A pink gardecorps

2005-08-31 The background:
This dress diary will not record the making of a whole gown with all its pieces, but just one garment: A sort of sleeved cloak from the 13th and early 14th century commonly called gardecorps. Whether this term is the correct period term is not sure, since we unfortunately do not have pictures with names of the depicted garments written next to them. Because it is practical I will continue to use the term anyway. There are three examples of this garment on a woman in the Codex Manesse, all in strong pink. The picture to the right is one. Here is another example. And here the third. Here it is not sure if the gown actually has a hood, but since so many other pictures show a hood I think it is likely in this case too.

  The garde-corps is first seen around the middle of the 13th century, then as a man's garment only. An example from the Maciejowski bible, a french manuscript from the middle of the 13th century, can be seen here. From the later 13th century we can also see it as a woman's garment. For example on this image from The Murthly Hours. That garde-corps, as well of most of the others I've seen is blue, a very popular colour on clothing in 13th century manuscripts. The Manesse version is however pink and so shall mine be too.

  If you look at the picture above you see that the garde-corps is lined with green and that she's wearing a green cotte under it. I already have a green cotte, which can be seen in these pictures. It is actually a little too light green compared to the illumination and also has a slightly warmer tint, but since I couldn't find a silk or thin wool that was suitable for both lining and a new cotte I just bought silk lining for the garde-corps and will use the old cotte. The lining is a darker green habotai silk, exactly matching the green of the printed version of the manuscript.
  The main fabric is a strong "Barbie pink" wool twill with a herringbone pattern that I bought from my friend Ragnhild. It is very thin so the lining had to be equally thin so to not distort the drape of the outer fabric, which is why I choose silk. With the help of my friend Anna I found the perfect green silk lining at Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road in London.

  The current plan is to machine wash a sample of the wool and silk on the wool cycle on friday and see what happens. If the wool doesn't full and shrink to badly, the whole fabric will be washed. Then, on saturday I can start cutting. I will have to get Barbie pink sewing silk first though.

I translated (and shortened) a part of my dissertation which deals with gardecorps and ärmkappa, which may be two different names for this garment:

   The name gardecorps is French and among and there is a difference of opinion between scholars as to how it looked. Some describe at loose and flowing with short or no sleeves, while others claims that the garment's most characteristic trait is the wide, long sleeves hanging loose from the shoulders. This garment also usually had a hood. There is also one scholar that claims that it was a tight, jacket-like garment, which is unlikely considering when the garment was in use, mainly the 13th and the 14th century.
  In Sweden and Norway gardecorps is mentioned twice, once from each country. The Norwegian document, a will, is dated only to "before 1299", but the will must have been made up for an important man since the king is one of the executors. The Swedish document is also from the end of the 13th century and is list of the "Parisian clothes" that belonged to the canon Hemming. The only information regarding how the gardecorps looked from these documents is that one of them was made of imported woollen cloth. From Denmark five gardecorpses are mentioned in three wills, the last one from 1352, which contains three gardecorpses. The first will is from 1238. Two of these garment are lined with vair and one of these is blue while the colour of the other isn't stated. There is also a blue gardecorps without lining (or at least with any lining that is mentioned). The earliest mentioned gardecorps is given from a man to a woman, showing the unisex-character of the garment. In a another will gardecorps is possibly described since the text says:"item lucie sororj mee vnum gartkors. Tunicam cum capucio bruneto coloris cum suffuratura variarum pellum" This may mean that that the testator identifies a gardecorps as a tunic with a hood, but unfortunately cum can mean both with and and which means that it can also be two different garments. Still, the description fits what most people describe as a gardecorps. That gardecorps is only mentioned once in Norway and once in a document made up by a Swede living in Paris may pint to that the garment never caught on here. On the other hand, it may be that the scribes choose another word.

   One word that may have been used for this type of garment is Ärmkappa, which means "sleeved cloak": the Latin word toga was used interchangeably with ärmkappa too. This is one of the funny examples when latin words are used in a totally different way in the middle ages than in classic Latin. Ärmkappa is mentioned 21 times between 1328 and 1374, 14 of them are intended for men and 6 for women (the last one is donated to the church, but it belonged to a woman). Two of the women that are given this garment are given the male donor's own ärmkappa. So it seems to be mainly a male garment, but one that could be worn also by women. In one will, from 1371, it is stated that "herr Tore shall have the double (lined) ärmkappa with a hood in the same colour", which shows that it had a loose hood and not an attached. Otherwise a hood is only mentioned once. Most of the ärmkappor lacks information about colour, but there are four blue, one red, one green, one black and one brown. Many of them are said to be lined; one in vair, two with marten, one with green lining, one with a patterned lining and two are just said to be lined. The main material is mentioned once: black or dark scarlet. Although it is note sure that ärmkappa is what we see on the pictures from the Manesse Codex and other places, it is a plausible explanation. The documents show that the garment wasworn by both sexes, that blue was the most common colour and that fur lining was the most common lining. However, fabric was also used as lining.

   Tonight I have also washed the pink wool and green silk lining on the wool cycle. Both of them survived.

I have studied some more pictures and also some other people's versions of this garment. There are two articles in Waffen und Kostümkunde that deals with gardecorps, among other things. One is "Die Höfische Tracht der Isle de France" by Lore Ritgen from 1962 and the other is "Ulrich von Liechtenstein - seine Erkleidung für die Venusfahrt" by Annemarie Bönsch from 1998. In both these diagrams/patterns of this garment are given. In the first article the gardecorps is constructed with pleated sleeves set in very deep sleeve holes. They have a slit in front of the sleeves to let the arms out. This construction is supported by a picture of a figure from the tympanon of the middle west portal of the cathedral in Strasbourg where you see the deep sleeve holes on the back of the gardecorps and regular, narrow pleats that continue over the shoulder and then widens slightly . This is a rare example where you actually get to see the backside of piece of clothing. One should however be careful even with this wonderful evidence since teh very straight, narrow and structures pleats that reaches below the shoulders on this statue may by stylization of more loose and unstructured pleats. The pictures in Codex Manesse doesn't look like the sleeveheads are pleated that way. One also wonders where that extra width disappears when teh pleating ends. If the fabric behaved normally itshould widen a lot were the pleating ends.
In the Ulrich von Liechtenstein article it is not obvious how the sleeves are attached but the gardecorps seems to be constructed as a sleeveless surcoat with hanging sleeves that only are rectangles of fabric. These are gathered and attached to the shoulders of the "surcoat". Their reconstruction doesn't look right on the photos they have taken of the costume and I think there are enough medieval pictures that show the sleeves as real sleeves, set in a sleeve hole. For example this pictures of queen Emma from the vita of Edward the Confessor.

In this manuscript, from c. 1250-1260 you see sleeves that aren't very pleated at all. You also see from their rounded shape around the shoulder that they are set in sleeve holes. I you look at her left arm you also see the opening in front of the sleeve. The pictures from Codex Manesse, linked to above also show sleeves that are set in and not just a rectangle hanging on top of the "dress".
  So I have decided to make gardecorps with "real" sleeves. I am however not sure that the gardecorps in Codex Manesse and in the picture of queen Emma have those very large sleeveholes in the back with the structured pleats that you see on the statue from Strasbourg. If you take the pleating first, you can easily see that the sleeves on pictures I'm using as my template for this costume have sleeves that hardly seems pleated at all. As for the sleeveholes; in 13th and very early 14th c. iconography you often see very deep sleeve holes on the front of clothes, while the back looks much wider. This is especiall visible when you look at depictions of sleeveless surcoats, such as this and this, both from the Codex Manesse.
   Two preserved garments from the 13th century, the cottes of st. Clare of Assisi and the cotte of st. Elisabeth of Thuringia show this feature with deeper sleeve holes in frotn than in back. This summer I made a cotte after the pattern of st. Clare's cotte and it really gave the right shape to the sleeves when compared with contemporary artwork. A picture can be seen here, but it doesn't say much since I haven't got the sleeves on, they're only attached in the back and now hang on my back because it was too warm to have them on. Anyway, that's how I'm planning to do the gardecorps; I'm making a cotte according to the cotte of St. Elisabeth of Thuringia (less seams than on st. Clare's) and then I will add hanging sleeves that are closed, except a front slit to put the arm through. The sleeveheads will probably not be shaped, at least not much, and slightly gathered on the shoulder.

  I guess I've done enough thinking and should start on the actual cutting and sewing soon.

I have been busy with other things and sewing projects lately, for instance I made a new 12th century dress last week, because I got caught by inpsiration. I have done some cutting, but all lining pieces aren't cut out yet and I haven't felt inspired to start on it. But today I started sewing on the gardecorps again. I have now sewn two gores to the front piece and has started on another side gore. The way I do it is a way linings often were sewn in the 17th and 18th century, but I have no idea if it's the way it was done in the early 14th century. There are no fully lined preserved garments from the middle ages so we can only guess how they attached the lining. Fur linings were made up separately and by the furrier and not the tailor, who made the actual garment and then stitched the fur lining to it. But how fabric linings were attached we do not know.
    Anyway, this is how I do it: You pin the two layers of fashion fabric and one layer of the lining together, so the fashion fabric and lining is treated as one. Then you sew it. Here's a not too clear picture of the inside of my gardecorps:

Then you fold the seam allowances to the unlined side. Then you take the other lining, fold in as much as the seam allowance and pin it to the seam, so the seam allowances are under it and then you use stitch it into place. Like this:

As you see the thread is pink, because I wouldn't want green silk thread showing on the right side if I made a too large stitch. Pink on the wrong side doesn't matter to me.

Just to let you know I'm still sewing. Two gores on each side of the front are attached and I'm currently sewing one of the back gores to the rest of the dress. BTW, I decided to go for the st. Clare tunic pattern after all, since I had tried it before and it turned out good and I couldn't be bothered to think.

Apart from three buttonholes and three buttons the gardecorps is finished now. it looks okay, but would probably look better in a heavier fabric. On the other hand I now own a super light and still warm outer garment. perfect for travelling.
   I encountered some problems while making it, all caused by my free-hand patterning technique. I made the sleeve hole on the front piece too big, almost as big as I would if the tunic consisted of only back and front pieces. But if you look at the diagram you see that the sleeve hole continues into the front-side and centre-side gores. I knew this of course, but when cutting I still made the hole too big. To remedy this I had to cut off a piece of the centre side gore, like this:

Drawing by Marc Carlson
The purple line is where I cut and the blue where I sewed it together. Having made the front sleeve hole to big I ended up with a much longer piece from shoulder to sleeve hole in the front than in the back, so I had to cut off the front piece at the shoulder. This made the gardecorps shorter in the front than in the back, but that was easily fixed. The gardecorps doesn't reach all the way to the floor now, but I think that's okay for an outer garment. Because I didn't have enough fabric the sleeves are only 80 cm wide which gives very few pleats at the shoulders, much like Emma's on the picture above. The hood is also rather small, like hers, so apparently this is a gardecorps from the second half of the 13th century and not from the beginning of the 14th.
   The pattern had some good features and some bad. The bad one is that the tunic has a tendency to pull backwards, so you can easily feel strangled. This is not only with this tunic with all it's alterations, but also on the green cotte I made from the same pattern. I did have to shorten the sleeve hole on that one too, but the change was much smaller. It's more noticeable with the gardecorps though because the silk lining is very slippery so no friction keeps it in place. The sleeves doesn't help keep it in place like they do on the green cotte either, because they are so wide and loose. The very good thing is that the shape becomes so right for the period. It also falls very gracefully with most of the fabric at the back and gives you a very slender line, both from the front and from the side.
    I definitely plan to use the pattern again, but this time I will be careful so I don't cut the sleeve holes too big. I will also make sure I have enough fabric which was a problem both with the green cotte and with the gardecorps. The shape of both cotte and sleeves has just the right look for the period. I would not use it for a sleeveless surcoat however, since the sleeves is what makes the cotte stay where it should be.
   There will be photos in the Costume gallery next week, when I have put in the buttons and my husband has had the time to take photos.

The gardecorps is finished and can be found in the Costume Gallery.