Artwork by Decade

I have not yet gotten to complete this, so here is an class handout of mine as an overview! Link to google doc!

How Western European Noble Women’s clothing changed and evolved during the period and some regional differences.

The Evolving 14th and Early 15th Century Gown

By Lady Isabelle Montfort Du Bretange

(Raven Cutrano)

Cover page Images

Top left- Golden Haggadah, Spain. c1320, British Library, Add. MS27210, f. 15r, detail.

Right-  Brass Effigy of Joan Foxley, Bray, 1378 English

Bottom left- Giovanni Boccaccio, De Claris mulieribus; Paris Bibliothèque nationale de France MSS Français 598; French; 1403, 132v.

Table of Contents-

Preface and terms-                                                                           3

Early 14th Century-  buttoned sleeves!                                        4

1330-45- a new style emerges.                                                        6

1345-60 – The style sweeps through Europe!                                  12

1360-80 – Refinements in tailoring.                                                  19

1380-1400- A supportive bust!        24

1400-1425- The land of the Houppelande.                                      27

Sources/Further reading-                                  30

Image- Brass Effigy of Blanche Bradstone (1370) English

Image- Le Jugement dou roi de Navarre. Guillaume de Machaut, France, 1380-1395, F. 37r.


This class is based on my research and observations of manuscripts, paintings, statues, effigies, wardrobe accounts, and contemporary writings of the 14th century and into the first quarter of the 15th century. Some of this is based off of previous research of others- With sources provided at the end. All the imagery I am basing this research off of are dated and have a location of origin.

I will be focusing on the general progression of the style and will touch on regional differences in what is currently Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and England. I will be discussing only the visible fashion layers and will touch on items such as veils, hoods, hoods, mantels and tippets, but will not be covering in depth undergarments, shoes, or other accessories that can be found during the same time period.

A Note On Terms-

During this time it was typical to wear several layers, a skin layer, a middle layer, and an outer fashion layer. These layers had their own regional names, which often varies from the modern term ascribed to them today. For the sake of simplicity I will be calling the skin layer an under dress, the middle layer a kirtle, and the fitted out layer a surcotte or cotte interchangeably. As we travel through the later 14th century The gown and the houppelande both come into fashion, which I will define some details later.

Early 14th Century

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. Creating a long and lean silhouette.

Image-Anna Gross 1294/1300 Nurnberg Germany

Ambrogio Lorenzetti - Santa Dorotea, dettaglio Madonna con il Bambino con Maria Maddalena e Santa Dorotea - c. 1325 - tempera su legno - Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena:

layers were very common throughout Europe. a loose kirtle, with fitted lower sleeves, and a loose surcote, or a sideless surcote would go over the top. 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. The kirtle and often the surcote would trail several inches or more on the ground.

Simple Veils were common in all cultures, however ruffed veils were seen more in Germany, and Italian ladies often taped their hair, and used a mantel in addition to a sheer veil. Young fashionable Spanish women seem to prefer to keep their hair dressed and uncovered. Older women and lower classes wore wimples in addition, although these are not seen commonly in Italy.

Image Left-Johann von Steren 1319 and wife-Germany Wurzburg Burgerspital

Image Right- Ambrogio Lorenzetti – Santa Dorotea, dettaglio Madonna con il Bambino con Maria Maddalena e Santa Dorotea – c. 1325  Italy

Also something unique to Italy was the use of a high belt for definition just under the bust. This trend of a higher waist definition in southern Italy continues for most of the 14th century. Italian images often show wide gold trim around the shoulder seams, collar, and wrists.

Image- Joanna de Bohun 1327 Hereford Cathedral -English

Image- MSS Français 761 Master of the Roman de Fauvel, fl. 1330  Paris 144 ff

Image- Book of Hours (Taymouth Hours) 1325/40 f. 73 British Library note the “gris rouge” red squirrel lining.

Image Above-Irmgard von Berg 1308 Germany Frondenberg

Image left- Effigry of Alix le Latimier 1301 France

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 spread in the imagery throughout Europe, but it is most prevalent in Spain and France.

Another notable difference seen in the french Effigies is the progressive sliming of the torso of the gowns from about 1315 onwards

Spain and Italy around 1330-1345

An Interesting thing begins about 1320 in Spain. The layers begin to start to be tailored to the body. A set in sleeve is revolutionary and knowledge of buttons has spread from the holy lands. The above Image is from The love Breviary, thought to be produced around 1320. This manuscript shows that buttons are in very popular, not only on the lower sleeve, but also seen down the front for the first time. Also this manuscript shows many women with horizontal stress lines across the torso, and some waist definition indicating that some early form fitting is being attempted. The sideless surcoat is also popular in Spain, but rarely seen in Italy.

In the Italian image on the right you can see the ladies with crowns have definition to their bust, giving an impression of an empire waist. (It may be a pleated garment) Also note the interesting trim details everywhere! shoulder seams, neck lines, cuffs, gores. Lots of colors and patterns seen here.

Image- Leaf from a Cocharelli Treatise on the Vices: Accidia and Her Court, c. 1330 attributed to Cybo, Monk of Hyeres (Italian)

Buonamico di Cristofano, Buffalmacco Trionfo della Morte, Giudizio finale, Inferno e Tebaide, c. 1336 Trionfo della Morte, particolare    Materiali affresco staccato Collocazione Camposanto, Pisa Regione Toscana Genere pittura Cultura:

The Italian images of this time show some visible breast mounds on the ladies- obvious preference for broader women with smaller busts. Rounded necklines, hanging sleeves. Lots of patterns! Dressed and taped hair.

Image- Buonamico di Cristofano, Buffalmacco Trionfo della Morte, Giudizio finale, Inferno e

English: Detail from Allegory of Good Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, 1338-40  Date  1338-40  (6 March 2009 (original upload date)):

Image- Detail from Allegory of Good Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Palazzo Pubblico.

The Image to the left show the torso fitted through the bust and waist to create a broad silhouette. Parti color, dagged hanging sleeves, split surcoats to just under the Bust. Tapped hair, no veils. variety of neck lines. This styles seems to flourish in Italy for many years, with the bust becoming more fitted into 1340’s.  I do not see many Italian images with center front buttons, except a few above a tightly fitted under-bust.

Some Italian writers from the early 1340’s condemned this style, attributing it to the Spanish and French influences, Indicating that the style was flourishing in those areas first.

Image- Castel San Pietro, Chiesa Rossa, Mendrisiotto, Canto, renzo dionigi.  mural completed in 1345.

France 1330-1345

In this French image on the left, you can see the kirtle under the sideless surcote becoming form fitted. The lady on the left clearly has a defined torso and bust area, but at a more natural waist area than the Italian images.

Image- (ca. 1330-1335) France – Paris? New York, Morgan Library MS M.456: Instructions for Kings fol. 56r

In the early 1340’s contemporary writers In Italy and Germany remarked on this new fashion worn by the french nobility. Over the next decade this style would explode all over France and Flanders! It would become the major style, Obliterating the old style except for the poor and old. Whereas in Spain and Italy it would be a gradually seeping in of this style alongside the old.

Images- 14th century (1338-1344) Flemish or French – Tournai Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Bodl. 264: Romance of Alexander fol. 181v

Though not extremely fitted, but there is a lot going on in the manuscript Romance of Alexander. There is clearly a visible torso- long and lean, natural waist definition, we do not see any drape line until the hips. The kirtles underneath are tightly fitted on the lower sleeves with lots of small buttons to the elbow, and the neckline are clearly boat necked. Sometimes the neck line is even pointing downwards on the shoulders. The boat neck combined with a fitted waist often makes the torso to appear triangular.

The over gowns have hanging sleeves, or narrow tippets that hang from the back of the arm a few inches above the elbow to the middle of the thigh. The tippets appear to be an extension of the surcote sleeve and almost always lines with white- most likely fur, although some wardrobe accounts of the time often order a light weight silk for lining summer garment.

There are also small buttons on the front opening, only extending to the hips. There are often fichets to access belts/purses underneath.

Towards the end of the 1340’s the sideless surcoat seems to fade out of mainstream use, and becomes reserved for more formal occasions.

Young women in this era in france are almost never depicted wearing veils, instead they alway are shown with hair dressed in braids.

Meanwhile in England and Germany; 1330-1345

Joanna Achard 1336 Sparsholt

                                                                          Image- Detail from The Luttrell Psalter, British Library Add MS 42130 (medieval manuscript,1325-1340), f37r

Clarissa la Warre 1341

And In Germany:

Imagina von Isenburg- Limburg 1337

Elisabeth von Valkenberg 1335

Not much is happening In either England or Germany artwork at this time. The english prefer simple veils, with a bit of ruffled edge. And the germans wear many layers of frilled veils yet. But the garments are still loose and flowing. The English royal wardrobe accounts however indicate that buttons on the lower sleeves are found, along with some fitting and by 1345 buttons down the front are beginning to infiltrate the royal court, but is not yet reflected in the scarce artwork of the time. It wouldn’t be until the defeat of France in 1347 that the styles of France explode into English nobility fashion.

The Image on the left is a german depiction from the 1340. I shows a slim garment with long integral tippets, and the typical frilled or layered veil. But no buttons!

France 1345-1360

Image- Lancelot du Lac, 1345+, Tournai, BNF Ms. fr. 122 f.109v France

Back to France- We go a few years later and we start to see peaked necklines, but same basic shape. However the torso is very barrel shaped, the dress is tight enough to support the bust by compression. This was also probably necessary to make sure the wide boat neck stayed put. Also the trend seems to be in France about this time to use solid colored fabrics predominantly. 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.   

Image- Roman de la Rose. French 1350-1360 MS1126 F111r-2

During this time we also see a softer round neckline creep in. Early in the 1350’s tiny buttons go all the way up past the elbows, and the tippets are very narrow slivers.

Le Remède de Fortune, Guillaume de Machaut, 1350, French, BNF Ms. Fr. 1586 f.23

Often the tippets seem to have moved to the side of the arm and no longer integral part of the sleeve. they may be removable?  
The buttons down the front are very prominent, and by around 1350 most often go down the whole length of the garment.  The skirts also seem narrow, and often are shown with a wide band of fur trim around the hem. Often times the hem of the skirt is not excessively long, either skimming the floor, or just a few inches past.
Some of the few surviving wardrobe accounts for this period indicate that in the beginning of the 1340’s the french had heavily embroidered garments, but as the war with England dragged on, this faded due to the lack of funds. Garments themselves became more expensive across Europe due to worker shortages due to the Black Plague.

Image- Français 1586 – ca. 1350-1355, Guillaume de Machaut, Poésies, France

Spain 1345-1360

Image-1346 Ferrer Bassa. Chapelle de San Michel Monestir de Pedralbes Barcelona

The Spanish fashions during this time seem to Have a bigger preference for darker colors, and more highly patterned fabrics- stripes woven into the fabrics, along with plaids are often seen.
They also seem to have used buttons much less, and the surcoat was often split up the sides to show the fabric underneath.  There is a strong influence of embroidery around the neck and sleeve heads. The waist is less defined. There are hanging sleeves, but not the long narrow tippets of the french.
They often wear sideless surcoat with cap sleeves, or a wider back than the front to create a large oval hole for the arms.
They liked to keep their hair tied back in a simple fashion, and often wore sheer hoods that formed a peak at the center of the forehead.

Image- Hacia 1363-1375. Retablo de la Virgen. Maestro de Sigena, Museo Nacional de Arte de Cataluña, Barcelona

England 1345-1360

English – Book of Hours – Walters W105 ca.1345England seems to have found this fitted style around 1345.

This seems to be almost exactly like french women’s outfit of the same time.
Boat neck, column torso, no defined bust, integral tippets, note the fur lining, buttons down the front of the garment, and kirtle sleeves, fur-lined flitchets. Taped hair actually seems to be the exception. the effigies seam to have necklines that are less extreme boat-necks- not off the shoulder.  The buttons all the way down the front take a few years longer to become prevalent.
It seems to be more common for the English to wear a veil along with dressed braids, about this time is when the german Ruffed veils also become popular. The English silhouette seems to be a bit more natural, the barrel chest isn’t as prevalent,  but that could be be differences in skill of the artists. The English ladies also often wore the sideless surcoat. 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.

Image- Blanche Mortimer, died 1347

Image- Margaret Payer, died 1349

Germany 1345-1360

Image- Daughter of Friedrich von Truhendingen 1350Germany Scheblitz

 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 neck lines are often simple circles that are close to the base of the neck. There isn’t any evidence of sideless surcottes in germany (although there are a very few swiss ones). Often times the surcoat sleeves were long to the wrist, other times they had wide long integral tippets.    

Image-Frau von Oettingen 1358 Germany Kirchheim am Ries 

By the 1360s we do see the barrel chested form appear, and long lines of buttons down the hem.  They still have the signature veils, but a few sideless surcottes begin to pop up. 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.

Images- Speculum humanae salvationis. Westfalen od. Köln, um 1360

Italy 1345-1360

Image- The marriage Nicolo da Bologna, 1350s

Italy seems to have kept the high 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.
Hair was worn in simple braids down the back, or wrapped around a band and taped in a circle around the head.

It wouldn’t be until around 1360’s that in northern Italy at least the french gothic style of a fitted through the waist becomes popular.  
The hem also becomes shorter, while still maintaining fullness. And 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!


By the 1360 the fitted style is ubiquitous throughout Europe for the fashionable. There are still some regional trends- Such as England really liking their buttons down the front of the bodice while the rest of the western society used them mostly as a practical thing, and they faded from most garments, and the art representing them. This indicates that the surcotte would not be quite as fitted, just a touch bigger than the fitted kirtles underneath. The surcottes were probably made of wools and silks that had a body skimming effect.
The English and French also like wide white tippets, Germany (and Bohemia) also had tippets, but they came in a wider array of colors and patterns. The rest of Europe seems to have ditched them around 1370. Fitches seem to hold out on in France into 1365, and In England to about 1380.
Germany and France seemed to prefer long sleeved surcottes, While elsewhere short sleeves were common. In Italy and Spain necklines shoulder seams and sleeve cuffs are highly decorated. After the 1360’s sideless surcotte were strictly formal in France, however can still be commonly seen in Spain and England.
The Regional head wear trends of the previous decades continue- French women like their hair dressed in braids or cauls near the temples. The English and Germans preferred frilled veils, Italy likes simple braids down the back or taped in a circlet around the head. Spanish women tended to simple tie back their hair or use sheer hoods peaked upwards at the center of the forehead.

Image- Le Roman de la Rose ca.1365 France (notice long sleeves, no buttons, white tippets)

So around 1365 we start to see a change in how the bust is treated in the fitted garments. In fact the ladies actually have a bust!  The bust is in a very natural position, not pushed up high, but the garments gently surround the bust indicating sophisticated tailoring.

Image- Le Roman de la Rose ca.1365 France

Also there is a narrow waist, but the garment starts to flare significantly at the hips than previously, so there is lot more fabric in the hem, creating a bell shape. Hems rarely are longer than and inch or two below the floor.
Narrow trims of fur are on the hem and wide but rounded neckline.

Image-Andrea di Buonaiuto da Firenze Storie sacre e allegorie domenicane, 1366-1367 Location: Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, Firenze, Italy

The tailored bust won’t be the standard until the 1380’s. We still see a lot of the barrel chest going on, but the rounded neckline and floor length belled skirts common. In the Italian image on the left you can see that the Italians had a penchant for multi colored garments.
Notice the simple hair styles, and a combination of short and long sleeves. Also a rare sight of a tippet!

Image-Jeanne de France 1371 France Paris – St Denis

Image- Katherine mortimer 1369 Warwick, England

Image- Isabell Beafo 1370 Waterperry – St Mary, England

Image- Lady 1370 Germany Frankfurt am Main  

Image above- Maud Foxley 1378, English

Image-Retablo de la leyenda de Santa Lucía”, Maestro de Estamariú (1357 – 1385) Spain 

It is around this time we start to see another garment creep into fashion. The Gown or Houppelande as called by the french. It is first mentions in royal wardrobe accounts in the mid 1350’s but doesn’t become extremely popular until about 1400. Although the English seem to be particularly fond of it early on. This garment often would be worn over a kirtle in place of the fitted surcote.

Image-Margaret Albyn 1360, England

Image- Margaret Briggs 1370 Berkhamsted, England The Early

Houppelandes generally had either a wide rounded neck, or a simple round neck at the base of the neck. They had narrower sleeves that could be pushed or turned up. Often they buttoned all the way down the front. Most often the natural pleating from the drape of the fabric would run towards the shoulders, requiring quite a bit advanced tailoring to achieve.     


Image-Isabel de Malyns 1385, English

Around 1380 we start to see the bust throughout fashionable Europe to be a highly supported bust. We see indications of cleavage! In the English examples the bust most often is pushed up so that there is a smooth rounded shape to the torso, and the breasts are push as high as possible to  create cleavage near the shoulder bones.

In France, Germany and Italy a lower neckline is prefered, along with a slightly more natural shape to the bust, but it is still high and often plenty  of cleavage.

Image left- 1380’s Cecco d’Ascoli L’Acerba , La Prudence, Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

In England and france the sleeves of the kirtle have also become longer, covering a parts of the hand. However in Italy the sleeves of the surcote have become looser, often pushed up the reveal the wrist length kirtle sleeves.

Image right-Thomasin von Zerclaere, Der Wälsche Gast, in German, Germany, Trier, ca. 1380

Image-“Queste del Saint Graal slash Tristan de Léonois”, 1380 – 1385 Milan, Italy

This basic fitted bodice would continue to be seen as a supportive kirtle for almost the entire next century. It would be the outer fashion layer that would change.

Image-Nouvelle acquisition latine 1673, fol. 52, Tacuinum sanitatis, Milano (Italy), 1390-1400.

During the 1390’s we start to see another sleeve form! The angel wing. It becomes very popular in Italy. Then the French pick it up by 1395.  
The french have also adopted new hair styles- temple buns, rolled hats and in 1395- veiled horns!

Image-Flavius Josèphe, Antiquités judaïques, Auteur : Josephus, Flavius 1400

Image-Guillaume de Voisins, 1394, France.- Earliest image I have seen of the french horned headdress

In addition to the angel sleeves, we also start to see hanging sleeves. Within a few years both the Angel wing sleeves and the hanging sleeves would become extravagantly elongated.

By the 1390’s the Houppelande has become very popular.  The image on the left is an extent Houppelande of Jan Zhorelecky (1396 Prague). Although it was a man’s garment, it is one that was worn by both sexs. It is made of velvet, consisting of 19 narrow panels, which were close to floor length. (on women it would have been at least floor length)  It also has a small collar and the neck opening would sit close to the neck. The sleeves also much longer than the arm, but a bit loose so they can be pushed up.


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.

Image-Giovanni Boccaccio, De Claris mulieribus, French 1400-1415

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.

Image left- Santa Maria, Piano (Loreto Aprutino, PE, Abruzzo – Italy). St. Ursula, fresco 1420 c.

Image below-1400 Detail from monumental brass Unknown Civilian and Wife, English. Note the english still favored buttons! Bagged sleeves also more common in England.

Image-Das Schachzabelbuch, 15th century. British Library, London, UK, manuscript Add. 11616, folio 5v. German.

Please note that the fitted kirtle is still the foundation layer for all classes, and when the nobility is in domestic or agricultural scenes doing actual things, the can be depicted in the fitted kirtle with simple fitted sleeves.

See both the web pages link and the recommended reading for sources!