Creating and Patterning a late 14th century Pourpoint Part 1: What is that garment?

            The pourpoint is a padded garment, that by most accounts began life as a fitted garment to be worn under armour and assist with fastening armour to the body. Many reenactors wear padded and unpadded pourpoints as an arming cote and fasten their leg and/or arm armour directly to the garment via points either sewn directly to the garment or threaded through leather that has been sewn to the garment. Having made a number of these garments I can attest, though others, to their general comfort while also reducing the encumbrance of the armour. An alternative to the arming cote, and a common method of fastening leg armour to the body amongst people just getting into western martial arts is through the use of a C-belt or weightlifting belt from which the leg armour is hung, this solution has the unfortunate problem of pressing on the sciatic nerve, not very comfortable. While some wear a sleeveless version of the arming cote full mobility of the shoulders and arms can be obtained in a long sleeve version as well, provided the patterning of the sleeve is done correctly.

The initial image that comes to most people’s minds when either pourpoint or the grande assiette sleeve is mentioned is the Charles de Blois pourpoint, a much admired extant garment of the 1360’s (image 1). It is also one of the few extant garments from that century, others include the Charles VI poupoint (image 2), commonly referred to as a jupon[i], and the Queen Margaret of Denmark’s gold gown. The Charles de Blois garment is made of sumptuous silk damask and is quilted and padded to obtain the rounded chest shape. While none of the garments I have made up until now have been quilted or padded the goal of this garment recreation is make a civilian version of the military garments I have been making.

Additionally, the garment in question is French, and I would like to make something that more closely matches the 1410 Venetian personas that my husband and I both portray. Looking at images and effigies from England and Germany we can see that the same silhouette is used in those countries as well (images 3-7). What about the Italian states? After some digging I was able to find a few images from the northern Italian states, images from the southern states are a bit more common, also images from the second half of the 15th-century, a good 50 years later than what I was looking for. The images from northern Italy show much the same rounded body shape as well as showing what could be a deep set armscye (image 8), i.e. the grande assiette sleeve, as well as the more standard shaped armscye as seen on the Charles VI pourpoint. Some of the best images showing the pourpoint being used as a military garment from late 14th-century and early 15th-century Northern Italy is in some of the martial manuscripts by Fiore De’ Libri titled Fior de Battaglia (The Flower of Battle), but I do not have access to any scanned images from the manuscripts at this time.

While it is a little more difficult to fully document the pourpoint in the style of the Charles de Bois pourpoint to early 15th-century Italy, it is still possible to say that it is a reasonable extrapolation to say that a garment in that style or a very similar style would be worn in Northern Italy. Additionally, my husband loves wearing pourpoints because they give him full range of motion in his shoulders, while holding up his hosen or leg armour, something that he does not get from any other garment.

Next time, How to make the armscye of the sleeve.

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(Image 1) Charles de Blois Pourpoint, inv. no 30307, c. 1360, Musee des Tissus et des Arts decoratifs de Lyon.

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(Image 2) Charles VI of France Pourpoint, c. 1378-9, Musee de Beaux-Arts de Chartres.

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(Image 3) Wailsche Gast, Morgan Library, MS G.54, Trier, Germany, c. 1380. folios 1v, 6r, and 22v

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(Image 4) Thomas Beauchamp, 1369, St. Mary, Warwick, England. Retrieved from the Medieval Combat Society website, http://www.themcs.org/armour/14th%20century%20armour.htm, hereafter abbreviated as MCS.

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(Image 5) Hugh Segrave, 1387, St. Peter and St. Paul Abbey, Dorchester, England. Retrieved from the MCS website.

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(Image 6) William de Gorges, 1346, St. Mary, Tamerton-Foliot, England. Retrieved from the MCS website.

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(Image 7) Thomas Markenfield, 1398, Ripon Cathedral, England. Retrieved from the MCS website.

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(Image 8) Crucifixion, Oratorio de Santo Stefano, Lombardy, Italy, c. late 14th-century fresco.


[i] Tasha D. Kelly, “The Tailoring of the Pourpoint of King Charles VI of France Revealed.” Waffen- und Kostümkunde 55, no. 2 (2013): 153–180. For more information as to why this garment should be reclassified as a pourpoint instead of a jupon please refer to Ms. Kelly’s article.

Additional References:

Malipiero, Massimo. Il Fior di battaglia di Fiore dei Liberi da Cividale. Il Codice Ludwig XV 13 del J. Paul Getty Museum.  Ribis (LA, USA). Italian edition.

Manchester University’s Lexis of Cloth and Clothing Projecthttp://lexissearch.arts.manchester.ac.uk/entry.aspx?id=3861.

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