These notes are based on my research and observations from thousands of manuscripts, paintings, statues, effigies and frescoes, along with wardrobe accounts, and contemporary writings of the 14th century and into the first quarter of the 15th century. All the imagery and art works I used in this research are dated and have a location of origin. Some of this builds off of previous research of others- With sources and further reading provided web resources and recommended books pages. This is a living site and a work in progress. Please do not share my documents or artwork without permission, however it may be used for personal research as long as proper credit is given.
My main focus is on the general progression of the 14th and early 15th century styles in mainland Western Europe- what is currently Northern Spain, Northern Italy, France, Netherlands, Germany, and a touch of Bohemia, and England. I also will be discussing fabrics and basic construction.
I have purposely excluded the Moy gown and the Greenland finds from this study, unless directly mentioned, but should you desire more information about them I highly recommend Woven into the Earth by Else Østergård, or Medieval Garments Reconstructed by Lilli Fransen Anna Nørgård and Else Østergård.
I will briefly discuss mantels/cloaks, head coverings, tippets, shoes, and other accessories from the period, but not how to draft patterns or construct these items. Whenever possible I will list further readings for these items in the Appendices.
I want to give a big heartfelt thank you to those who have supported me in my efforts- David Eyestone, Jennifer Getty, Sherri Keller, Grant Johannes, Kimberly Lepak, Charles De Bourbon, Charlotte Mathilde Johnson, and many many others. Thank you!
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, and from region to region. For the sake of simplicity I will be calling the skin layer an Underdress, the middle layer a Kirtle, and the outer layer fashion layer a Surcotte or Cotte interchangeably. Please note that oftentimes the term Cotehardie or Gothic Fitted Dress are often used to describe a tightly fitted women’s garment, which could be both a kirtle or a surcotte. Over those three layers a Mantel, a type of cloak,may be worn for warmth or pomp. See the Basic Layers section to get a more in depth idea of these garments.
As we travel through the 14th century and later both the Sideless Surcotte and the Houppelande come into fashion which are both distinct in form from the surcotte.
A Robe was a term used to denote a set of clothing ordered at the same time, similar to a capsule wardrobe of today. Often it would consist of a Kirtle, a Surcotte, a Mantel and sometimes a hood.
A Tippet is a long thin fabric hanging from the sleeves. Often these were white and lined with fur, although we do see a few colored and dagged ones in certain regions.
A Fitchet is a slit in the surcotte that was used to access the purse and other accessories that were attached to the belt worn over the kirtle.