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The Norman Period And Scottish Dress

( Originally Published 1928 )



THE Tunic.—The costume closely resembles the Anglo-Saxon : a loose tunic either gathered to the waist by a band or fitting closely to the knees with an opening up each side to the hip to allow of free movement; the neck slit open in a V called the vente to a depth of five inches, its edges embroidered in bright colors as were those of the wide elbow-length sleeves.

The Shirt.—This garment was white and worn under the tunic, with very long sleeves pushed up as on the Saxon dress, forming a series of folds above the wrist. The vente was filled under by the shirt.

Chausses.—Roughly fashioned tights of wool were bound to the leg by cross-garterings of leather or cord; some were held in at the ankle and knee by bands. Girdles of leather encircled the waist to support the sword.

The Mantle.—The mantle was semicircular and fastened to the right shoulder or at the front by a large brooch. Some were held together by drawing a fold of material through a ring attached to the shoulder.

After the Conquest, ermine, squirrel, marten, rabbit and goat augmented the list of furs in use in England.

Footgear.—Yellow, blue, green and red shoes, with rolled over tops faced with colored bands, fitted the foot to above the ankle; the toes were slightly twisted.

Hats.—Of the cap variety, some hats were round and brimless, others rose to a peak in the center of the crown; one shape duplicated the Phrygian with its forward turned peak. Hoods were often worn under the helmet.

The Hair.—Faces were clean shaven and hair cropped close; that of the king shaved at the back of his neck.


The costume in general was like that of the men. The tunic with wide elbow-length sleeves was very long and held in place by an often richly ornamented girdle through which it was sometimes pulled up to the knee, allowing a long white undergown to show; this latter garment was finished with wrinkled sleeve ends and supplied a filling like a vestee for the neck opening.

A wimple or "couvre-chef," completely covering the hair, was wound about the throat and shoulders and held to the brow by a fillet.

Mittens were in use.

Peasants wore canvas and coarse fustian, a cloth very popular among the Normans. The bliaut or bliausis mentioned in old romances is supposed to have been a long garment resembling a smock, bliaut and the modern French word blouse probably having some connection, ac-cording to Planche; in the Middle Ages it took the form of the surcoat.

Say was a worsted cloth used for stockings (from the Dutch "sasijet," worsted).

The favored colors seem to have been red, blue and green.

WILLIAM II, 1087-1100

Sleeves became so long it was necessary to turn them back over the wrists; shoes developed long pointed toes which were stuffed with wool ; a general tendency to lengthen all parts of the dress was noticeable. Loose tights were left unbound except at the ankle. Beards and mustaches were worn.


The tunic was laced up the back, the idea of making the dress fit the figure snugly having spread from the women of the Continent.

Cloaks were amply cut, lined with fur and hung from the shoulders by straps across the bosom.

HENRY I, I100-1135


Long tunics reaching to the feet were beginning to make their appearance. Sleeves touched the ground; it was necessary to knot them up to prevent treading on them. Long slits were cut at the elbow through which the arm emerged, the rest of the sleeve hanging down.

Tights began to shape more to the leg, but were still confined by cross-gartering and covered to the knees by the tunic.

Stockings were worn under the long tunics by both men and women. The crooked point on the shoe grew longer. Beards were long, the hair hanging in curls.

Round crowned hats had fairly wide brims and a knod on top.

Armor of chain, rings or scales, known as mail, was worn until superseded by full plate in 1300.

The manufacture of woolens is first mentioned in 1111 after some Flemish refugees sought shelter in England.


Cases.—The wimple went out of style and two apparently long and thick braids appeared reaching to the knee, or the gown's hem. This wealth of hair was achieved by braiding in ribbons and false hair '(as in a Chinese queue), or by the use of "cases," devices of metal or gaily colored silks fastened to the end of the natural hair. They were of various length and finished off either with long tassels or a braid of false hair.

Note that exaggerations in fashion, such as the very long sleeves, hair, etc., were not followed by the poorer classes. Linen wimples were used by peasant women for several hundred years.

STEPHEN, 1135-1154

The costume was practically the same as for preceding reign. Pointed shoes took on eccentric shapes, resembling ram's horns, scorpion tails, and the like.


Macbeth.—King Duncan was killed in 1039 and Dunsinane taken in 1054. The famous portrait by Sargent of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth shows her with two long braids bound with ribbons. As this fashion was not followed in England until the twelfth century, the Scottish lady must have copied her style from the women of the Continent who used it in the eleventh century. In knowledge of the mode she would have been considerably in advance of her English neighbors. Clare Eames, when playing the part in support of Hackett, wore her hair parted in the middle from forehead to nape of neck, braided in two and wound about each ear as was the fashion for young girls several years ago before they went mad over the bob. In the banquet scene, Miss Eames wore a wimple of thin white gauze about her cheeks, chin and throat; a red chiffon veil tied over her head concealed all hair and hung to the floor. On top of all was placed a crown. This was correct according to the Anglo-Saxon and Norman fashion prevalent in England at the time. In her train, one lady in waiting was allowed to appear with her hair in two long braids.

James K. Hackett as Macbeth wore very long mustaches, a Saxon beard cut in two points and long red hair falling on his shoulders. He used two tunics, one long and the other short; the former was worn sometimes underneath, when of a dark color; sometimes outside and slit open to the hips, revealing the inner tunic. Legstrappings reached to the knee with the upper part of leg bare, until the last act when dark green woolen tights were bound at the knee. With this last costume he wore the Saxon shirt of ring mail and a brass helmet like that of the Gaul and Dane. A single broad eagle's feather is worn in the bonnet of a Highland chieftain and Hackett like most of his predecessors in the part since any attention at all has been paid to correct theatrical costuming, so decorated his.

All cloaks were fastened to the shoulders with large circular ornaments; this permitted of much graceful draping of the folds over the left arm, also the ever stunning effect created by drawing one end from the right side (as with the toga) and throwing it over the left shoulder.

The shield was round and covered with bull's hide, the fur being white and light tan. In the center was a knob of brass. It was held by thrusting the arm through straps placed on its inner side. (Most shields are so constructed.)

The Scottish weapons of the eleventh century, besides the round shield which was studded with nails and bosses of brass and iron, included the, claymore (a two-handled and double-edged broadsword) and the dirk or "bidag." The king and his chieftains wore the shirt of ring mail or copied the quilted panzar of the Norwegians and Danes. It is said that most of the Highlanders followed the old Celtic fashion of rushing into battle nearly naked.

The costume of the women followed lines prevalent among the Anglo-Saxons and Normans of the day : a long tunic confined by a girdle at the waist, a mantle fastened in front by a large brooch of gold, silver or brass set with precious stones or the pebbles of the country, which when highly polished are very ornamental, owing to their varied colorings and crystal clearness. A stone known as the "cairngorm" has always been popular in Scotland.

A very ancient garment for women was known as the "arisaid." It has been described as checked, also as striped—white with yellow. The women of the Hebrides, according to Strutt, always wore this capacious mantle which trailed on the floor unless its superfluous length was caught up about the waist by a belt of leather trimmed with silver to resemble a chain; a plate about eight inches long by three wide, engraved or set with crystals or coral, was attached to the long ends of the tongue. It was still used in 1740.

Several other articles of Scottish clothing date back to very remote days. The long-sleeved, saffron-stained shirt of Irish origin—the sleeves also enormously wide—was worn under a short woolen jacket with open sleeves. The "truis" or "trowse," a long wide pantaloon corded about the waist in use among the ancient Irish and corresponding to the trousers of the Gauls, has been traced in Scot-land as far back as 1538. Authorities, including Charles Knight, hold, however, that as all chiefs of great Celtic and Gaelic families wore this leg covering it is quite probable that the ancient Scottish chieftains did likewise. Nevertheless, we always conjure up a mental picture of a hardy Scot whose bare legs are covered only by the kilt and sporran augmented sometimes by stockings and buskins. Why try to make the men "wha hae wi' Wallace bled" more delicate than their descendants?

Perhaps the most famous part of the Scottish costume was the plaid, a shaggy woolen rug thrown over the body and belted about the waist. That combination known as "Shepherd's Plaid" is supposed to be the oldest, possibly antedating the process of dyeing, the natural black and white wool of the sheep being utilized. The distinguishing plaids of various clans are said to be of later date, only those of the higher classes being in colors. "Plaid" originally meant the garment itself while the woolen stuff of which it was made was called "tartan."

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