Two early 14th century costumes

Made in 2002

This is me and my husband Rickard wearing early 14th century German clothes. Both outfits are based on illuminations in the Grosse Heidelberger Liederhandschrift, sometimes also known as the Codex Manesse.
   My dress is based on this image. As you can see I haven't made an exact copy but used the picture as inspiration. The things that are different are the hairstyle and the cloak, much as I would like to have a red scarlet ( the term "scarlet" designated a type of cloth and not a colour in the middle ages) cloak lined with vair (squirrel bellies) it's not likely to happen. Since I couldn't have the squirrel bellies I decided to make cloak that was very typical for the time in another way, by being pink.
   Pink was apparently a very popular colour in the early 1300s. It can be seen in many manuscripts, my favourite being the Konstanz-Weingartner Liederhandschrift which has quite a few illuminations showing people in "bubbelgum pink" clothes. In period the word "red" was used both for red and pink and no distinction was made in written sources. I'm also not wearing a crown although it was used both by queens and other women during this period. The crown on that illumination is however most likely a royal or princely crown.
   Instead of a crown I'm wearing a simple silver band with silver flowers on it, a pink "pearl" in the center of each. It can be seen most clearly in the picture at the bottom of the page (I apologize for the generally low image quality on this site, I don't own a digital camera and I'm new to all this with making websites) This is not the most common headwear with this type of dress, the most common being a fillet, either on it's own or with a veil draped over it. Still, there are examples of this style too, with the veil worn under a circlet. The circlet in this image is probably made of gold roses and there is ample documentary evidence of silver roses being worn in the beginning of the 14th century. The circlet is made of a silver ribbon (real metal thread) mounted on a stiff material and the flowers are buttons shaped that way, the pink pearls hiding the holes in them. The reason I made it from fabric and not from metal is that this was only a way of making it that I could do myself. After reading Ronald W Lightbown's book "Mediaeval European Jewellery" I also found that it was very common to fix plate, pearls and stones onto fabric when making circlets. It's definitely more comfortable than wearing an all metal circlet.
   Like the woman in the original picture, I'm wearing a kirtle (tunic, dress, whatever you want to call it, period terminology is really difficult, especially if you work with documents in latin and old norse, as I do, and not in english) and a sleeveless surcoat. The kirtle is buttoned on the lower arm which is very tight. The sleeve is wider further up. The material is very thin 100% wool tabby and I'm aware that it's a bit brighter than the illumination, but since this thin wool is mostly made for business suits for women, I'm truly glad I could find green at all. I've applied three rows of ribbons woven with "gold" (most likely brass) at the sleeves to form the broad golden trim which is typical of the images in this manuscript. The buttons are also metal, with a shank.
The surcoat is made of red wool/polyester and lined with yellow fabric of the same blend (both an economic choice and a choice based on availability). It measures ca 5 m at the hem and is at least 30 cm longer than to the ground. It is possible to walk in without lifting it, but it takes care and practice. And small steps. At the neck I have a slit buttoned with small "gold" buttons and a 6 cm wide "gold" ribbon. It is not as flat as one could wish for, since it's fitted around a round neckhole. That was probably a problem for people attaching trim in the 14th century too.

The cut of the surcoat is simple. The parts are cut as wide as possible on a 150 cm wide fabric and then gores are added. The kirtle is also cut in a very simple way, the same as my 13th century dress. The only difference is that the sleeves are sewn to the sleeve hole all the way round and are buttoned along the lower half of the arm. It also has a slightly wider neckhole, just so that I can push my head through it, and no slit. You can use both ways of cutting for kirtles and surcoats. The type with straight parts and centre gores is documented from preserved garments and therefore better if you want to be sure your kirtle or surcoat is cut in a period way.
   While there are no preserved garments which widens at the sides like I've made my surcoat before the 15th century (Queen Margareta's golden dress) it is a possible way of cutting them and it doesn't waste more fabric. Contrary to popular belief medieval cloth could be very wide, the finished width after fulling being up to 2 m. Of course silk, linen and a lot of other types of woollens, like worsteds had much smaller widths (If you're really interested in this I recommend John H. Munro's book "Textiles, Towns and Trade- essays in the economic history of late medieval England and the Low Countries") One reason that there are no examples of garments cut like this might be that except for St. Birgitta's gown there are no extant garments made from these fulled woollen cloths, most are made from worsted or frieze and some from silk, all narrower fabrics. But this is just a hypothesis. St. Birgitta's gown has been remade into a cloak and it is therefore impossible to say how it was cut originally.
   I have placed the pieces so that there is a seam in the centre front because the surcoat has a buttoned opening there and it's easier to do it that way than to cut a slit in a whole piece. Otherwise I prefer to have the seam in the back where you don't see it when you look at me.

The cloak is made of pink lightly fulled wool and lined with brownish thin wool. It has a 4 cm wide ribbon in beige woven with metal threads (again; most likely brass) along the front edge. It is cut like a half circle and has no scope for the neck. Both pictorial evidence and the few preserved secular cloaks suggest that semi-circular cut was the most common in the middle ages. The preserved examples can be seen at I Marc Carlsson's site Some Clothing of the Middle Ages" if you look under Cloaks and other garments The cloak is fastended by a cord of silk and since this was an official and festive occasion I'm wearing my cloak far out on the shoulders. And it stays there. If I would have lined the cloak with silk or had more sloping shoulders I think this would have been more of a problem.

Rickard is wearing a tunic with a hood. It is based on this image from the Codex Manesse. It's made of a "mystery fabric", mostly cotton I think, which is woven in a pattern similar to diamond twill. At 1 m distance I think it can go for a worsted, most people would not see that it's cotton, but on the other hand, most people don't know a lot about fabric. It is fully lined with 100% wool tabby, the same quality as my green kirtle. His undertunic is made of light blue very thin 100% wool twill and has buttoned sleeves and trim patterned in "gold" and light blue around the sleeves and neck, which also is buttoned. He has beige hose too, and shirt and breeches of course, but they are a little hard to see in the picture.

In this picture you can see me looking not quite as pregnant as I do in the left picture. I included it mainly because I look good, but you can also see Isaembelle, Tala and Anna showing some other styles from Codex Manesse. You can also identify the arm which is seen in the upper right corner of the first image. It is Anna, correcting my veil and caught in the act.


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