Late 14th/Early 15th Century Costuming

Yesterday, I snarked on the costumes on romance covers. I have no idea if the clothing described in those books is accurate (it’s quite possible that it is; its my understanding that authors have limited say when it comes to their covers), but you can be sure that it’s correct in my book. I sat with a book of Bohemian costume on my lap while I wrote. I only switched it up for a book on 14th-15th century armor.

This image is from Medieval Costume, Armour, and Weapons and is the book I used as my primary reference because all of the figures are from Bohemian art.

This is close to the style of Jakub’s cotehardie (described below). Jakub’s hood is not dagged–just embroidered–and the fabric is not brocade, but embroidered around the hem. (The descriptions of the embroidery are based on descriptions in “Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince.”)

Description of Jakub’s best outfit in 1388:

Jakub held up the rich-blue cotehardie, admiring it in the light of the fire. It had been one he had looted—he seemed to remember that it had come from France, where he had been working as a hired knight for the King of England years before. It was an older style and not as short as was currently popular, but he didn’t care; he thought young men were wearing their cotes entirely too short anyways.

Besides, who would want to trim away the very best part of the garment? Along its bottom edge were scenes embroidered in silver thread of a party hunting a doe through a forest. And in the trees hung silver-gilt charms shaped like acorns which dangled and shimmered in the light. Even the buttons up the front—and it had more than twenty—were silver-gilt and shaped like acorns. It had a matching hood in a bright red wool, and around its cape were, appropriately, two boars feasting on the acorns from a single tree.

Jakub quickly dressed in a clean linen undershirt, braies, and linen doublet. Then he pulled on red wool stockings—new, but dyed to closely match the red of the hood—and tied them to his braies. Then he put on his blue cotehardie, hood, and a narrow black belt studded with pewter oak leaves.

This resembles Samuel’s houpplande, with the exception that Samuel’s sleeves are scalloped.

Samuel’s wedding outfit in 1408:

Over a clean linen shirt and braies, he put on a black linen doublet. His gold linen hosen were the new style—joined—and they tied to the bottom of his doublet, not to his braies, the way the old, separate hosen did. Over everything he wore his best summer gown—one that he had made at court in the latest fashion.

It was a vibrant green silk brocade with a pattern of gold vines and leaves. It fastened with hooks and eyes all the way up to his neck. Its high collar flared around his neck, but the front folded down, just revealing his doublet’s black collar underneath.

The gown was pleated at the waist and flared into a short skirt which barely covered his crotch. When he held his arms out, the bell-shaped sleeves were actually longer than the skirt, with their tips coming down to mid-thigh. Their edges were dagged in deep scallops and they were lined in gold silk which matched the leaves in the brocade.

Samuel’s hat looks like this. And this longer-style houpplande resembles what Jakub is wearing in 1408.

Samuel put on his hat—a stuffed roll made of the same green and gold brocade fabric, with a long, fanning tail in gold which laid across one shoulder. Its end was scalloped to match his sleeves.

Jonátan fastened Samuel’s sword belt around his waist, then knelt in the floor, putting the gilt spurs on Samuel’s black leather shoes. The leather was cut in patterns like flowers and allowed his gold stockings to show through. The toes were pointed, but not much; Samuel had never cared to wear the excessively long-toed shoes which were currently popular. He didn’t like tripping and making a fool of himself.

A description of Michala’s 1408 wedding dress:

Michala’s dress is based on this one worn by a re-enactor at the Tower of London in 2008.

Samuel was surprised by her dress; it looked quite expensive. It was a gold brocade silk trimmed in black velvet. She had on a black velvet henin—one of the modest ones that was less than a foot tall and flat on top—and pinned to it was a sheer silk veil, folded back so her face could be seen. Even if she didn’t bring a dowry with her, her parents had not let her come into marriage with her richer cousin looking like a poor relation.

All this being said, though, even I must resort to costuming inaccuracies on my book cover (and that irritates me to no end–although I can at least avoid the half-naked men with 6-pack abs). Unfortunately, I can’t draw, and I can’t find anything that’s historically accurate and at least somewhat romantic-looking. So I’m left to resort to my fall back: Pre-Raphaelite art, which is romantic and somewhat medieval, but doesn’t involve ripped bodices and ripped abs.

Although, if I could get Jeremy Irons to portray Jakub on the front cover (Jakub’s physical appearance is actually based on him), I would not say no. (And I’d make him a really beautiful cotehardie to wear while modeling.)

(If you’re fascinated by medieval clothing, I have a lot of pictures from our trip to England in 2008, plus comments/speculation on an old website. Maybe one day I’ll have the time to transfer all of that info onto my new personal website so I can eliminate the annoying pop-up ads. I also have plans to experiment making some of the odder clothing shown on the Beauchamp tomb, so I’ll also have updates.)