High Medieval Foul Weather Clothing

1.0 Introduction
1.1 The Easiest Answer

1.2 Garnache (Hooded Tunics) in Artwork
1.3 Mantles in Artwork
1.4 Hoods in Artwork

2.0 Answering the Question
3.0 Surviving Hoods
3.1 Skjoldeham Hood
3.2 Greenland Hoods
3.3 Bocksten Man Hood
3.4 La Verna Hood
4.0 Surviving Mantles and Chasubles
4.1 High Status Mantles
4.2 Low Status Mantle
4.3 “Coronation Mantle” of King Stephen of Hungary
5.0 Pattern Requirements and Development
5.1 First Pattern
5.2 Second Pattern
5.3 Third Pattern
6.0 Materials and Construction Techniques
7.0 Execution
7.1 Resulting Garment
8.0 Summary
8.1 Bibliography

1.0 Introduction

Like most of my projects, this one began with dissatisfaction with an aspect of my reenactment portrayal. To date, I have used a combination of a hood and half circle mantle as outer layers against the wet and cold. The good side to these garments was that they could be mixed and matched based on conditions and didn’t require much research and development to construct.

Rather than starting with the answer and finding research to support it, a better approach is to ask a question and to answer it through research. The question for this project is: What would a city dwelling craftsman in the late 12th century do to protect himself against the cold and rain? If the answer involves an object, how was it made? The first part of my question can be answered with artistic and literary sources. Construction questions will be addressed by evaluating extant examples.

1.1 The Easiest Answer

Previous foul weather clothing

The first possible answer is to stay indoors or get wet. The number of possessions owned by modern people would be mind-boggling to historical people of equivalent social status. We take things like raincoats, umbrellas, wellington boots, and insulation layers for granted; most people have access to appropriate clothing for any given weather where they live. In the early to high middle ages, the cheapest solution would be to stay indoors or under the eaves of buildings. A bit of chill and damp from a walk to the well during foul weather is quickly cured when back indoors. Besides that, the wool outer garments they wore were naturally water-resistant and stay warm when wet. Why go through the expense and trouble of having more garments when the issue is so minor? I don’t meant to argue that city dwellers always went without outer layers. Instead I’m pointing out that automatically putting historical people in foul weather clothing would be an assumption based on modern bias and not historical evidence. The person I portray is also a part time soldier, a serviens or serjeant, and could reasonably expect to be stuck out of doors for extended periods of time. Most modern reenactment happens in and around encampments. While participating I can expect to spend days on end in cold and wet conditions without the luxury of retreating indoors. Both are reason enough for me to explore more ways of keeping warm.

1.2 Garnache (Hooded Tunics) in Artwork

With that disclaimer out of the way, I can get into the more interesting answers. There are several types of foul weather clothing which show up in iconography and archeology. They are broadly categorized as hooded tunics or garnache, mantles, and hoods.

  • Bodleian Library, MS. Auct. D. 2. 6, f. 6v, England, ca. 1139-1158.
  • Church of Saint Jacques, Aubeterre sur Dronne, France, ca. 1160-1171.
  • Liber ad Honorem Augusti, bbb-cod. 120.ii f. 129r, Sicily, ca. 1194-1196.
  • Gospels of Henry the Lion, BSB Clm 30055 f. 111, Germany, ca. 1188.
  • Psalter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KW 76 F 13 f.3v, France, ca. 1180-1185.
  • Psalter, MS M.338 f. 77r, Tournai, Belgium, ca. 1200.
  • Canterbury Passionale, Harley 315 f. 15v, Canterbury, England, ca. 1123-1150.
  • Life of Guthlac, Harley Y 6 Roundel 7, England, ca. 1175-1225.
  • Obituarium and Commentary on the Rule of St Benedict, BL 16979, f. 21v, St Gilles, France, ca. 1129.
  • Decretum by Gratianus, Amiens, BM 0354 f. 72, Amiens, France, ca. 1175-1200.

Garnache (cotte, etc.) are particularly interesting garments to me. I have most often seen artistic representations from Britain, France, and Germany in the mid-twelfth century. This may be the result of implicit bias of my manuscript sources which could only be fixed with statistical analysis. Garnache would become particularly popular in the 13th century among the merchant class and above, but for now they are usually depicted on lower status masculine individuals. Most of the examples depicted above are worn by people who work in all weather. An exception is a disguised Richard I in the Liber ad Honorem miniature. A garnache fills a laborer’s requirements well; the user is still able to use their hands and doesn’t have to muddle about with a mantle twisting during activity. The hood can be donned or doffed without a fuss. The other common users of this type of garment were monks and scribes. In later centuries they would become closely related to monasticism but for now other options still show up. Tunics with hoods are mentioned in the 1226 the Rule of St Francis, indicating the continued utilitarian use of the garment even as variations became fashionable.(Halsall and d’Assisi) To my knowledge there are no surviving examples of hooded tunics, though a pattern could be extrapolated from surviving tunics and hoods. I decided this garment was relatively specialized in a 12th century context and continued to look for alternatives.

  • Vita et miracula s. Mauri, Troyes, Bibl. mun. ms. 2273 f. 069v, Troyes, France, ca. 1080-1120.
  • Augustini De civitate Dei, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana IT:FI0100_Plutei_12.17 f.4r, England, ca. 1201-1210.
  • Vita et Miracula s. Mauri, Valenciennes, Bibl. mun., ms. 0500 f. 66v, France, ca. 1160-1170.
  • The Admont Bible, Vienna: Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek Ser. n. 2701 f. 84r,  	 Salzburg, Austria, ca. 1140-1150.
  • Vita et Miracula s. Mauri, Valenciennes, Bibl. mun., ms. 0500, f. 59, France, ca. 1160-1170.
  • Speyerer Evangelistar, Cod. Bruchsal 1 f. 11r, Speyer or Trier, Germany, ca. 1220.
  • Psalter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KW 76 F 13 f.4v, France, ca. 1180-1185.

1.3 Mantles in Artwork

Mantles are a popular option for much of the middle ages. The 12th century is chock full of different styles of mantles. They may be decorated with fur lining, embroidery, brocade, beadwork, cabochons, and more. They were worn fastened at one shoulder, at the front of the neck, or just draped over the shoulders. All mantles depicted in the 12th century appear to be the half-circle variety, though it is possible that blankets served as impromptu mantles. Mantles are the clear choice of the rich, from the very highest members of the social structure to the courtly retainers and lesser nobility. There are several extant examples; The Mantle of Otto IV (12th C HRE), the Chasuble of Bishop Bernhard (12th C HRE), Mantle of Roger II (12th C Sicilian), Cloak of St. Clara (13th C), as well as others from the 11th and later 13th centuries. (Coatsworth, kostym).

It is hard to draw a line across social strata where mantles stop. It’s often difficult to determine the intended social status of the less ornate figures in artwork. It is clear that the people wearing mantles are rarely performing manual labor. Instead they are talking, traveling, or sitting. I have not discovered sumptuary laws restricting the wear of mantles as of this writing. The chief limiting factor to the wear of mantles was the relative extravagance of a less practical garment. Anyone who needed to perform manual labor in all weather would prioritize more practical options.

  • The Life and Miracles of St. Edmund, Morgan Library & Museum MS M.736 fol. 9r, England, ca. 1130.
  • Church of Saint Jacques, Aubeterre sur Dronne, France, ca. 1160-1171.
  • Porta della Pescheria, del Duomo di Modena, Italy, ca. 1130.
  • Bodleian Library MS. Bodl. 614 f. 4r, England, ca. 1140-1160.
  • Antiphonary, Morgan Library & Museum MS M.966 fol. 36r, France or Germany, ca. 1200.

Mantles are also the outer garment of the poor. The above examples includes beggars, shepherds, John the Baptist (described in scripture as wearing clothes of camel hair), and individuals warming themselves at a fire. The form of these garments is very different from that of the nobility. Posh mantles already discussed were between floor and knee-length. In contrast, poor mantles are depicted at knee height or shorter and made of a shaggy material. Barring literary input, we can only speculate on if these garments are the skin and fur of an animal, raw fleeces, or woven cloth with piles. I find the pile cloth or fleece to be most likely for reasons of cost, as sheep skin can otherwise be used to make vellum or leather. It is also unclear if these are purpose made mantles, repurposed blankets, or a mixture of the two. I decided to not go with either of these styles of mantle because of the social status implications. While they were worn by the extremes of the social ladder, use by the artisan class is somewhat uncertain.

1.4 Hoods in Artwork

The final option for foul weather clothing is hoods. Starting in the mid-13th century, hoods were a fashion item with a myriad of decorative elements. In the late 12th and early 13th centuries they seem to have a more practical focus. The demographics depicted wearing hoods are masculine laborers, travelers, cripples, and scribes. None of the depicted hoods seem to have shaping around the face or chin and the bottom hems are straight. In other centuries they could be dagged or angled, but I have not noted examples in this context. These hoods usually boast an early version of liripipe, a tail at the back of the head. These liripipes usually have a distinct wedge shape and seem to be no longer than the depth of the head. Hoods with shoulder-length capes appear occasionally, but longer ones are much more prevalent.

  • Psalter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KW 76 F 13 f.105v, France, ca. 1180-1185.
  • Psalter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KW 76 F 13 f.111v, France, ca. 1180-1185.
  • Psalter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KW 76 F 13 f.124r, France, ca. 1180-1185.
  • Psalter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KW 76 F 13 f.11v, France, ca. 1180-1185.
  • Psalter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KW 76 F 13 f.10v, France, ca. 1180-1185.

Hoods with long capes (sometimes known as cappa) show up in a wide variety of manuscripts alongside other foul weather clothing. Rather than being the same length all the way around, there are often accommodations to enable the wearer to use their hands. I have noted two ways this was accomplished. The front of the garment may be shortened while the back remained long, creating a sweeping profile. Another approach is to leave the front of the cape open from the bottom hem up to the neck. Some example seem to have neither accommodation. Shaggy material shows up on some of these examples like the mantles. To date I have found no evidence of a separate hood being worn over a mantle in the late 12th to early 13th centuries.

  • Porto Della Pescheria in Modena, Italy, ca. 1140-1160.
  • Vita s. Gregorii Magni, VALENCIENNES, Municipal Library, 0512 (470 bis) f. 100v, ca. 12c.
  • Vita Christi (Life of Christ), The Morgan Library and Museum, MS M.44, France, 1175
  • Canterbury Psalter, BnF, Mss., Latin 8846 f. 54v, England, 1175-1200.
  • Psalter, BL Arundel 157 f. 3v, England, ca. 1200-1225.
  • Psalter, BL Harley 2895 f. 1v, France, ca. 1175-1200.
  • Gospel Book, Morgan Library & Museum MS M.565 fol. 38r, Saxony, Germany, ca. 1210-1220.
  • Psalter, MS M.521r, Canterbury, England, ca. 1155-1160.
  • Psalter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KW 76 F 13 f. 2v, France, ca. 1180-1185.
  • Légendier, Angers, BM, 0807 (0723) f. 85v, France, ca. 1150-1200.
  • Psalter, BL Royal 1 D X f. 1v, England, ca. 1200-1220.
  • Itinerarium peregrinorum et gesta regis Ricardi, Cambridge MS Ff.1.25.4 f. 126v, England, ca. 1240-1260.

2.0 Answering the Question

My decision for my project was this final form of hood. Short in the front, long in the back, stubby angular liripipe, and a smoothly shaped hem. The next problems to solve were the pattern and materials and techniques to assemble it with. Both answers need to come from extant garments. No hoods of the period survive, so I had to broaden my search to adjacent eras and other garments.

There are two ways to look at the target garment. Is this a mantle with a hood grafted on, or a hood with a long shoulder cape? The two different considerations for hand use may provide a clue. The split garment is very similar in concept to a mantle, wrapping around the body and fastening at the neck. The style which is complete all the way around and shorter in the front is similar in concept to long hood. It also closely resembles an ecclesiastic garment called a bell chasuble. Before deciding which patterning approach to follow, I looked at the available information from surviving garments.

3.0 Surviving Hoods

Hoods never had the same sort of ceremonial or ecclesiastic use as mantles and very few survive. Most what survives comes from exhumations of one type or another. Unfortunately, most of Europe does not have the right sort of climate and soil for fabric preservation. This means that these extant hoods have bias toward areas with favorable conditions, which tend to be Northern.

3.1 Skjoldeham Hood

The hood which is closest in dating to my target of 1191 is the well known Skjoldeham hood from a bog burial in modern day Norway. The find has been radio-carbon dated to the late 11th century, only a century away from my target date.(Løvlid) Fashion of the time moved relatively slowly, so these artifacts are potentially very insightful. The find was attributed to a member of the Norwegian ethnic group in a 1938 study by Gutorm Gjessing, but more recent research has cast this evaluation into doubt. Dan Halvard Løvlid demonstrated significant similarities between the Skjoldeham finds and the traditional clothing of the indigenous Sami ethnic group. DNA analysis of the remains conducted in 1999 originally reported that no genetic markers attributed to the Sami were present, but this conclusion has since been discounted by one of the individuals who conducted the tests. Anders Gotherstrom of Archaeological Research Laboratory at Stockholm University has stated “Much in genetic science has changed since then, and the data they had access to was not good enough to draw the conclusions (in regards) to sex and ethnicity, with the certainty that they did in 1999”.(Løvlid) This new information and the anthropological fact that culture is a social construct and not a genetic one means there can be no genetic proof of an individual’s culture. Due to these complications, the information given by the find must be regarded with significant suspicion. The image below illustrates strong similarities between the Skjoldeham garments and traditional Sami garments. For more on the subject see Løvlid cited below.

The Skjoldeham hood is a simple construction of two square shaped godet panels and one rectangular body panel. The article is assembled with each square canted so that opposing corners connect with the bottom edges of the main rectangular panel. It is embellished with a sort of raised “comb” on top of the head and cords attached to each side, presumably for tensioning the garment. There are no cut-outs or shaping for the chin or face and the rear of the hood forms a point. The main takeaways from this garment are the large front and back godets which connect the sides of the single piece body.

Skjoldeham hood, Skjoldeham Tromso Museum

3.2 Greenland Hoods

The next examples of surviving hoods are unfortunately farther from my target, coming Greenland in the 14th century. Of the sixteen hoods two have been radiocarbon dated; D10605 to 1390-1490 and D10606 to 1380-1440. The others have been dated based on the context of the finds. Even though these examples are two hundred years away from my target, I didn’t have the opportunity to be picky. These examples give the chance for small scale statistical analysis and provide design clues which may have remained through the centuries.

I have information about five hoods in this assemblage which have relatively large capes and are classified by Norlund as Type 1. They range from 1260mm-1540mm in fullness and lengths which seem to have reached the shoulders. All hoods of this type were constructed with a two piece body and have a front godet. One example, D10596, also has a godet at the rear of the garment. All others of the type have patterning which mimics the function of this rear godet with a broad flare of the body piece. D10596 also is slightly longer at the back than the front. This is facilitated by angled cuts at the bottom of each body panel and a generous curve to the hem of the rear godet. One of the main patterning issues with hoods is that the garment must go from the circumference of the wearer’s head to the circumference of their shoulders in a short distance. If the flare begins too low on the garment, it will bunch around the neck. Three of these garments addressed the issue by starting the flare above the chin level. D10596, is too degraded to make a determination and this information is not available about D10599.

The second type of hood from the Greenland assemblage is characterized by shorter capes. These eleven hoods are also patterned with two piece bodies. In contrast to the front and back godets and flare of Type 1 patterns, this type has side godets. The fullness Type 2 hoods ranges between 630mm-1210mm. This means there is no overlap where a Type 1 pattern has a smaller cape than a Type 2 pattern. The sample size is too small to claim there was a hard rule in manufacture, but there is a clear trend. The side godets, and indeed the whole hood may be pieced together. The goal of all piecing seems to combine available material into panels which match the shapes from non-pieced garments. See especially D10601 and D10603. The body panels of these hoods do not seem to flare toward the bottom hem. Side godets are inserted such that their peak is in line with the face opening. Of the available sixteen examples of both Type 1 and 2, seven of the garments are finished with two rows of “stab stitching” at the edge of the face opening. Two had the same technique applied to the bottom hem. This stitch is similar to a very small running stitch, but the needle is angled away from the direction of stitching each time it passes through the material, emerging on the other side through the hole of the previous stitch. This very tight stitching both stiffens and reinforces the material. All hoods with remaining traces of a liripipe appear to have a short section formed from the same pieces as the hood body. My main clues from the Greenland examples which have been used in the 12th century are the ubiquitous use of two piece construction and the two techniques to achieve the necessary fullness.(Østergård 203-218)

Bocksten Man Hood (Coatsworth)

3.3 Bocksten Man Hood

The next surviving hood to discuss is the Bocksten Man hood. Like the Skjoldeham hood, it was found on a bog body in Northern Europe, this time in Varberg, Sweden. The hood is roughly contemporary to the Greenland finds, being dated to 1350-1370 according to a combination of dendrochronology and costume historical evidence. The hood is similar to the Greenland hoods in many ways. It falls neatly into the Type 1 pattern with its bottom hem reaching 1600mm. It sports a front godet and large arcing flare on the rear of the body panel mimicing a rear godet, shaped chin, and partially contiguous liripipe. In contrast to the Greenland hoods, the body of this example is constructed from a single piece of fabric. The edges of the bottom hem were extended by a few centimeters at each shoulder by adding long slivers of material. My main takeaways from this example are to confirm the information from Greenland is not merely the product of a disassociated population on a wind-swept island, but is relatively close to the fashion of the continent. It also adds the extra variation of a single piece body construction. (Coatsworth 37-39) Just like the Greenland examples, all of this information is tainted by the fact it’s two hundred years too late. I have made progress toward the goal but before I can begin, this needs to be translated into the patterning techniques and trends used in the high middle ages.

3.4 La Verna Hood

The final surviving hood is dated to 1290 according to an unknown basis and attributed to Giovanni della Verna. It is in the museum of La Verna Franciscan Monastery in Tuscany. If its provenance and dating can be verified, I think it could be an important data point. Contrary to the other hoods, this heavily repaired garment appears to have been patterned with separate head and shoulder pieces. I have not been able to find any more information about it from scientific publications and will make updates if I can find out more.

“Monk’s Hood Worn by Giovanni della Verna (1259-1322) Hood dated to 1290”

4.0 Surviving Mantles and Chasubles

Mantles and Chasubles were used as high status and ceremonial garments from the early middle ages to present day. There are many examples from the migh middle ages which survive and the list below does not include all of them. This group was chosen because of their relevance to the time period, historical reliability, and to illustrate certain points.

4.1 High Status Mantles

The main constraint of mantle patterns is the width of the fabric. Most surviving mantles are either too covered in decoration or too fragmentary to show seam lines, but he Mantle of Emperor Otto IV illustrates the concept. The pattern simply creates a large enough piece of fabric to wrap around the entire body and is shaped to fall to an even length when worn. Some mantles, like the Mantle of Thomas Becket are made of fabric which was wide enough to make an entire mantle without a seam. While most garments of the 12th century are cut with straight lines, the bottom edges of mantles is an exception. While the front edge is straight, the bottom hems are curved continuously to create a half circle. They may have relief cuts for the neck such as on the Mantle of King Roger II of Sicily (Coatsworth 84-88), mantle of St Kunigunde (Coatsworth 100-102), and Mantle of Thomas Becket(Simon-Cahn).

Mantle of Emperor Otto IV (Kulturerbe Niedersachsen)

4.2 Low Status Mantle

The sole surviving example of a low status mantle I am aware of from the 13th century is the mantle of St Clara. All images I have found of this garment show it displayed on an mannequin or stand. This makes the evaluation of its pattern difficult, beyond being roughly half circle in shape. It is constructed from a bulky and coarse wool which should make obvious steams, but none are apparent. I have been able to find the following description of the garment and modifications which seem to have been made to it “This cloak is made of a piece of cloth about 55 cm wide and 356 cm long, which is gathered with a seam of about 20 cm on the edge of the collar to form a cape. The cloak is open in front and now also in the back; the pieces of cloth used for (the repair of) Francis’ habit are missing from the cloak at the point where the middle seam once was.”(Flury) I find it interesting that the low status garment seems to be made with the same large curve as the high status garments, and without significant piecing.

Mantle of St Clara, Convent s.Chiara in Assisi, 13th C

4.3 “Coronation Mantle” of King Stephen of Hungary

Half circle mantles and chasubles may seem like different garments in modern thinking, but this was not always the case in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. By this time, some mantles had achieved the status of ceremonial garments both in the clergy in a slightly different form. Rather than being fastened by a brooch, the straight edges of a mantle are sewn together, creating a sort of cone. A gap is left open at the peak, which the head passes through, creating the bell shape this type of chasuble is named for. Some surviving garments even crossed the boundary between secular and ecclesiastic. The “Coronation Mantle” of King Stephen of Hungary began its life as a chasuble (ca. 1031) according to decorative text on the garment itself. The front edges of the garment were originally joined, creating the conical shape. In the early 13th century, the front seam of the chasuble was opened up and collar added to create its current configuration. This change may have caused the pleats visible just below the collar, making the garment look like it is more than half of a circle. I have not been able to find further clarification about the pattern of this garment.

Mantle of King Stephen of Hungary (Hungarian National Museum)

5.0 Pattern Requirements and Development

For my own project I decided to go with the style of hood which is shorter in the front than the back and does not have the front split. In my mind, the more appropriate way to approach the garment is to consider it hood-like. While patterns have somewhat graduated from being completely angular in the late 12th century, half circles are still very geometric shapes. In order for a chasuble-patterned garment to be shorter in the front than in the back it would need to be elliptical or a similar shape. I have not seen any extant garments of the period with that sort of abstract shape. Beginning with a chasuble or mantle pattern could be a valid option for one of the garments with a split in the front or constant length all the way around, but that is not what I was making.

5.1 First Pattern

Using a hood-like pattern presents challenges when trying to match the look of the garment from medieval iconography. The hem of the garment is always depicted as rounded and flowing, not angular. Much of the challenge of this pattern was maintaining the style of patterning used in the 12th century and matching the silhouette from iconography.

My first concept for a pattern was based on the same principles as the Type 1 Greenland hoods. First I had to take the 14th century patterns and adjust them to match the patterning style of my chosen context and the silhouette from artistic depictions. I included no shaping around the face or chin. The integral tongue of liripipe as on the 14th century examples seemed like a later innovation, and was omitted. Its addition would make the body panels unnecessarily wider since there would be no faux godet in the rear. My first pattern had a single body piece which went over the head and godets in the front and back. In order to get enough fullness and the length in the back, I made the back godet significantly larger than the front. Both were isosceles right triangles with the hypotenuse forming the hem. The body piece was also extended by piecing, an attempt to smooth the transition from front to rear. This idea was discarded before mock-up. Based on my concept sketches, the lines of the body extensions and rear godet would meet at a sharp angle instead of the smooth shape I was looking for.

First pattern

5.2 Second Pattern

In order to smooth that transition between godet and body piece, I drafted the rear godet as smaller. Two large pieces formed an acute isosceles triangle panel. The front godet remained an isosceles right triangle. This version made it to the mock-up phase but it also had issues. The angles at the rear hem of the garment were gone, but the cape didn’t have enough fullness. The garment was also riding up on my neck and shoulders.

This draft also had issues with the hemline. My front godet needed to be narrower to smooth out the silhouette of the bottom hem like I had already done in the back. The problem with making the front godet narrower was it was how I changed the height of the hem. This was the difference between one half of the hypotenuse and one of the legs of the isosceles right triangle making up the front godet. The original math meant the front was still about 70% of the length of the back. This a marginal decrease at best, and the effect would diminish if I narrowed the front godet.

Second pattern

5.3 Third Pattern

I had four issues to fix with the next version: bunching of the neck, not enough fullness, angular hem, and hem which needed to smoothly change height. My answer to the first problem was a simple adjustment of godet height. All three of the others would be answered by the creative insertion of godets.

While all of the extant hoods above had at most two godets, none of them needed nearly as much fullness as mine. Garments of the period which addressed a similar problem are the Kragelund Tunic from Denmark dated to 1045-1155 and Moselund Tunic from Denmark dated 1050-1155. They both flare dramatically over the length of the garment. The designers did this by inserting front and back as well as side godets with pleats at the top.(Ostergard 124-127, 135-141) I did not feel pleats were necessary in this case, but inserting godets from each direction could solve my issues.

Instead of depending on one piece of the pattern to change the hem height, I decided that every piece along the circumference should play a part to make the idealized smooth hemline from period artwork. Isosceles triangles and balanced polygons are the typical shapes of high medieval godets. In this case, they wouldn’t be enough to make the desired silhouette. In my new pattern, the front was a standard balanced triangle, but the sides godets became scalene right triangles where the hypotenuse was oriented to the rear and shortest leg became the hem. The rear godet was pieced from two more scalene right triangles, and their hypotenuses were again turned to the rear for more length. I haven’t seen any examples of surviving garments of the period with godets shaped in this way, but I think it is less of a reach than the other options. This bit of geometry made the hem at the front only about 53% of the length of the hem at the rear, right on target. This arrangement fixed all of my issues with the pattern, meaning I was ready to move on to my materials and assembly techniques.

Third pattern

6.0 Materials and Construction Techniques

All surviving hoods were constructed of heavy woolen fabric which makes sense, wool is both warm and water resistant. In particular, the wool of my period seems to have been twill weaves. The Kragelund tunic (1045-1155), Moselund Gown (1050-1155), and all relevant Greenlandic textiles are 2/2 twills.(Østergård) The one 12th century fragment of wool fabric from London is a 2/1 twill (Crowfoot), as is the cope of St Francis at the church of San Francisco (and all of its patches), the mantle of St Clare(Coatsworth). In fact, through the fourteenth century the majority of wool fabrics are 2/1 or 2/2 twill. My weave was then easy to select, a 2/2 twill. For this project I decided to buy a hand woven fabric, though not custom woven. I found a coarse natural brown wool with an unbalanced weave of 12 warps per cm and 9 wefts per cm, within the range of low status woolen garments. My concept with this choice is that the hood is a utilitarian item and not a fashion item. It would not be worn constantly, and when worn it would be outside of softer layers. I think it would be low on the priority list for dying and for the use of finer fabrics or worsted stuff.

The standard stitches used during the period were running stitches, running backstitches, backstitches, hem stitches, and stab stitches. The hand woven wool happily frayed, so flat felled seams and double folded hems were appropriate to preserve the edges. The main exception was the face which was folded once and given two rows of stab stitching.(Østergård 97-100) All stitching was done with my standard 16/2 linen thread in 2-3mm stitches.

7.0 Execution

My first task in making the actual hood was to lay out my pattern. Some of my measurements needed to be tweaked slightly to tessellate, but the whole garment was easily arranged onto my available fabric. The peaks of the side godets were placed around jaw level. I placed the rear godet higher on the neck. Both of these fitment adaptations were accordance with the Greenlandic hoods. In contrast, the face did not receive any shaping and liripipe was its own piece rather than having a tongue attached to the body. I also split the body piece in two along the crown of the head as were all Greenlandic hoods. I was comfortable including this feature because it seemed like an echo of tunics with shoulder seams, the standard of tunics from my period. It allowed for an easier arrangement of pieces on the fabric, and possibly less wastage. The only pieces of waste when laying out the pattern were small rectangles cut off the front half of each body piece, narrow strips which needed to be removed for the side godets, and a small triangle adjacent to the liripipe. The pattern required minimal piecing, only the front godet and a small section of the liripipe had to be combined before the garment was assembled.

The main construction rule I needed to follow was to assemble each pieced section into complete panels before combining these panels into the greater garment. Inserting a godet into a split section of fabric and creating a clean seam takes a little practice. It’s important to remove enough fabric and to cut the top of the split in a rounded shape. If the cutout is the right size, any wrinkling should be absorbed by the ease of the fabric (except for the masochists who work with silk). Because the wool was decently coarse I applied a linen lining to the head section of the hood, saving my neck and face from irritation. I didn’t keep track of my time sewing, but the whole thing seemed to take about two thirds as long as a tunic.

7.1 Resulting Garment

Now that I can look at the finished product of all that research, planning, and sewing I am happy with the result. I have enough fullness in the garment to extend my arms to roughly 45°. The front is short enough that I will be able to complete most tasks without hindrance. The back of the cape is long enough that it completely covers me when bending over, but it is not so long that it will get in the way when sitting. The silhouette matches the artistic sources fairly closely. The bottom hem which gave me trouble during patterning is made softer by the drape of the garment around my body. There was an un-planned byproduct caused by the weight of the wool and the stiffness of the seam attaching the liripipe to the hood. Instead of flopping down or to the side, it stands out straight from the head without any special encouragement. This is especially encouraging because it exactly what we see in iconography.

8.0 Summary

I have now answered the question of foul weather accommodations for my own historical portrayal. I started by evaluating available artistic and literary sources to decide on a garment to recreate, a hooded tunic, mantle, or hood. Once I decided on the hood, I had to trace the patterning lineage of the garment through surviving clothing of the period, both hoods and mantles. I then used that information, patterning techniques of the period, and some extrapolation of artistic depictions to create a hypothetical pattern. With all of that done, the easy part was sewing the garment together with materials and sewing techniques typical of the period.

I have put more thought and research into this project than most of my others. Now I am looking back at other pieces of clothing or equipment that should be given the same amount of attention. That process keeps me engaged with this hobby, the constant iteration and improvement, getting better than my past self. I hope some of you find the information interesting as well. If you have anything I seem to have skipped or if you come to different conclusions from the same information I’m always eager to compare notes!

8.1 Bibliography

Flury, D. Mechthild. “Saint Clare’s Patches on St. Francis’ Habit.” San Francesco – Rivista Della Basilica Di San Francesco Di Assisi, San Fransesco, 2 Feb. 1989, http://www.sanfrancescopatronoditalia.it/notizie/francescanesimo/Saint-Clare%E2%80%99s-patches-on-St-Francis%E2%80%99-habit-46687.

Gjessing, Gutorm 1938: Skjoldehamndrakten. En senmiddelaldersk nordnorsk mannsdrakt, I: Viking. A. W. Brøgger og E. S. Engelstad (red), Oslo: Norks arkeologisk selskap.

Halsall, Paul, and Francesco d’Assisi. “Internet History Sourcebooks Project.” Sourcebooks.fordham.edu, 22 Sept. 1999, sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/stfran-rule.asp.‌

Hungarian National Museum. “The Coronation Mantle.” Hungarian National Museum, 9 Feb. 2015, mnm.hu/en/exhibitions/allando/coronation-mantle. Accessed 2 Jan. 2022.‌

Løvlid, Dan Halvard 2009: Nye tanker om Skjoldehamnfunnet. Masteroppgave i arkeologi ved Universitetet i Bergen.

Østergård Else. Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland. Aarhus Univ. Press, 2009.

Simon-Cahn, Annabelle. “The Fermo Chasuble of St. Thomas Becket and Hispano-Mauresque Cosmological Silks: Some Speculations on the Adaptive Reuse of Textiles.” Muqarnas, vol. 10, Brill, 1993, pp. 1–5, https://doi.org/10.2307/1523166.

Thurston, Herbert. “Cope.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 17 Dec. 2021 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04351a.htm&gt;.

Verheyen, Rev. Boniface, and Benedetto da Norcia. “Work Info: Holy Rule of St. Benedict – Christian Classics Ethereal Library.” Christian Classics Etherial Library, 1949, ccel.org/ccel/benedict/rule/rule. Accessed 2 Jan. 2022.‌

Digital Manuscript Repositories Accessed


4 thoughts on “High Medieval Foul Weather Clothing

  1. Thank you for this article. I learned some new things about hoods and hooded garments.
    The Giovanni Della Verna hood is in the Museo di Chiusi della Verna in Tuscany. You can see it on the top left hand side of this site. https://www.laverna.it/en/sanctuary/museum/
    The museum also holds one of the habits of St Francis. Could that be a remnant to a hood at the top?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, thank you! I will have to get in contact with the friars there.
      That could be a hood, it’s not really clear. Scientific testing for date has not been performed on the tunics attributed to St Francis in Verna or Assisi, only the Santa Croce and Cortona tunics. The pattern of the Verna tunic is a Norland Type 1A which is vaguely accurate to the period, so it could be real.


  2. Very nice project, I like your research and information. I have searched your mistery hood and found its location: it is in the ‘Santuario Franciscano’ in la Verna, Tuscany, Italy. Of you open their website laverna.it and open the ‘museum’ page you can see the hood in the picture on the top of the page. Hope you will be able to study it. ( and I love the pictures of your feline assistent)

    Liked by 1 person

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