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Clothing Of The Fourteenth Century

( Originally Published 1928 )

THE Cote-Hardie.—This fashion originated in France and was universally adopted at the be-ginning of the fourteenth century. By shortening the surcoat, sewing up its sides and slitting open and closing the front with buttons, a tightly fitted jacket with long set-in sleeves was evolved. The latter were fastened by rows of closely set buttons from elbow to wrist. Fur (often ermine) was used to border it. It was worn by both men and women.


The Lappet.—A band of fur, velvet or material different from the rest of the costume, was fastened on the sleeve of the cote-hardie above the elbow, with a long pointed piece of the same material depending therefrom. This was a distinguishing style note of the century and a souvenir of the trailing sleeve of former days.

Tights.—The cloth that had been held to the leg by cross-gartering, became known in the ninth century as tights, the materials being frieze and homespun. Cross-gartering was retained until the thirteenth century. Silk tights were common in Italy and Spain long before they became so in England during the reign of Elizabeth. These leg coverings were sometimes made with leather soles attached to the footpiece and worn without shoes, which accounts for the unshod look so noticeable in some very old pictures. In this century Italy had progressed to the point of having tights not only of silk but often embroidered in gold.

The Baselard.—A triangular pouch was suspended from the girdle, through which was thrust a dagger; it was of ornamental design and placed in front of the figure. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries its use was forbidden to priests.

The Chaperon.—A head covering popular among older men was achieved by using the hood with its liripipe and cape. The head was thrust into the pocket of the hood usually filled up by the face. The cape was gathered into a huge rosette, its foliated edges lending themselves admirably to the purpose, and held to one side of this improvised hat by knotting around it the liripipe, whose long end was thrown about the shoulders like a scarf.

A cap, round and brimless, upstanding like a fez, was the favorite head covering of the youths of the day. By the end of the century a single feather, usually an ostrich plume of prodigious size, was placed in the front of the chaperon or cap. Hoods with shoulder capes were also worn. A portrait of Dante painted about 1300 shows him in a hood with a liripipe reaching to his waist.

Shoes were of velvet and leather, long and pointed. Young men were clean shaven, with hair curled about the neck and brow. Older men wore beards.

The Houppelande.—Introduced in France during the century (for full description see the French, fourteenth century, p. III), it was essentially a garment for the sedate and those of dignified position. Owing to its introduction the borders of costumes were foliated, scalloped or dagged.


The Simarre.—A gown of Florentine origin very popular among the women of Italy fitted the uncorseted figure closely to the hips where it widened into a full trained skirt. The sleeves were either very long and tight, terminating in a point over the back of the hand, or else elbow length with pendant lappet and a kirtle sleeve tightly but-toned covering the forearm from elbow to wrist. The simarre was also cut with long straight fronts, caught together at the neck line by a jewel, dividing thence to show a tight-fitting underdress.

The Crespine.—A caul of golden network was worn on the flowing hair. Garlands of flowers, golden bands and ribbon fillets were also used. Toward the end of the century small heart-shaped headdresses with lace wimples falling on each side began to be seen.

The period for "Romeo and Juliet" is the commencement of the fourteenth century; for the older characters such as Montague, Capulet and the Prince, a little theatrical license is allowed and they appear in the houppelande and chaperon, the latter even decorated with a plume, albeit these were fashions which came a bit later. All Romeos and Mercutios wear caps with long feathers trailing over the left shoulder. For them the cote-hardie, tights and velvet shoes with pointed toes are correct. The cote-hardie either buttons well up to the throat or is made with a square-cut neck opening filled in with a gathered shirt; Rollo Peters wore one with a deep round neck line about the shoulders, a pleated shirt edged with a flat band circling an inch or so above it.

The Drape.—Almost indispensable to all plays of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in which young men wear the cote-hardie and tights is the drape. It is a long piece of goods with a single hole through which the left arm is passed; this leaves a long end of the material which may be disposed of in various ways—as, for instance, gathered up from the floor and thrown across the chest and left shoulder, or pulled through the belt and allowed to hang again. Another trick is to wind the material over the right arm. Allowing it to trail on the ground after the wearer is an arrangement which, while sounding simple enough, requires careful rehearsal to insure adept handling. Lined with a bright color and cleverly managed, this wrap lends much charm to the actor's ensemble.

Of course, all Juliets wear the caul, that cap of criss-crossed pearls. Wreaths of flowers are also used to crown their flowing hair. The simarre appears in varied forms; Julia Marlowe pinned a "large gr-r-een jewel" on the front of hers for the first act. Jane Cowl's sleeves spread to huge wings trailing to the floor, exaggerated but at-tractive lappets. For the balcony scene the loose gown should be of some very sheer material of a shade that will seem a soft white with the spots playing on it; it should be made with very long, wide sleeves and a low girdle about the hips.



The Houppelande.—This long outer garment became the rage shortly after its introduction. It was worn over the cote-hardie and tights and buttoned from the high collar to the knees, whence it swept backward, often training on the floor. The sleeves were exceedingly wide from the elbows down and sometimes trailed on the ground, with foliated edges folded back upon the wrist for several inches, the better to show lining of a contrasting color, also the tight fitting sleeves of the cote-hardie beneath. The collar when left standing rose up over the chin; it was therefore left unbuttoned for two holes and turned over. For stage use the collar, rising and curving outward like a de Medicis, is sometimes attached to a yoke, both being made of the same material as the colored lining in the sleeves, the whole fitted to the rounded neck of the houppelande. This style was used with good effect in the Players' production of "Henry IV."

A shortened form of the houppelande was affected by young men, in which the skirt ended about the hips, allowing the legs to show'.

The cote-hardie and tights, either parti-colored or plain, were worn. The chaperon was very fashionable, also surcoats bordered with fur.

Poulaines-Long-toed clogs were imported from Poland about the middle of the century. The anelace, a dagger, was stuck in the girdle and the gipciere worn with it.

The Pour point.—This was a stuffed and quilted doublet worn under or without armor, corresponding to the gambeson, panzar, etc.

After the battle of Crecy in 1346 cannon and rifles were used; Chinese gunpowder had been made adaptable to fire-arms.


The cote-hardie, cut with a round low neck and richly trimmed with ermine, was worn with a full skirt caught up in front to show another of a different color. A jeweled girdle encircled the cote-hardie, whose long tight sleeves had lappets of ermine.

By the end of the century, heart and steeple headdresses, accompanied by the huge hennin, had made their debut.



The cote-hardie was worn, and about either arm a lap-pet from which descended a cascade of gold tassels, each suspended from the one immediately above. Tights were without cross-gartering, and the whole costume parti-colored. Belts had fancy buckles. Hooded shoulder capes were worn. A knee-length tunic was in use with wide sleeves, the ends of which were long enough to tuck up through the belt.

Long hair was bound with gold bands, wreaths of gold, silver, etc. Leather skull caps were worn under helmets.

Low shoes, the leather decorated in an all-over diamond pattern, were in fashion. Gloves were worn by both men and women.


The women wore the same lappet as that described for the men.

The chin and mouth were almost covered by a wimple edged with lace; this also received elaborate embroidery and was a forerunner of the ugly "barbe."

Sleeves of the outer gown, a form of the simarre, were often slashed open to the elbow and allowed to hang loose the length of the arm, the kirtle sleeve showing below the elbow. A bag and a bunch of keys hung from the waist.

The uncovered hair was arranged in a bang, then parted, braided and coiled about each ear.

THE ENGLISH: EDWARD II, 1307-1327; EDWARD III, 1327-1377

A period alluded to as "the Parti-Colored."

At this time a suit of full plate armor included the following pieces : The helmet visor (called the beaver when lowered), mentonniere (chin piece), neckguards, gorget, cuirass (or breastplate), back plate of cuirass, lance-rest, girdle, pauldrons (shoulder pieces), passegardes, rivets, palettes (armpit guards), brassards (upper arm guards), vambraces (lower arm guards), elbow pieces, gauntlets (mailed gloves), great braquette (waist pieces covering abdomen), tassets and tuiles (upper thigh guards), bracconiere; (mailed apron), gardes reines (loin guards), culet, cuishes (thigh guards), genouillieres (knee pieces), greaves (or jambes), sollerets or pedieux (shoes of mail).

Mail armor was used in ancient and medieval days until the year 1300; it was followed by full plate and later leather (the latter sometimes in conjunction with plate). Fine specimens of old armor are to be found in the Wallace Collection and at the Tower of London.


Parti-Colored.—The cote-hardie and tights were parti-colored, that is, half the body was dressed in one color, the other half in another; frequently both colors appeared in stripes on one leg. The cote-hardie, always belted at the waist, where a pouch containing a dagger dangled, was of various lengths; a lappet hung from the arm. Long and short capes edged and collared with fur were buttoned at the neck.

The Dagged Fashion.—This (also known as foliated) appeared on all garments in 1346 and was promptly condemned by the clergy. These "dagges" were made by cutting away the material of the garment to form leaves, etc., about its edges.

The Liripipe.—The peak of the hood grew so long that it hung to the floor, requiring knots to be tied in it. This appendage became known as the "liripipe" and was often wound about the head with the end tucked in, or draped across the shoulders.

In 1319 the first placing of a plume on a helmet is re-corded. Fur brims were used on hats. The toes of shoes increased in length and pointed outward ; they were deco-rated in elaborate designs and showed rich contrast of color.

The Hair.—The hair was bushy, cut round and curled, the face clean shaven, although Edward II had a beard arranged in three curls. That of Edward III was very long. Old men wore their beards forked.


A full gown, sometimes trained, fitted the figure and was worn over a kirtle. Wide elbow sleeves hung over the tight ones of the inner dress. The cyclas, a tight-fitting surcoat, popular in the reign of Edward II, was shorter in front than behind.

Hairdressing.—Early in the century the gorget and the wimple, made of a fine cobweb lawn known as crisp, were in use. Young girls arranged the hair in two braids, one each side of the face, with the gorget laid under them and pinned behind; a fillet about the brow bound a wimple, which was sometimes placed like a veil over the gorget and braids. Silk ribbons in imitation of gold bands were called "bends" during the Middle Ages. The fashion of the two braids led to the adoption of cases of gold fret-work studded with jewels worn on either side of the face. The hair divided in two sections was drawn through them. The top of the head was left bare or covered by a wimple held by a fillet about the brow.


In 1348 Edward III established this order ; the costume consisted of a mantle, tunic and hood all of blue woolen cloth; the mantle was lined with scarlet and had one large garter embroidered on the left shoulder. It enclosed a shield argent charged with the cross of Saint George, gules. The tunic of the King was lined with ermine, that of a knight with minniver; both tunic and capuchon were thickly embroidered with small garters of blue and gold bearing the motto, Honi soft qui mal y pense." The robe of the King displayed one hundred and sixty-eight garters.

The colors of the costume varied and its cut conformed to the prevailing fashion of the day for several centuries. During the pestilence in 136o, black was used as a sign of humility. Later came "sanguine ingrain" (purple). The garter, which was worn around the left knee, was made of blue cloth or of silk embroidered with gold, its buckles and chape of silver gilt.


From time to time England enacted laws to regulate expenditure in the matter of clothes. At this date we find "Furs of ermine and lettice and embellishment of pearls, excepting for a headdress, strictly forbidden to any one not of the Royal family or a noble having upwards of 1,000 pounds per annum." Cloths of gold and silver, habits embroidered with jewelry, lined with pure minniver and other expensive furs, were permitted to knights and ladies whose incomes exceeded four hundred marks yearly. Knights whose incomes exceeded two hundred marks, or squires possessing two hundred pounds in lands or tenements, were permitted to wear cloth of silver, with ribands, girdles, etc., reasonably embellished with silver and woolen cloth of the value of six marks the whole piece; but all persons under the rank of knighthood or of less property than the last mentioned were confined to the use of cloth not exceeding four marks the whole piece, and prohibited from wearing silks and embroidered garments of any sort, or embellishing their apparel with any kind of ornaments of gold, silver or jewelry. "Rings, buckles, ouches (pins), girdles and ribands all forbidden decorations to them"; the penalty annexed to the infringement of this statute was "the forfeiture of the dress or ornament so made or worn."

RICHARD II, 1377-1399 The heraldic age commenced.


The Tabard.—A surcoat embroidered, with the coat of arms of the wearer became an established fashion.

The chaperon was worn, or a cap decorated with a single ostrich plume in front. The cote-hardie, embroidered with precious stones and foliated, also tights were fashionable.

The houppelande (see the French, p. III) became popular; it was worn very short by young men, the skirt being merely a ruffle below the waist.

The Baldrick.—A belt passing over the right shoulder carried the sword on the left hip.

Cloaks fastened on the right shoulder. Wide gold chains encircled the shoulders, either over the cote-hardie or the houppelande, from which hung ornaments or charms.

The Gipciere.—A pouch of stamped leather or velvet was attached by two straps to the waist; the dagger was sometimes thrust through it.

Cracowes (the Poulaines of the French).—These contraptions were introduced into England in 1384 and named for Cracow, Poland, where they were first used. A wooden sole, raised under the toes and ball of the foot with a pointed projection in front, intended to support the extremely long toe of the shoe, was held on by straps across the instep after the fashion of a modern skate. From 1390 on pattens with iron soles were used to raise the foot from the ground. The toes of shoes were stuffed or allowed to flop. Some were held to the knee by chains of silver or silver gilt. Garters were worn over tights below the knee.

The Hair.—Stained yellow with saffron, the hair was long and bound about the brow by bands of gold ornamented with enameled flowers. Mustaches were fashion-able; older men wore beards trimmed to two points. Chaucer mentions forked beards. Richard II had a small mustache and two small tufts on the edge of his chin.

Jewelry was worn in abundance; despite sumptuary laws this was a time of great extravagance in dress. Feathers were placed on tournament helmets. Plate armor was in use.


Their dresses were very rich in material and ornamentation. There were no restrictions regarding crowns; all people of rank wore them. The cote-hardie, houppelande, fur-lined surcoat, a full trailing skirt and a cloak held across the chest by cords secured to the backs of large ornaments, were all in a woman's wardrobe. Her gown at this time has been called a "courtepy," also a kirtle and (by Chaucer) a "cote."

The Dorelet.—A caul made of gold net worn with all the hair tucked under it was called a dorelet. The back of the neck was shaved and the eyebrows plucked out; which two facts should convince the modern flapper that there is nothing new under the sun.

Long hair was bound with fillets or wreaths of flowers about the brow ; wimples were used but the gorget was seen only on country women.

The Order of the Garter.—In 1384, violet ingrain was used for the tunic; about 1388 white was substituted, but the original color, blue, became reestablished the following year.

Famous people of dramatic or romantic interest during the century were : Philippa of Hainault, Queen of Edward III; Prince of Wales, called the Black Prince from the color of his armor; Robert Bruce, King of Scotland, 1306; Dick Whittington, 1358-1423 ; Geoffrey Chaucer; Gower; and Wat Tyler, a blacksmith.

The Theatre.—During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries dramatic entertainment' took the form of miracle plays and mysteries. The actors, numbering fourteen, were supplied with masks and tunics, the latter being made with hooded capes. The collection of masks comprised fourteen faces of women, fourteen bearded men, fourteen angels (silver), and twenty-eight fantastic heads representing animals. The tunics, each set numbering four-teen, were made of variously colored buckram and linen embroidered and painted, the decorations consisting of dragons' heads, peacocks' eyes, gold and silver stars and heads with wings. These frequently appeared on the front of the cape. See the pictures in the Bodleian MSS.

Materials.—Cloth of Tars, of disputed origin, probably came from Tartary. This expensive stuff was added to the constantly swelling list of costly goods from which, during the reign of Edward III, the rich might fashion their apparel. Cloth of gold, an eastern fabric of silk threads crossed by others of gold, made its appearance in the extravagant days of Richard II. Chaucer, to whom we are indebted for many tidbits regarding clothes, speaks of cendal (also called sendall, sandal and cindatum) as a thin silk; rash was a cheap variety; chaisel, for fine undergarments; chalon (Chaucer), a cloth garment "frysed" on both sides; falding, like frieze and used for bed covering (also a coarse red woolen cloth worn by Irish peas-ants) ; serge, mentioned by Chaucer but probaby in existence since the earliest coarse woolens; raynes (Chaucer), a name for bed sheets and shirts; volupere, a woman's cap; fustian, manufactured at Norwich in 1336, very strong woolen stuff used for jackets and doublets; buffin, a coarse cloth; bise, the skin of the hind used for fur; budge, lamb-skin with the wool dressed out, the ordinary fur trimming on citizens' robes; partlet, a gorget or rail on an old woman; frounce, a flounce; smocks (Chaucer) ; caul, named also a fret.

By an order of 1382 women of bad repute were obliged to wear hoods of ray only (striped Flanders cloth), and no budge (fur trimming), perreie (jewelry) or revers (facings).

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