A while back I was asked to make a padded pourpoint for SCA combat.
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.
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.
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.