There are very few extant garments from this time period. Reconstructing garb therefore must be done largely from the art of the time. Sources of art include illuminated manuscripts, paintings, statues, and memorial brasses. A popular painting technique of the time was grisaille (see picture on left), which is a shades-of-gray with just a few accents of color. This lack of color will be discussed more later in this article. A final source of information used by some are the Greenland finds. However, I personally do not believe that data from these finds is particularly applicable to mainland Europe of the time. Burgundy is now part of southern France, but in the 14th century was virtually an independant kingdom. Costumers routinely agree that there are significant differances between these two areas even though they are right next to one another, share a common language and ancestry. Greenland is almost 1,000 miles away, has a very different culture and language, and was increasingly isolated due to the "mini ice-age" of the time. I would therefore be extremely cautious in applying details of the Greenland finds to French garb of the time. Other sources of information include period descriptions of garb (often in the form of church fathers criticizing the fashions of the day!). Given the unreliability of eyewitness testimony in general, I regard these accounts as limited in value. (e.g. One period account of Isabelle of France describes her as short and brunette; another as a tall vivacious blonde.)
Scholars do not always agree on the terms used to describe the garments of this time. It is currently en SCA vogue to scorn the term, but nevertheless the word "cotehardie" is in fairly common usage, and I shall employ it. This term describes a much more fitted outfit than that of the previous century. The cotehardie for both men and women has long tight sleeves, reaching the wrist at a minimum, and often reached the back of the hand. The length tends to extend as the cenury closes, but this is not a hard and fast rule. While women's sleeves tended to be very tight all the way, men's were often rather loose from the elbow up to the shoulder (see image to the right). The body is usually made close fitting with either buttons or lacing. I have not yet seen a men's cote closed in front with lacing. Towards the latter half of the century, a stuffed "pigeon chest" became fashionable. The skirt varies in length from mid-calf (especially on older men or formal occasions) to almost crotch-high, and in fullness from form-fitted to very full. Generally, the skirt shortened as the century progressed. Edges of every part of the outfit are often dagged, including hems, hood, cloak and coudières (tippets). Necklines are often unseen when worn with the common hood, but when they are seen they are boat-shaped, squarish, round, or even high "mandarin" collared (high collars tend to be later). A few Italian examples have a high collar worn unbuttoned, leaving an almost "lapel" look.
This is the time of "parti-color" or "mi-parti", where garments were often made of two or more colors. Colors, when shown, are usually bright and highly contrasting. Fabrics are solid, striped, elaborately embroidered or woven, or a mix. It's also the period of heraldic display. It is fairly well accepted that military garb worn by fighters in battle was decorated with the wearer's arms (there is an extant surcote of Edward, the Black Prince with his arms on them), probably as a means of identification on the field. However, some of these same costumers insist that the civillian garb shown with heraldic display didn't literally exist, but was instead artistic license; a figurative way to identify the person in question to the "illiterate masses". This conclusion is based on two assumptions, namely:
1. most people were illiterate
2. only famous or royal persons would be shown with heraldic clothes
I believe there is sufficient evidence to discredit the widely held myth of mass illiteracy, at least among the nobles. I just
don't believe that all the nobility commissioned books only to look at the pretty pictures because they couldn't read. This will
be presented in another section of this website at a later date. While the "unwashed masses" probably were illiterate, they certainly
did not handle or look at the expensive illuminatied manuscripts in question. For the second point, there are an awful lot of heraldic
cotes seen in various manuscripts and in funerary statues for me to believe it. Therefore, I feel it is reasonable to believe that
noble did actually wear heraldic garb, at least for formal occasions.
There are two different kinds of coudières (tippets) seen in art. This probably represents the evolution of the coudières. They started as loose sleeves on an overgarment designed to show the sleeves of the undergarment. Gradually, the length of the upper sleeves shortened while the cuff around the elbow lengthened till it became a long strip. See the picture on the left. In many of the manuscripts, this is clearly visible. Other types of coudière seem more like separate strips or ribbons attached to the upper sleeves. There is very little evidence to base this conclusion on, yet it is often presented as fact in costume books, and is a well-accepted SCA belief. I believe that when tippets are seen, you are always looking at a short sleeved overgarment with a tippet "edge" over a long sleeved undergarment (Kind of like a specialized form of trim). Whether or not the "ribbon" syle of tippet is a separate band of fabric , or a turned-back cuff, I am not sure. Medieval people kept meticulous records of belongings (to the point of listing one individuals 187 pairs of hose separately), but there is no listing for a "tippet" as a separate item of clothing that I am aware of. However, I don't think they list card-woven trim as a separate item of clothing either. In the SCA I have been told that couldières are always white; this is patently untrue and just silly.
Hoods are extremely common, worn by upper and eventually lower classes alike. They are usually quite a bit longer and fuller than is commonly seen in SCA events, reaching almost to the elbow in many cases. They sometimes are buttoned up the front (French guleron, referring to the neck piece), and were worn both open and closed. Furthermore, the hood is often seen draped over the shoulders as a sort of mantle, or worn with the head in the face opening (French visagière, the opened part around the face). The figure to the far left in this image is wearing his hood this way. Hanging from the back is a long "tail" or liripipe. The liripipe could be quite long and be elaborately knotted. Hats came in many shapes, from "Phyrigian caps", to "Robin-Hood" style, to broad brimmed round travelling hats. Hats are worn with and without hoods, occasionally over hoods as well.
Most medieveal garments were worn in layers, and the 14th century is no exception.
Under the cotehardie was an undergarment of a similar cut. The gravedigger on the left has his cotehardie and the guleron of his hood
partially unbuttoned. Men also wore short braies to cover the groin.
Tight hose, or chausses in French, covered each leg separately. Each leg ended in a point which was tied either to the undertunic or to the braies.
Hose were illustrated as quite form-fitting, and with bias cutting and knitting it is possible to achieve a close fit. To the right
is an illustration of the back view of a gentleman. If you look closely, you can see the edges of his chausses, and a bit of his braies. The heavy folds
of fabric are from his mantle, which he has slung over his shoulder.
Both fabric and knit hose have been found. Knit stockings of silk were brand new, and would have been extremely
rare and expensive. Garters are seen worn just below the knee, perhaps to enhance fit. These hose
probably wore out quickly, as evidenced by
inventories listing literally hundreds of pairs at a time when even the wealthy only owned a few (by modern standards) outfits.
Most pictures of feet show shoes or low boots of some kind. High thigh boots can be seen in hunting scenes. Occasionally, when depicted indoors, hose are shown without any obvious shoe, thus leading costumers to the conclusion the hose could be self-soled. A self-soled hose would have had leather soles instead of fabric. Whild I don't (yet!) have any firm documentation of self-soled hose, I have seen a few pictures of hose with very dark edges. Houseaulx, or leather leggings, could be worn over the chausses for riding. Footwear of the time is of the pointed-toe variety, a style that persisted for some time. Toe lengths gradually increased, and it is a common SCA belief that they eventually were pinned to the hose to prevent tripping. I have yet to see any evidence for this extreme length of toe. The longest toes I have seen do extend several inches beyond the end of the foot, but I have not seen one shown with any chain, ribbon or strings holding them up. Toe lengths increased as the century progressed.
Men are almost always shown with a belt of some kind, either a looped leather belt, or more commonly, a linked plaque belt. Both kinds were typically worn low, around the hips. Hanging from the belt is almost always a pouch or bag. There are at least three or four disctinct styles of pouch. One is the aumônière, also know as the "alms bag". This is a bell-shaped pouch, and is seen on both sexes. There are rectangular drawstring pouches, and finally over the shoulder bags for travellers, again seen on both sexes. Also seen, usually on men, is a(n) gibecière or escarcelle, which is a kidney-shaped bag that hangs from two points. For men, the escarcelle is almost invariably coupled with a dagger, or couteau-coutelace. The dagger is usually thrust through the pouch, with a button connecting the sheath to the bag. This allowed the dagger to be drawn quickly. Note that I use the term "dagger", but the length of this item often reached the knees or lower in the paintings.