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101 - MEDIEVAL MILITARY GARMENTS

Period Pattern ™ No.101
Medieval Military Garments

Includes 3 gambesons, two with optional pockets for plates inside the skirt; 4 surcoats (including a cyclas); 3 hose; 1 codpiece, 1 cuisse (thigh protection), a renal belt with pockets for plates to protect the kidneys, and a swordbelt, in sizes S-XL. These garments go well with capes from Period Pattern no. 92, as well as pouches and purses from no. 93.

These garments are functional fighting garb for use in the Society for Creative Anachronism and other re-enactment or recreation groups. The surcoats, hose and swordbelt can also be used as is or in an adapted form for civilian wear in these groups.

Chain mail and plate armor were very expensive, and economically unfeasible for the average soldier of the Middle Ages. Most had to make do with padded garments called gambesons to keep them save from swords, daggers, arrows, and other dangers they encountered. But even those who could afford armor had to wear something underneath metal armor, for comfort; this was usually padded.

Surcoats (from the French "sur le cote", i.e. over the cotehardie) were sleeveless or, more rarely, sleeved garments worn by soldiers to protect their armor from the sun - and thus prevent themselves from overheating more than they did wearing padded garments under mail. A surcoat also could serve to identify the wearer, especially if decorated with the wearer’s heraldry. With the return of crusaders from the Holy Land surcoats became wildly popular. The armholes deepened to the waist, then to the hip. Unlike women’s surcoats of the same cut, however, these were not critiziced by the Church. Hose were almost universally worn, whether very loose, thinner and more fitted, or skin-tight; hose worn while fighting could be padded in places. Renal belts were designed to be worn with armor for additional protection.

No.101, view VIII prototype - BW, San Diego, 1972
No.101, view X, queen's guard - Florida
No.101 view I gambeson in battle providing protection and comfort
No.101prototype view II gambeson unquilted and view V hose
No-101, view III gambeson, altered
No.101, view X prototype- CW, Virginia, 1981
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Cuisses were padded thigh pieces, often with plates and metal knee caps attached; metal plates might be worn over the cuisses. One had to have a sword belt to hold his sword; this version includes the authentically accurate way to secure it.

Materials used for armor was generally sturdy and plain, linen, wool, and leather mostly, although very rarely silk was used, and it could be colorful. It might be decorated with applique or paint, especially if it was a surcoat. But it usually be a waste of time, effort and money to decorate garments to be worn under mail or plate – not only would it not be seen, but embroidery, for example, would be rubbed, ripped, and made filthy in far too short a time.



Comments we've received on this pattern:

  • Brian T, (Charles Fleming in the SCA)“First, let me say that I love your patterns. The extensive articles, many annotated drawings, and sewing-for-dummies tips (like how to make bias) are all exactly what I need.
    I have recently put up a Web site for my 14th C. SCA stuff, and I make sure to plug your patterns wherever I used them. I don’t know how many people take you up on your request to send you pictures, but please take a look. www.charlesfleming-sca.com/ is the main site.
    I used your pattern for the gambeson and gamboised cuisses, the surcaot, and some fighting tights (not shown). For occasional 13th C use, I also made a sword-knot belt (I need to post a picture). The surcoat is shown unbelted: I haven’t finished the bucked sword belt to go with it.
    …Not long ago I was looking at a display of old Texan saddles and I realized that the saddle strings are the same mechanism as the forked-tongue sword belt. I’d bet that 16th century Spaniards must have tied on their saddle bags in just the same fashion.
    I have your patterns for men’s and women’s cotehardies, but so far they are nothing but good intentions.”

    Brian T, (Charles Fleming in the SCA)

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