In early March a good friend and household brother was placed on vigil for the Order of Chivalry and I was asked to help with the clothing for him and his wife. Slight problem, I had never done Roman clothing. So after some mad dash research and assembling of images we sat down and decided on clothing appropriate for a Roman Legionary living in Britain and married to a woman from the Silurian tribe.
I have been making padded aventails for a few years for my husband to wear when fighting heavy combat. This is some of what I have learned in further researching them and experimenting with the design.
There are not a lot of images of padded aventails, but there are a couple of very detailed effigy sculptures. The effigy of Philip the Bold shows the joining between the aventail and the helmet liner and the shape of the channels on each and on the effigy of Sir Walter Von Hoenklingen the aventail looks like it might be attached to the outside of the helmet rather than the inside. The aventails in the fresco from St. Stephen’s Church, Milan, Italy do not give any indication as to whether they are padded or mail, but drape with a similar stiffness as the other images and personal experience. Additionally, as on the effigy of Philip the Bold many of the mail aventails could have also had a padded aventail under them. This would provide different types of protection, with the mail protecting against cuts and the padded aventail protecting against concussive hits and also protect the wearer from the mail.
I’ve made a lot of basic St. Birgitta style caps without the embroidered band on the center seam of the cap, but finally decided to sit down and figure out the embroidered band recently. I have not been able to find a good image of the embroidery on the original cap and I’ve seen a few different interpretations so I selected one to try. The original linen cap is two halves joined with an interlaced double herringbone stitch similar to a modern faggoted seam, from the front edge to about 2 inches above the bottom edge.
A couple of few weeks ago I taught a class on how to do the stitch at a local event and I would add that if you want to do a trial run of the stitch on a short piece of fabric using multiple colored threads definitely helps the stitches to be more visible.
The Pourpoint is a quilted and padded garment adapted from the military silhouette of the mid-14th-century into a civilian garment and can be found in imagery and extant garments in the later 14th-century throughout much of Western Europe. The silhouette is very common on effigies of English and French knights from the 1340’s-1370’s identified by a rounded chest and narrow waist, such as in this effigy of Thomas Beauchamp.
This silhouette can also be seen in the Pourpoint of Charles de Blois (pictured below) and the Pourpoint of Charles VI (not pictured) as well as many manuscript images. The first set of images below from the Wailsche Gast manuscript show the rounded chest, but not the deep-set armscye, also known as the Grande Assiette Sleeve, of the Charles de Blois Pourpoint.
Looking back at 2015
Last year one of my favorite historical clothing bloggers posted her clothing goals for the new year which got me started on goals for myself. A common phrase is to try to improve ten percent every year, but how do you quantify ten percent when you are talking about aesthetics or appearance? An easier goal for me to quantify is to select an area or topic I want to improve and then identify specific goals to achieve.
The St. Birgitta’s coif/cap (also, Bridget, Birgitte, Brigid), currently owned by the conservation department of Sweden’s Riksantikbarieambete (National Heritage Board) is attributed to the fourteenth-century century Swedish saint of that name. The original linen cap was at some point, most likely in the sixteenth-century, covered with silk taffeta which has since been removed by the conservation department. According to the article in Clothing and Textiles the linen has not been carbon dated, so while it most likely dates to the 14th century, the exact age is unknown.
The original linen cap is two halves joined with a complex herringbone stitch similar to a modern faggoted seam, from the front edge to about 2 inches above the bottom edge. The bottom edge is then gathered into the binding strip that runs across the front edge and then continues on as the ties that help to secure the cap on your head.
Images of similar looking caps can be found in many 13th and 14th century manuscripts. While most images of women wearing only a cap during the day appear to be servants, it is not inconceivable for many of the upper class women to be wearing one under their wimple and veil as there are also images of women sleeping in what appears to be a similarly shaped cap.
Through experimentation I, and many women that I have talked to, have discovered that fastening the wimple and veil to the St. Birgitta’s cap does help everything to stay in place far more easily and comfortably, for hours at a time.
Frequently when I tell someone that I make pourpoints I receive a response along the lines of “Wow, aren’t those sleeves really hard to figure out?”, so after considering this response I tried to figure out what part of making a pourpoint was stumping so many people who are otherwise strong sewers. The body of the garment is either three or four pieces, two front pieces and one or two back pieces depending on whether it is cut on the fold, there is an upper sleeve with added gussets and a lower sleeve, in all seven separate pattern pieces.
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.