14th Century Timeline and Regional differences

Early 14th Century


Sketch- Generic 1300 style and sideless surcotte


Women’s garments in The first 30 or so years of 14th century was virtually unchanged from the 13th century. Garments were cut simply and emphasis was on the length, elegant draping, and quality of the fabric. The both the surcote and kirtile would often trail several inches or more on the ground, creating an even pool of fabric.  Creating a long and lean silhouette. Sleeveless surcottes were popular in Spain, France and England, and will be discussed more in a later chapter.


Over the course of the first quarter of the century the surcoat sleeves would shorten to around elbow length, and would form a point coming off the back of the elbow.  At the Turn of the century we start to see some buttons on the lower sleeves of the kirtle in Spain and France. Around 1310 we start to see sleeve buttons spread in the imagery throughout Europe, but it is most prevalent in Spain and France.


Sketch- crica 1315-1320 (Spain, Italy, France)


The Spanish often had the side seams open under the armpits on the surcottes.

Italy was unique often using a belt for definition just under the bust. The trend of a higher waist, and broader figures continues in southern Italy for most of the 14th century. Italian images often show wide gold trim around the shoulder seams, collar, and wrists. (note this has often been touted as only applicable to saints, but I have found at least a half dozen images in which the gold trim is on figures where are not allegorical., along with extent gold trims with jewels woven in.) Italy also favored the open side seams of the surcotte, and very few if any buttons.


Sketch- crica 1315-1320 (Germany, England)


Simple Veils were common in all cultures, Young fashionable Spanish women seem to prefer to keep their hair simply braided hanging down the back often  uncovered, or with a shear headcap. Italian ladies often taped their hair into a circle at their crown. French women prefered braided buns above the temples, with cauls and covered by lightly galfard (sp?) Or layered veils. However structured ruffed veils were seen in Germany. English women also often  used temple buns/cauls, but preferred longer lighter veils. Women all over Europe often used a mantel in addition to a veil. Older women and lower classes wore wimples in addition, although these are not seen commonly in Italy.



Sketch- crica 1330 Spain


Interesting things begin about 1320 in Spain. The layers begin to start to be tailored to the body, horizontal stress lines across form across the torso, and some waist definition indicating that some early form fitting is being attempted. A set in sleeve is revolutionary and the knowledge has spread from the holy lands. Buttons are very popular, not only on the lower sleeve, but also seen down the front for the first time. Also seeing some wide gently scooped necklines.


Sketch-  1330 & 1340 (Italy

In the Italy the ladies also start to have definition to their bust, about 1330, giving an impression of an empire waist. Also note the interesting trim details everywhere! Shoulder seams, neck lines, cuffs, gores. Necklines are are wide and round


Italy 1340- shallow and wide neckline.  Set in sleeves, very defined empire waist. Lots of colors and patterns, neck openings. We also have open hanging sleeves, often even dagging. Hems are shorter, not dragging on the ground. We see some buttons on the chest


Sketch- France 1330 and 1340
In France we see fitted torso in the 1330’s it has narrow waist, but not highly defined bust, a simple tightening of the seams to the waist. The necklines are wide and almost straight across the collarbone. The young and fashionable  have lost their veils, and now wear hair braided into rows from the ears around the back of the head. The kirtle sleeves have become very fitted- indicating a set in sleeve, often with buttons. Surcotte sleeves have longer hanging bits off the elbows. Wardrobe accounts indicate heavy embroidery on garments, especially pearls.


By 1340 this style has exploded in France! It is still not extremely fitted, no bust support seems to be present. But the boatneck and tightly nipped in waist give the impression that the torso is a triangle. The sleeves have integral tippets, (most likely fur lined) or even hanging sleeves, some of which have been dagged. We see tons of buttons everywhere! Rows of tiny buttons along the sleeves and many down the front to the waist. We have filchets! Many colors and patterns to the fabrics.


Meanwhile in Germany- a few garments are less voluminous, the hems have risen to the floor, and we have integral tippets around 1340.

Sketch- germany 1330-1340


And England- We pick up some small ruffles on the edges of the veils. And lower sleeve buttons are common. Some hems are a bit higher- but nearly unchanged from the first quarter of the century. We see small bits of embroidery, but it was mostly reserved for clergy or the royal family.

Sketch– England 1330-1340




Sketch-spain 1350-60s

The Spanish fashions during this time seem to Have a big preference for darker colors, highly patterned fabrics- stripes woven into the fabrics, along with plaids are often seen. We see plaid parti-colored sucottes here. The shoulders and upper chest area are tightened, but not bust support or lift is seen, instead it just seems to be pushed into the chest, giving a barrel shaped chest. Buttons are much less, and the surcoat was often split up the sides to show the fabric underneath. There is a lot of embroidery around the neck, sleeve heads, wrists and hems. The waist is less defined. There are hanging sleeves, but not the long narrow tippets of the french.


Sketch- Italy 1350s, 1560

Italy seems to have kept the empire waist, only lightly fitted through the bust and broader design. Necklines tended to be square, wide and high. They also tend to have fancy gold trim at the shoulder seams, neckline, and occasionally on the common side splits. Buttons if there are any are few on the lower sleeves, or upper torso above the bust. They had a tendency to match the fabric of the kirtle and the surcoat. The hems were also longer than the rest of europe at this time, with more volume.


It wouldn’t be until around 1360’s that (in northern Italy at least) the french gothic style of a fitted to the waist becomes popular.  Then the hem also becomes shorter, and the side slits are gone, but hems still maintain fullness. They keep the gold trimmed square neckline, and lack of buttons. Also of note is the fact that the bust seems to be finally defined!


Sketch- France 1350, 1360

Back to France- in the 1350’s We start to see boat necks peaking in the center. However the torso is very barrel shaped, the dress is tight enough to support the bust by compression. Tippets are long, but narrow, The sleeve buttons have become numerous and tiny, and the front buttons larger and more prominent, they often travel to the hem. The skirts are a bit narrower, but often are shown with a wide band of fur trim around the hem. The hem of the skirt is usually skimming the floor. The hair style has shifted so that the braids form long loops at the temples, sometimes covered with netting or cauls.


In the late 1350’s The neckline become more rounded, less dramatic. The trend seems to be in France to use solid colored fabrics predominantly, parti-colored garments fade completely in france by 1360, except in a manuscript to denote an important figure.. The skirts are very narrow, and often are a couple inches above the floor. The buttons on the front are few or disappear completely. The fur hems and flitches have disappeared. The sleeves of the surcottes become full length, and tippets have become a seperate item that attaches to the outer sleeve.  The accounts indicate that embroidered garments also faded away. This probably has much to do with the 100 years war, England at during this time won several major battles, and in fact held hostage the French King.


Sketch- Germany 1350, 1360

Germany did not seem to be big on buttons until the later 1350’s,or any form of visible lacing. This would mean the outer garment may be fitted, but just loose enough to pull over. They seemed to prefer a very slim gothic silhouette still. The waist and bust are only marginally defined. The neck lines are often simple circles that are close to the base of the neck.


By the 1360s we do see the barrel chested form appear, and long lines of buttons down the hem.  They still have the signature ruffled veils. An interesting thing to note is that the art often depicts colored tie on tippets, and are often dagged even for women! But this style is definitely not extremely pervasive, the simpler style is still common.


Sketch- England 1345, 1355

England seems to have found this fitted style around 1345. They don’t have the barrel chest, but to have a nipped in waist, boat necks, and integral tippets and fitchets. The hems are a bit longer than France at the time, and they have the tiny sleeves buttons, and at the chest, but are less are less prominent. They seem to like the cylindrical cauls at the temples with long veils.


In the 1350 the german ruffled veil becomes popular. The wardrobe accounts indicate that at the beginning of the 1340’s there was a strong preference for bold contrasting colors and mi-parti garments, however by the 1360’s the preference had been for more subtly, marbled fabrics or embroidered fabrics were prefered in the royal household.



By the 1360’s the barrel chested fitted style is ubiquitous throughout europe for the fashionable. The tailored supportive bust won’t be the standard until the late 1380’s.



The Spanish ladies during this time have a high boat like neck line at the collar bones (no cleavage shown here), often with a wide band of fur or embroidery around the neck, shoulder seams and cuffs. The natural waist is well defined and the top of the garment hugs the rib cage, we start to see hints of a natural bust, creating a cone shape instead of the barrel shape chest. The skirts are full and skim the tops of the feet. We see no buttons unless it is a few functional sleeves buttons or large bezants down the front of sideless surcottes. The surcotte sleeves are long and by the 1380;s start to cover the wrists. Spanish women tended to simple tie back their hair or use sheer hoods peaked upwards at the center of the forehead.



Northern Italy- The neckline is high, an inch or so below the collarbone, but more squared off. Often with wides bands of colorful trim or embroidery. Barrel chest, but natural defined waist. We see a lot more variations in colors and patterns. Skirts are full and brush the tops of the feet. Hairstyles are not often taped, but more often crown braids and simply braided down the back.


Sketch- France 1365

So around 1365 we start to see a change in how the bust is treated in France! In fact the ladies actually have a defined bust!  The bust is in a very natural position, not pushed up high, but a very narrow waist. The collar is still often boat like, but is an inch or two lower than the collar bone. Men’s garments of this time also show large plate-like sleeve heads, (the grande acessete)  indicating sophisticated tailoring. The hems have also become voluminous, bell shaped, and fur is seen at the wide round neck and at the hems. The fitches are still present, but fade away by 1370. We often see thin narrow tippets of fur that appear to be tied or buttoned on the outside of the full length sleeve. These also fade away in the 1370, but will be picked up again by the upper middle class in the late 1390’s In some of the statues we see rows of very tiny (less than ¼”) buttons on the kirtle sleeves, (often not seen due to longer surcotte sleeves) but not on the front of the garments, except like the spanish, the large bezants on the sideless surcottes. French women like their hair dressed in braids or cauls near the temples, usually without a veil, sometimes held in place by a 1-2” wide circlet.  Around the 1380’s  we start to see lower necklines with hints of cleavage, also the kirtle sleeves have creeped down to cover a significant portion of the hand.


Sketch- Germany 1370s

The germans ladies prefered high boat like necklines at the collar bones, although they are a bit more rounded at the shoulders. Barrel chests. We see sleeve buttons on long outer sleeves, also a big more volume to the skirts and the traditional frilled veils. Tippets when present often can be colored or dagged.


Sketch- england 1370

English ladies have a more scooped neckline, a bit lower, often so that a bit of cleavage peaks above it. The chest is still compressed into a barrel shape, with a naturally defined waist. We see a variety of simple veils, sometimes with the cauls/braids of the french, but the german ruffled veils are starting to become popular. We have fur tippets a bit wider than the french attached to shorter surcotte sleeves revealing tiny buttons on the kirtle below. Often we still see a few fitchets until the 1380’s, and still often find parti-colored garments. Like the rest of europe  the skirts are full and bell shaped, skimming the tops of the feet.



Around 1380 we start to see the bust throughout fashionable Europe to be a highly supported bust. We see cleavage!


Spain- I have not found enough information of spain during this time to come to any real conclusions after the 1380’s- it’s on my list of to-do.


Italy- a low neckline is prefered along with a slightly more natural bust line. The waist is higher, starting right below the bust. It often looks like a inverted triangle. Gowns are longer, elegantly trailing on the floor. We see some of the surcotte sleeves become baggier, and often pushed up to the elbows to reveal a tight kirtle sleeve that ends at the wrist. No buttons to be seen (except servant’s) on sleeves, but we do see a few large gold buttons down the front to. Often trims at the neck, sleeve heads, and wrists. Lots of bold patterns and often darker pigments.


France- Ah france! Perfecting the well defined high bust! The neckline isn’t as low as Italy, but definitely lower than previous decades. We start to see a few loose sleeves, but mostly the tight fitting sleeves, with bells that cover the palms of the hand. No buttons to be seen on the surcotte, but they are still seen on the kirtles below.  Like Italy the gowns are longer and have elegant draping. We often see the fur linings peaking out at the neck and hem. Tippets have fallen out of style.


Germany-  Still loving the frilled veil. Wow! Watch out! The extremely high bust with very low neckline means a lady must be careful with the fit to not expose herself! The necklines can be low boat necks, or are more squared off. The waist is natural, and we still have the bell shaped skirt that skims the top of the feet. No buttons to be seen except glimpses on the kirtle sleeves. The sleeve of the surcotes are fitted and cover about half the palm of the hand.


England- England likes the german frilled veils, and sometimes the french braids. We see tightly fitted torso, to the hips, the waist is well defined, and the bust is compressed in such a way that it is pushed high and close to the center of the chest. This gives an impression of a barrel chest, but with quite a bit of cleavage showing above a rounded neckline. We see lots of buttons down the front of the surcotte, with shorter sleeves revealing the rows of tiny buttons on kirtle. We still see lots of tippets. The kirtle sleeves cover about half the palms. The skirts are still bell like and skim the tops of the feet.  We see a lot of high necked houppelandes being worn, in a style of a swing type coat, with large proment buttons down the whole front, these often slimmer in stlye, have slightly baggy sleeves, and just brush the ankles.



Itlay Now has the very high bust and low neckline. The area just below the bust becomes the waist line. We see very long gowns, and kirtles that peak out  when the surcotte is lifted. We also have angel wing sleeves, or baggy sleeves that become popular on the surcotte. The kirtle sleeves underneath have become larger bells at the wrist,  that cover most of the hand. We also see a lot more hoods. Again colors are vibrant, patterns are varied.


France Still has the high bust, but the neckline has evolved in to a gentle scoop neck. The waist line is around the navel,  and just skims over the hips. Gone is the bell skirt in favor of a longer, but still very voluminous skirt trailing on the floor.


We have 2 different sleeves emerging, the most popular for the noble class is the angel wings, but also we see long white integral tippets and/or sleeve extensions reappear, and as we start the 15th century the two styles become a big signifier of class divide. Both styles would be show the continued (fur) lining. The angel wing surcottes are often paired with bell sleeved kirtles, where as the long hanging sleeves/tippets often do not have the bell or mitten cuffs.  

We start to see a padded roll and dagged hood combo being worn. Temple buns are also very popular. About 1395 we start to see a few short horned headdress creep in, but these are soon adopted by the lesser nobility. Often a wide fur band is present on the hem of the gown.


We also start to see many houppelandes being worn by the high nobility and they are starting to take on a standard shaping not seen in previous decades.


Germany- has continued the trend of the previous decade, but now the neck lines are even lower. But the frilled veil is less common, opting more often for the padded roll and dagged hood combo so popular in France. We often see a lot of stripped garments depicted.


England has finally adopted the high supported bust. They also still have the short surcoat sleeves revealing the kirtle with button sleeves, and mitten cuffs. And they still have tippets and now the classic scooped neckline.  We often see the houppelande with the high neck!


Image- (Temperance winding her clock). Christine de Pizan, Épître d’Othéa. Paris, c.1406


By 1400 the angel wing sleeves are all over Europe! The French have made them very full and long, often dragging on the floor! And often with elaborate dagging, especially in Germany. We see them right along side the wide hanging sleeves.


The fitted surcoat with wide hanging sleeves by 1415 however has become a style of the minor nobility and of the middle classes. The upper nobility wear the houppelande almost exclusively by then. The large pendant like sleeves have also become an essential part of the houppelande.


The houppelande also has a high collar, by the 1420’s this collar will lay open and drape across the shoulders.


Often the garments of the early 1400’s show a re emergence of highly decorated fabrics, there is lots of embroidery and patterns woven into the fabrics.