of a women, and NOT the one that looks like Angelina Jolie), the subject is wearing a V-neck gown.

I’d looked through a LOT of images of V-neck gowns by that point, in preparation for the fur lined one that’s documented in the links here. But I’d never been able to find any that didn’t look like fur, or weren’t ambiguous. But the one in the portrait in London had a VERY faint pattern to it. Unfortunately, at the time the National Gallery didn’t allow photos, and I couldn’t find an image with nearly enough detail to see the pattern.

Poking about today, I discovered that the image at Wikimedia Commons is large enough if you click on the original file and zoom in.

Here is the original:

Rogier_van_der_Weyden-workshop_-_Portrait_of_a_Lady_-_1460_(National_Gallery_London) - small


Here is a blown up version that’s been brightened:

about 1460

I will be the first to admit that paintings are not photographs. It could just be that ol’ Rogier wanted to add a bit of texture to the image. But it could also be true that a beautiful brocade is also a valid choice for the collar and cuffs of a V-neck gown. Using this theory, I have made a middle class V-neck gown using wool as the collar, and another silk gown using silk velvet for the trims.


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Fur Lined Hood – Part 1: Cutting the Squirrels

Because my class schedule has been getting more intense lately, I’ve not been doing a lot of new work or research. But I’m going to Double Wars (an SCA event in Sweden) this May, and as I prep classes for that, I’ve decided to do a project that I’ve had on the wish list for several years, a fur-lined hood.

And not just any fur lined hood. I have several bags full of little squirrels with brown backs and white bellies. I want a vair fur lined hood.

20150228_084657 (1)

I’ve been holding onto these little guys for a few years now, and I keep putting them away for the perfect project. The perfect project is largely a mythical beast, and besides, a very common theme with medieval fur was recutting and reuse. Period problems, period solution.

I’ve made a fur-lined garment before. The basic premise is that you sew the furs together, attach them to an interlining, bind the edges, and then baste the interlining into your garment. If you need to go back and wash the garment, you pick the basting out and carry on. That dress has a PDF write up linked from this site already (links to landing page, not directly to pdf).

This is going to be a bit more complicated. First, you have to cut the squirrels. Then you sew them all back up into your preferred pattern in “plates”. Then you go on to the rest of the process.

So, what’s vair? Heraldically speaking, it’s pretty simple:



In period art, there’s a definite look that’s popular. A note on “period art”; this is very much a 14th century and earlier style. By the 15th century, squirrel furs were declassé, as evidenced by some poems and textual references. Those are a little more in depth than I want to get in this post, so stay tuned. In any case, when you see this sort of patterning in art, it’s almost certainly a stylized depiction of fur. If you want to see more examples of fur, check out my Pinterest board on the subject.

I’d probably call that more miniver than vair, though. What’s the difference?

According to Elspet Veale, in her book The English Fur Trade in the Later Middle Ages, there are different ways of cutting squirrels for different effects. Vair and miniver should be thought of as cutting and piecing methods, not as different types of fur.

Vair (or varium opus): grey squirrels made up into plates of alternating bands of grey and white.

Miniver: The same as vair, but only the bellies are used with an edge of grey around them.

Pured Miniver: Only the white bellies, with all of the grey trimmed off.

Gris: Only the backs of the squirrels used.

So far, I’ve just been cutting. I was unable to find any information on whether I should cut up the sides or the back, so I was going for the sides first, thinking that I’d alternate them like in the heraldic version. Since then, I’ve spoken with somebody with more experience in individual pelts, and I tried cutting one up the spine. Once I piece them all together, it *should* be largely irrelevant (gosh, I hope so), but I’ll write about that when I get to that.

For now, here are some more pics of squirrels and what I’ve done so far.

This is not for the squeamish. The furs still have legs and head fur and whiskers:



A few cut pelts laid out next to each other. In reality, big rectangular plates would be made, and then cut. The trapezoidal nature of the pelts will work well with the skirt of the hood, so I might just cheat.

20150228_083643 (1)


I cut one up the spine, and I like how that worked. I’ll try a few more of those. As long as each tier, or row of horizontal furs on the plate, is the same, I’ll be ok.



A dry interior. I’m going to get some neatsfoot oil or leather conditioner and see if it helps.

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Even beyond the pelts being dry and scaly, some of them have these dry red globs on them. Fat? Incomplete removal of the flesh? Not sure. Glad this will all be backed with heavy hemp.



More later, I’m sure! As an aside, if you have opinions on fur, and whether or not I should be using it, save yourself the time and keep them to yourself. I won’t approve them, and will summarily delete any comments of the sort. Fur was a fact of life in the middle ages.


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Breastbags and Kerchiefs

Back when we all first heard word about the Lengberg finds, I was crazy excited to test some of the patterns. Then, I heard a few other people express interest, life happened, we moved, and I was happy to let others experiment. I’ve seen a few reconstructions of the “longline bra” in the linked article, with the two piece breast cups. They look pretty good. On well-endowed women, they look… impressive… to say the least. The brashirt example, by Deventer Burgerscap, is also a beautiful piece of work, and I encourage people to look at her images of sleeveless shifts, and review her blog.

I’ve also really been hoping for more detail. MUCH more detail. There’s a lot of data on each of those finds, weave direction, stitch holes on the edge, etc., and I just don’t feel like I know enough to move forward. However, I went to a couple of events this summer that made me want to just dive in. First, Lilies War, in Missouri, in June. Hot. Sticky. Humid. I just couldn’t stand lacing myself into a fitted dress. I lounged around in my bathhouse babes shift as much as I could (photo credit: Kate Newton)


Next event, 10,000 ft up in the mountains, northwest of Boulder, CO. Now, I can draw a full breath in my fitted dresses. But when you’re climbing around at 10,000 ft, you need *more* than a full breath. It’s absolutely the altitude, not the fact that I’m out of shape. Trust me.

The “longline bra” version seemed like it would end up fairly like my bathhouse babes dress. It would work, but still be tight around my chest. I’d probably want to make it into a full shift. A lazy part of me wants as little bra as possible, and a single layer linen dress over that. Humidity will do crazy things to a person.

Bring on the breast bags.


This image drives me crazy. There’s so much there, but so much that we can’t see.



Even this one just doesn’t tell me enough.

I’m still messing with a version of the pattern for this. It’s kind of a hot mess right now, so that’s not why I’m posting. Suffice it to say, I want it a little like a halter top – gathered at the bottom of the bust into a tight band around the chest, necessary for good support. I’m at the 90% point. My version, intentionally, doesn’t have the needle-lace or sprang insert in the center.

I’ve stared at this image for quite some time, I guess for a couple of years now. It’s always bothered me that the straps are so wide. I thought that maybe it would be worn under a fuller gown, something with a higher neck. Then I was looking back through all of the images on the various Lengberg websites.

"The world turned upside down" (gender-role reversal)

“The world turned upside down” (gender-role reversal)
Alois Niederstätter: 1400 – 1522:das Jahrhundert der Mitte: an der Wende vom Mittelalter zur Neuzeit, aus der Reihe Österreichische Geschichte, Wien 1996



Look at that.

For years, now, while I’ve been doing 15th century, I’ve pinned a scarf in under my kirtle, kind of like an early partlet. Maybe it’s not a scarf, after all.

So, I took my 90% “breastbag” bra, and put it on under a dress. This is a late 14th c. gown, not supportive, but the neckline isn’t all that off from the 15th century one.

Here’s the result:



Damned blurry image. You still can tell what’s going on, though. And by the time I got it off, I wasn’t putting it back on.


Never mind that I can’t button my dress properly!

Looks an awful lot like the scarf that I’ve been pinning in for years, with one advantage – it stays held in place. And it’s useful.

Is this a be-all, end-all answer? Probably not. There are certainly enough images of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding, where that white linen layer is pulled out loose around her bust. It looks to me like a shift in those images, but it also could be a “bra” untied or loosened.

Is there one solution? I doubt it. There were four of these “bras” found, and each one looks quite different. Undergarments were probably wares made at home, in a way that worked for an individual. What works for a smaller woman might not work well for a larger busted women. We have a textual reference that different people did different things, as I already wrote about in this post.

Some women, unable or unwilling to resort to a surgeon, or not wanting to reveal their indecency, make in their chemises two sacks proportioned to their breasts, but shallow, and they put them on every morning, and compress them as much as they can with a suitable bandage. Others, like the women of Montpellier, compress them with tight tunics and laces…

Translation and original found at Will’s Commonplace Book.

Even if what we’re seeing in these images is not the “bra” layer, the straps would be covered by the pinned in scarf or shift. In any case, between the archaeological record, that is, the “breastsacks” themselves, and the images showing that look from the same time period, I think we have a good argument for wearing this style in this way.

I have a pinterest board where I’ve gathered some of these scarf-partlet-breastbag possibilities. Check it out!

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Mid-15th Century Butterfly Hennin

This past Saturday at Twelfth Night, I wore some fun new headwear. Enough people asked me about the construction, that I put together a page detailing out every step. Please let me know if there is something I don’t cover, or something that’s confusing! I’ll try to cover it all, but I’d prefer to not take it apart for pictures. :D

Have fun hat engineering!


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On Cleavage and Breast Mounds

Got your attention, didn’t I?

One of these days I’m going to learn to write a whole article when I start it. I had a fantastic article all started, I just hadn’t put together the images, all about breast support. It had literary quotes, analysis, disapproving monks, the works! Then the Lengberg Bra news broke, and more organized people got those quotes together, including much more than I’d ever dug up. So far, the most comprehensive piece I’ve seen on the subject was at the Medieval Silkwork blog, Supportive Underwear in Written Sources. Good stuff. Go read it.

In recreating the clothing of the 14th and 15th centuries, I’ve always stuck with the idea that there was more than one way to go about doing things. I doubt that all women always used a bust support method. I doubt that the only bust support method was similar to the Lengberg bras, with separated “breast sacks.” I doubt that the only way to create a integrally-fitted dress or chemise was with a straight front seam or a curved front seam. Many people like absolutes. Not me.

Personally, my favorite of all of the quotes that support, well, support, is this:

Some women, unable or unwilling to resort to a surgeon, or not wanting to reveal their indecency, make in their chemises two sacks proportioned to their breasts, but shallow, and they put them on every morning, and compress them as much as they can with a suitable bandage. Others, like the women of Montpellier, compress them with tight tunics and laces…

Translation and original found at Will’s Commonplace Book.

It seems to me that this quote, even without the others at the Silkwork link, does a good job of explaining that different women had different methods.

Not to mention that the idea of breast sacks just tickles me to pieces.

When Jeff and I were in Belgium a few years ago, I took photos of an elaborately-carved retable (altarpiece) in the Musees Royaux d’art et d’Histoire which had some very interesting costume details. One was this woman:

Retable - Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire in Brussels, Belgium

Retable – Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire in Brussels, Belgium

She’s not pushed up too far, but she looks gently supported. Looks like breast sack-type support to me. What do you think?

There are many arguments against breast support. The most common that I’ve seen is that the extant garments we have don’t appear to be supportive. A second is that many illustrations, especially mid-century and earlier, don’t feature the breasts. The third is a suggestion that breast support is a medieval-ish solution to a modern problem.

With respect to extant garments, we have so few. And even though there are many different cuts from the Herjolfsnes garments, they are from the same culture and location. Even taken all together, we don’t have necessarily a good representative sample covering time, location, and class.

Illustrations are easy. We can also find illustrations which do feature the breasts, cleavage, and lower necklines. I’ve found them from the 1370s – 80s on, but keep your eye out and you might see them earlier. (Be careful on dates of brasses and monuments – some are dated from the death date, not the carving date.)

More on the illustrations in a bit.

As for it being a modern problem, well, I doubt it. But don’t take my word for it, read the text at the Silkwork link above. There are multiple references throughout the middle ages, even before the fitted dress era, describing women who attempted to somehow support their breasts. Boobs aren’t new.

Back to the point about the illustrations.

And on to Cleavage and Breast Mounds.

Over the years since I’ve been looking at this, and since I first read some of the arguments saying that supportive garments are a reenactor-ism, I’ve noticed plenty of representations of the lifted and compressed breast in artwork. Even that, though, critics will point out might be idealization of the female form. This isn’t a bad argument. For example, I’m not sure that Jean Fouquet ever saw a nude female who wasn’t lying down.

But breasts don’t creep up into cleavage on their own. Even the most blessed and perky of us don’t have that little dip or breast mounds without help. Even when we’re lying down, they creep off to the side leaving a more generous space between. Sure, artists will make up a lot of stuff. But what’s more likely, that they just invented the concept of cleavage and breast mounds, or saw them in life?

Wait. They were mostly guys. Don’t answer that.

Moving on. Here is a sample of these representations.

(Note: I’m a bad blogger, and I don’t have great citations for everything. I have them somewhere, and I think that the raw photos where I took pictures of the citation are on a hard drive on the other side of the country. I’ll do my best. My apologies.)

Effigies and brasses are where I first started noticing cleavage. They’re simply rendered, without much extraneous information.

St Andrews Esmoun and Isabel de Malyns, 1385

St Andrews Esmoun and Isabel de Malyns, 1385

Ms. Isabel de Malyns does seem to be showing us her cleavage. Well, many brasses were made from an artist’s template, but I’m sure you get what I mean. There’s potentially the explanation that the cleavage-like lines are just other artifacts on the brass. Perhaps? But the brasses don’t exist in a vacuum. We do have other examples.

Margaret de Cobham, 1375, Cobham Church

Margaret de Cobham, 1375, Cobham Church

You’ll probably have to click through to the full size to see it, but there it is, on another roughly contemporary brass.


Another one you can click through to see.

Maud de Grey, 1394, Stanton Harcourt

Maud de Grey, 1394, Stanton Harcourt

Here’s one on a stone effigy.

She’s lying down, so perhaps her breast mounds are a little more enhanced than they otherwise would be. However, considering that the veil and cloak are not rendered as if she were lying on her back, we might not be able to make the assumption that the artist was attempting that level of perspective.

St. Mary the Virgin, 1390, Swine in Holderness

St. Mary the Virgin, 1390, Swine in Holderness

This one is my very favorite. She’s got breast mounds. And she has a stunningly low neckline. The bodice of the gown is flat, so how lifelike was it meant to be? That’s unclear. But what’s clear (to me) is that the artist has seen breasts pushed up like that.

small2009 12 13_1052


Here’s a woman with some definite cleavage, drawn in. She’s upright. She’s rendered in detail. Her dress shows curves. My citation for this is not with me, but it looks to me like the early 15th century illustrations of Boccaccio’s Decameron.

St Ursula and her Virgin Companions. Medieval miniature by Giovanni di benedetto, 1385-1390. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France.

St Ursula and her Virgin Companions. Medieval miniature by Giovanni di benedetto, 1385-1390. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France.

This was the one that really threw me for a loop. I’ve looked at this image SO many times. And yet, until recently, I never noticed the breast mounds on the companion on the far left. How many other examples of cleavage or mounds have I been missing?

Keep your eye out, and I’m sure you’ll start seeing them too.

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Research and Thoughts about Frilled Veils

I put together this research several years ago to justify the shape and construction of a frilled veil for use in my 14th century reenacting group. The topic has come up elseweb, so instead of sitting on it forever, and never getting around to the long tutorial and webpage I meant to write, I’ll post my initial research findings. I hope the long tutorial and webpage I meant to write will be forthcoming soon. Or eventually. Or something.

August 1, 2010:

I’ve been poking about at the frilled veil problem, reading what’s out
there, sorting through pictures, and I’ve found a few interesting
tidbits. I’m planning on starting a first version of this soon – if
all goes spectacularly well with other packing, I may make it a sit in
camp and stitch project at Pennsic. We’ll see. :-D In any case, I
wanted to get some ideas out there so I could get started when I was

The first problem is whether or not the frills were woven as part of
the fabric or attached. I found some interesting archeological
information in this article:

on page 13:
“The pieces may overall be grouped as four different
types according to shape and style of the frilled
Type 1: [woven pleats on the edge]…
Type 2: [pleated the entire width]…
Type 3: Sharp pleats on additional bands
This type has additional pleated bands sewn to the
edge of the fabric. These bands are thicker and
more coarse than the fabrics they aresewn to. The
aditional bands are c. 2 cm in width.
The bands are folded in sharp, crisp pleats forming
a zigzag-shaped appearance.”

They’re Spanish (of course!) and 13th century, but are at least real
examples of what might have been going on. There were examples of both
the sewn on pleats and of woven in pleats, which looks like what we
might be seeing in imagery.

The second problem is bulk at the frill attachment point. These seem
to have one ribbon attached to the edge, which is folded and wrapped
in many layers. I’ll look for some sort of ribbon or tape like that at
Pennsic, but barring that, I thought I’d make a narrow
double-thickness strip of my linen to act as the thicker tape. I’d do
the attachment like in the article, at each pleat. The veil itself
would have many layers, three or four or more, folded over and over.

The third problem is shape. I think this could go a couple of ways. We
usually see an arch over the face, with the frills going from jaw to
jaw (or longer) or as short as temple to temple. There’s a second set
of frills usually draped across the shoulder.

Solution 1 is to have a semicircle, with frills along the center part
of the straight edge, the rest of the straight edge plain, and then
frills all along the round edge. That would allow it to easily rest on
the shoulder. This German one seems to look like this:

Solution 2 is a very long and narrowish band, maybe about 16″ deep,
and 13″ long times as many folds as you need. It would be frilled on
both long sides. I think that would work well for an example like

Also, there’s an image on page 20 of this pdf that
shows some of this. It looks like an integrally woven one (Type 1),
but you see the long veil folded over and over again.

I think since solution 2 looks more English to me (or at least the
examples are English), I’d start with that. The downside is that it
might need pinning to have the bottom edge of frills sit on the
shoulders right.

The fourth problem, or element, is the shape of the frills once
they’re layered. Some of the effigies have a very honeycombed look,
like this:
You could get this with four or more layers, all pleated with creases,
and the layers stitched together to keep the honeycomb exactly even.
It wouldn’t be difficult, but it could also just be a stylized image.

The other option is to gather each ruffle in tighter, so that you
would get a series of loops, like these:

And a reconstruction here:

With this possibility, the layers would not need to be sewn together.

To sum up, I think I’m going to go for this look:
I will use a sewn on frill, with a sewn linen tape as the frill
(unless I find something good at P to use). The frill will be pleated
on closely, to form a loop. I’ll start the experiment with a long
band, layered three times. I want to make the folded version work, but
it might need pinning. If nothing else, her frills are shorter, it’s
less work, and if it’s wrong, it’s not as much time wasted.

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Jeff is selling some maille

Jeff is selling some maille! I don’t know anything about this. But comment if you have questions. Better yet, contact him on the Armour Archive or on FB if you know his contact info.









Beverly Shear, $75, plus shipping:

Beverly Shear

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Machine Sewing an Inset Gore

I promised more on hose, but I’m feeling a bit under the weather and I’ve lost my voice, so I’ve been kicking around on the computer all day and not sewing. I did run into a set of pictures I took some time back (let’s just say the garment I made here is already handed down to a friend’s kid) for a tutorial on setting in gores with a sewing machine, so a blog post it will be!

There’s not much that’s more intimidating than having a flat piece of fabric, and having to set a gore into it. But it’s also an annoyingly common technique in medieval clothing, from hoods to tunics to baby clothes. The Norse at Herjolfsnes may have been starving, but by God, they could set a gore.

Of course, they didn’t have sewing machines, but as you know, if they’d ‘a had it, they’d ‘a used it. Hand sewing is great and all, but with four of us to clothe to museum-quality standards, I prefer to spend my hand sewing time on the visible stitches. I’m not proud.

For people who prefer hand sewing, or want another look at this, I’d like to give a quick shout-out to my friend Tasha, who did a tutorial on hand setting a triangular gore into a slit. Go check that out, too!

Setting a triangular gore into a flat piece of fabric is pretty easy to do on the machine once you’ve practiced it a bit. After the first few tries, you’ll get it to lie flat with no puckers. Some fabric is more or less forgiving, but I’m at the point where I can do it with linen, wool, or silk.

Once again, I’m going to give the wordy version at the start. It’s not as bad as those cooking blogs that have a picture of every. single. egg. being cracked lovingly and then more pictures of how beautiful each egg looks in their bowl, each more perfect than the first, with a little egg goo dripping artfully off the side of the bowl. But still. The summary version is at the end.

The Long Version

Mark where the opening will be on the flat piece of fabric.



Don’t cut it! Not yet! I know you really really want to cut it now, but hold off. Ok, maybe you’re more patient than I am. Good for you.

Pin the gore to one side of the opening, starting at the top. Right sides together!

Can you see what I did at the top? I centered the gore at the top, but then put the edge right at the edge of the future opening. Here’s another picture of that. The line that I drew on the gore is exactly the same line as is underneath on the base fabric. This is because the seam allowance is going to shrink significantly at the top, on the base fabric side, but stay the same all the way up the gore. If you don’t move the top of the gore over a little, you’ll get a somewhat crooked inset. Which isn’t the end of the world. Not like a pucker. That IS the end of the world.

Yes, I’m going to overkill you with pictures. This can be WEIRD for some people, so I’d rather you have too many pictures than not enough.

Here I’ve drawn a dotted line where you’re going to sew.

Now sew it! Start sewing at the tip. When you start, stitch back and forth a few times for extra security. There’s not going to be much fabric here – it will be a weak point and you need all the help you can get.

Cutting time! Finally! Cut the opening as close to the top stitches as possible. Don’t cut it further up than the stitches, or you’ll get a hole. Don’t cut it lower than the stitches, or you’ll get a pucker. This is the stage that will take practice.

See how the seam allowance on the base fabric follows the edge of the gore until the last couple of inches?


Now flip the gore so you can pin it to the second side, right sides together again.

Here are a couple of strange flipping pictures for your viewing enjoyment. Your goal is to get the tip of the gore over to the wrong side of the base fabric.

Now pin it. Remember, there’s not much of a seam allowance on the base fabric here. There should be a consistent seam allowance all the way down on the gore side.

Sew the second side, right sides together, again reinforcing at the tip. *Start sewing at the tip* Here’s what the wrong side will look like when you’re done. There’s a bit of a gap between the two sides, but not much. It could be more perfect, but this will do.

Here’s what it looks like from the right side. If there is a small pucker, don’t panic!

Now press it to within an inch of its life. Small puckers will go away, if you just apply enough steam.



1. Mark your opening

2. Do not cut!

3. Pin and sew the gore to the first side, right sides together.

4. Cut

5. Flip, pin, and sew the gore to the second side, right sides together.

6. Press


All done!



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Split and Joined Hose in the Late 14th Century

(If this post is tl;dr, skip to the end where I eventually get to my point and sum it all up.)

Hi! Long time no post! We’ve just moved to Colorado, so life is a little crazy right now. I’m hoping once we’re settled to get a bunch of stuff written that’s been kicking around in my head for a while.

In the meantime, I needed a project. I have to have something for my hands to do. I decided to make my husband a pair of joined hose.

To tell you the honest truth, I hate making hose. They always look droopy off the butt. It doesn’t matter if they’re the one pair I have made, or the ones that he’s bought off the rack, they droop when he’s standing and pull too much on the back points when he’s trying to bend over. If we buy them, then it’s not my fault. Right? (Otherwise I’m very happy with all of the hose we’ve bought over the counter, and I do suggest it to others.)

But enough is enough! There must be a way. I used to hate making sleeves, too, so I decided to get really good at it and now I can do it in my sleep. Remember Laura Ingalls Wilder and her buttonholes?

I digress.

I have ideas about hose, and how to make them work better. But I’m not very far along in my project yet, so I’ll save them for a future post. In the meantime, it seems as if I’ve been involved in many discussions as of late regarding dating on different hose styles.

The best answer? It’s hard to tell. But I’ve been finding more clues lately.

First, some definitions.

1. Chausses: Chausses are earlier incarnations of hose, worn throughout the 14th century, and into the 15th, especially by lower classes and laborers. If you know French, you know that chaussettes means socks. They’re long socks, cut out of woven fabric on the bias, coming to a point at the hip, where they’re tied to braies (undies) or a braie-girdle (belt). Other arrangements are possible, too. Essentially, they’re wool thigh highs for your man. Oh, yeah.

Chausses look like this:

2. Split hose: A lot of people confuse split hose with chausses (which people often just call hose, just to make things so much more confusing), so reenactors have developed other terms to refer to them. I’ve been taught the term “tailed hosen”. I’ve also referred to them as “butt-covering split hosen,” or BCSH. I happen to love this term. Anyway, split hose do just that, they cover the butt. They come up to a low waist (like where a teenage girl wears her jeans) covering all around, except for the *ahem* center front, and they’re not connected to each other. The two legs are still separated, hence the name. If a man weren’t wearing braies with these, he’d be swingin’ in the breeze. They’re held up to a torso garment with points, or laces, at the front hips, side, back, and center back.

Split hose look like this (later than 14th c., but gives you the idea):

3. Joined hose: These take the split hose one step further. They’re joined from the waist in the back until somewhere under the body. At this point, a codpiece, or flap of fabric, is sewn in, which when pointed (laced) into place, covers everything personal. A man could get away with wearing joined hose without braies, and you wouldn’t have to call the police.

Joined hose look like this:

And from the back, you can see that they were even a little droopy back then. In other words, they don’t have to perform like Levis.

That all out of the way, when did people start wearing split and joined hose?


Chausses are very common in reenactment and recreation circles, because they’re fairly easy to make, cheap to buy, and easy to wear. There are no problems bending down. However, unless they’re very well tailored, under a short doublet your braies are going to show, resulting in the dreaded “diaper look.” Nobody wants this. If you’re wearing chausses, keep your doublet or gown long. Please.

Split Hose

Split hose seem to be safe to wear by about the last two decades of the 14th century, but based on what? There are images of men with short doublets, and they’re certainly not sporting the diaper look. This seems like good justification. But how early?

I just received my copy of the excellent book the Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles c. 450 – 1450. In the hose entry, there’s a description of the butt-covering split hose:

“As the 14th century progressed men’s hose were often tied to their gipon (jupon). This is confirmed by comments made by John of Reading in his Chronica which he was writing at some point between 1366 and 1369. Here he describes the hose as being very long and tied very tightly to the doublet so making it very difficult for the wearer to kneel down.”

Additionally, we have the Charles de Blois pourpoint, which is dated to pre-1364 if it did actually belong to the Duke. The pourpoint has laces sewn in around the circumference of the garment. That is, these laces are almost certainly intended to support a pair of split hose, or even joined hose. We don’t have additional evidence for joined hose at this time, so it’s safe to assume that they’re at least split hose.

Between the visual evidence of short doublets with no diaper look (all cultures), the textual evidence (English), and the likely archaeological evidence (French), it seems safe to assume that if you’re aiming at post-1360s and wearing a short doublet, you can probably be wearing butt covering split hose.

Joined Hose

But what about joined hose? This is a little trickier. When looking at some images, if the man is facing away, it’s virtually impossible to tell whether they’re a pair of split hose that are close together, or a pair of joined hose.

Another consideration is the textual description in the Parson’s Tale, in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, describing how men wearing their short doublets show off their genitalia and buttocks in a lewd manner. This is often read as evidence that the short doublets are showing off uncovered, or little covered, parts of the male anatomy. It is supposed that the hose don’t cover what needs to be covered, but only the braies do. Read it for yourself.

Middle English version:

The Parson’s Tale, Lines 422 – 430.
Upon That oother side, to speken of the horrible disordiant scantnesse of
clothyng, as been thise Kutted sloppes, or haynselyns, that thurgh hire
Shortnesse ne covere nat the shameful membres of man, to wikked entente. Allas!
somme Of hem shewen the boce or hir shap, and the Horrible swollen membres, that
semeth lik the Maladie of hirnia, in the wrappynge of hir Hoses; and eek the
buttokes of hem faren as It were the hyndre part of a she-ape in the fulle Of
the moone. And mooreover, the wrecched Swollen membres that they shewe thurgh
disgisynge, in departynge of hire hoses in whit and Reed, semeth that half hir
shameful privee Membres weren flayne. And if so be that They departen hire hoses
in othere colours, As is whit and blak, or whit and blew, or blak And reed, and
so forth, thanne semeth it, as By variaunce of colour, that half the partie of
Hire privee membres were corrupt by the fir Of seint antony, or by cancre, or by
oother Swich meschaunce. Of the hyndre part of hir Buttokes, it is ful horrible
for to see. For certes, In that partie of hir body ther as they purgen Hir
stynkynge ordure, that foule partie shewe They to the peple prowdly in despit of
honestitee, which honestitee that jhesu crist and His freendes observede to
shewen in hir lyve.

Modern English version:

And on the other hand, one may speak of the horrible, inordinate scantiness of some clothes, like the short jackets that are so short that they leave a man’s cock exposed to view beneath his hose, with wicked intention. Alas! Some of them clearly reveal a man’s horrible swollen balls and his cock like some malignant hernia visible through his hose! His buttocks are displayed like those of a she-ape at the time of the full moon! Even worse, these wretched swollen members can look, if the hose is divided into red and white, as though half the sexual organs have been flayed! If it happens that the hose is patterned in other colours, like white and black or white and blue, or black and red and so forth, then it seems, through this variation in colour, that half of the privy members are engulfed in Saint Antony’s fire, or racked with cancer or some other such misfortune. By exposing their horrible buttocks they proudly display, to all who care to look, that part of their body from which they expel their stinking shit, in defiance of all modesty – the kind of modesty that Jesus Christ and his friends were careful to preserve all their lives.

Translation from

To be honest, I don’t read this as chausses, or even split hose. Take this part, something is covering (I’ll use the translator’s word) the cock:

the Horrible swollen membres, that semeth lik the Maladie of hirnia, in the wrappynge of hir Hoses.

Or as the modern English describes, you can see his balls and cock through the “wrappings of his hose.” Through the hose fabric. The hose fabric is covering the cock and balls!


Reading further, if the hose is parti-colored, that is a different color on each side, it makes a man’s manly parts look like *they* have a different color on each side.

This is all written pre-1400, and English.

Visual evidence of joined hose is what prompted me to write this right now. I wanted to SHARE WITH THE WORLD!

Look at that! (Yes, I’m asking you to look at the man’s crotch.)

Information on this image:

Artwork: Illumination, Illustration Cycle Seal V 7150ff; miniature; Wenzel Workshop, Prague
Documentation: 1387, 1387, Vienna, Austria, Vienna, Austrian National Library, cod. s n 2643, fol. 204r
Notes: Wolfram von Eschenbach. Willehalm actually Ulrich door of home.

More information on the manuscript at

There’s always a chance the date is wrong, of course, but a quick perusal of the manuscript leads me to believe that it’s close, at least.

This is the part where I get to my point and sum up

Wear chausses for early 14th century, or later, if your gown, tunic, or doublet are long.

Wear butt-covering split hose for 1360s and beyond, if your doublet is higher than about mid-thigh. Avoid the diaper look!

Wear joined hose from the late 14th century and beyond, especially if your doublet is short. If Chaucer was offended by seeing the shape of your manly bits below your hose, imagine if there was only a thin layer of linen! Save our eyes!

These are, of course, gross generalizations that are my opinion only, and there’s much more research to be done.



I wish to thank Sherrie Andra Keller for posting the Bohemian image on the Facebook Age of the Cotehardie page today, asking about something completely different in the image. I also thank the other fine folks on that group who discovered the provenance of the manuscript. I’d like to give mad props to the guys at the Armour Archive for asking about joined and split hose vs. chausses just as I happened to embark upon Jeff’s hose project, which spurred me into putting together more of what I’ve gathered on the topic over the years.

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