Medieval Lady’s Costume

THE MEDIEVAL LADY CIRCA EARLY 1300s

I have created this page to tell you something about some of the outfits I wear when in role as a lady and how I made them.

This pic below is one of my oldest outfits which has been added to several times. This is one of my lady’s outfits and this picture was taken at a banquet at Cosmeston Medieval Village in South Wales a couple of years ago.

 

Cosmeston Banquet outfit
Cosmeston Banquet outfit

 

The black overdress is called a surcoat, it is made of black cotton velvet and is braided and beaded around the neckline. This was the first garment I ever made and it is very versatile as I have two different under dresses and various head dresses to go with it. This under dress is made of silk and satin – the red sleeves are a very expensive silk wedding fabric that I bought one metre of in a local haberdashery store and the rest of the dress is a cheaper satin.

The head dress is called a torque and is made of the same black velvet which again is beaded and braided to match the overdress. The front motif on the torque is goldwork and this is a piece that I bought some years ago on a trip to New York when we stayed near the garment district which was fabulous. So much bead and braid in the shops there – heaven!

The torque is made from stiffened hessian, the top and side pieces are cut then lined with inner and outer fabric then stitched together ( a very tough process resulting in sore fingers and occasional blood!) Beading and braid can then be added.

The torque is traditionally worn with a veil on top of the hat which is pinned to it and a wimple underneath the chin which is a rectangle of fabric pinned round the head before the hat is put on. I am wearing a beaded hairnet to keep all my locks in place!

The bag that is hanging from my belt is made by my very talented friend Kat and features some fabulous goldwork – here is a close up pic.

Goldwork bag
Goldwork bag

 

The fleur de lys motif is made from couched strands of gold and silver thread to form the outline with beads in the centre and then gold braid is used round the edges of the motif and the pouch flap.

The surcoat can be worn with any number of different under dresses which can also be worn on their own . This was the first one that I made to go with this outfit. This dress is made of yellow brocade and here I am wearing it with the black velvet torque and bag but with the addition of tippets on the sleeves.

Yellow brocade dress with tippets
Yellow brocade dress with tippets

Tippets are cuffs pinned (in my case so they can be removed) or stitched to the dress at the elbow with long trailing parts which can be either plain or shaped (dagged). Mine are wavy edged and have small bells sewn on them and braid and beading at the top. They are purely decorative and meant to show that I have enough money to be able to waste my fabric and beads! There are lots of original manuscript pictures of gowns with tippets on de Vauxchamps’ web site.

This pic shows the detail of the top of the cuff of the tippet and the one below shows the braid on the bottom of the sleeve.

The braid and beads on the tippet cuff - this is the same braid as on the black velvet surcoat edges
The braid and beads on the tippet cuff - this is the same braid as on the black velvet surcoat edges
My very expensive (£8 a metre1) sleeve braid
My very expensive (£8 a metre!) sleeve braid

 

In this picture below I am wearing the same dress and tippets but with a yellow torque to match the dress.

At Cosmeston Medieval Village again
At Cosmeston Medieval Village again

This pic shows the detail of the torque – I have used the same buttons as on the tippets and similar braid to the dress sleeve. I pick up braid, beads and buttons whenever I can and have a huge stash – just in case – of all sorts of pretty things. The original gold and black braid for the dress sleeves I found in a local haberdashers about 5 years ago . Then I was in Spain visiting my Mum a couple of years ago when we went shopping in Alicante and found exactly the same braid in all black which I just had to buy and later made the torque with.

The yellow torque
The yellow torque

I have a selection of lovely belts with pewter embellishments on them. For more info on the source of these belts please see the Peasants Costume page. For my lady’s outfits I have belts with many more embellishments as you can see in the detail pic below.

Black leather belt with cast pewter embellishments
Black leather belt with cast pewter embellishments

I also wear this dress with other head dresses. Here I am at Glastonbury Abbey (in the apple orchard!) wearing a style of head dress called crispinettes. With the crispinettes the veil is put on first then pinned to the sides of the ear pieces. And yes this is a very similar look to the one Princess Leia wore!

Crispinettes
Crispinettes

These are made of Ridgeuline (plastic corset boning)  which is cut to length, covered in ribbon, sewn together in cages for the side of the head and a circle for the top and then filled with false hair encased in a very fine hair net. The whole thing is then beaded to co-ordinate as you can see in the detail pic below.

Beading on the crispinette cages and circlet
Beading on the crispinette cages and circlet

This was the very first head dress I made and I am very proud of it though it is getting a bit worn out as it forms part of my head dress talk and has been tried on by loads of visitors to our shows.

If you want to know more about any of the head dress types shown please visit my very talented friend Kat’s web site – it has pics of many more types of head dress , pics of all her lovely pouches and extensive research telling you which is right for which period. The woman is nothing short of a genius!

16 thoughts on “Medieval Lady’s Costume

  1. Hi Alison,

    What a great idea for a series of articles – looks like you have really thought about your blog. Whereas mine is just a crazy assortment of disparate bits and pieces, thrown together as and when I feel like it.

    Something you may be able to help me with.

    I am putting together a Knights Templar set of kit for next year. I should be OK with all the armour, but I also need some soft kit. I am aiming for a time period of ~1290. do you have any references to ecclesiastical / Templar outfit for that period?

    I have found some information that talks about a long dark tunic and I was wondering whether this would have hood “built in” or whether a hood would be separate. Also, how closely fitting should the sleeves be? I’ve seen pictures that appear to show both tight and loose fits.

    Cheers

    Carl

  2. Well yes I do try – I get a lot of hits for medieval search terms so though this might be interesting for people. Will see what I can find about templars in my books.
    Thanks
    Alison

  3. Hello Alison,

    I’m very much enjoying your blog, thankyou for sharing this with us all! I’m new on the proverbial block that is medeaval reenactment and for my very first outfit I would just love to attempt to make a crispinette!

    I’m not asking for you to give away your trade secrets, but I don’t know where to start! If you have any advice or hints you are happy to share I would be very grateful.

    I’ll be sure to make a blog of my endevour, it’s going to be a sunny yellow gown. With a black and yellow surcoat and matching black and yellow cripsinette. My boyfriends heralrdy is black and yellow, he’s a knight..so I’ve “married” into nobility haha. Which means I get to wear the pretty stuff right from the off! Huzzah!

    Have a great christmas and new years, hope to hear from you sometime :) Godspeed
    -Charlotte

    • Hello Charlotte
      Thank you for visiting my blog and good luck with your costume making. If you would like to e-mail me at alison.gorf@yahoo.co.uk I can let you know some good sources of costume info and suppliers. Which group are you with?
      Thanks
      Alison

  4. Wonderful blog — I am researching the medieval period and found your blog to be a great illumination for some of the terminology I was becoming immersed in. You do quite beautiful work and looks like you have a wonderful time!

    Best,

    Kris

    • Thank you so much for visiting and for your very kind comments – we do have a very good time and I can’t wait for the season to start again in April!
      Alison

  5. Ooohhh i love the detail on the crispinettes. that is stunning. i can never get mine to look good :-)

    i used to reenact this period, but currently involved in late medieval italian.

    Great Blog

    Have fun

    Sarah

    • Thank you very much for visiting and I am glad that you like the blog – have not made any lady’s costume for so long as been busy with peasant stuff for the kids but did enjoy doing them. Will visit your blog as well soon.

  6. A really interesting blog – thank you.
    I make costumes for local am. dram. groups and your pics have been a great source of inspiration for some medieval costumes I’m making at the moment = thanks again.
    Where do you perform your re-enactments? I live in S.W. Wales and would love to come and see one?
    Kind Regards
    Jacky

    • Hello Jacky
      Thanks very much for visiting and for your lovely comments – glad the pics have been useful. We do re-enactments all over the country but the nearest ones to you would be Tewkesbury, Glos in mid July and Caldicot Castle near Newport the second weekend in September.
      Alison

  7. Hello and Well Met!
    I was wondering if you could do a step-by-step on making the Crispinettes? I understand in theory but if you could do how you made yours? It would help so much!

    Yours is the first I have found to make Crispinettes so I am excited to find it!

    • I’ve seen a few others talk about using corset boning. You can use buckram (possibly doubled up) to make the criss-cross base. Cover each piece with fabric, then sew them in place in a way the diamond shapes appear to be even. The circlet itself doesn’t need to be stiff. I had made a pair of ear cauls/templers. The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant simply says to fold a strip of cloth in half and sew the cauls to it. It’s best to attach them to the “headband” strip then decorate the crispines or cauls. If you make cauls you’d cover with fabric, I suggest buying fascinator bases in a tear drop shape. Just snip off the point and it’ll blend right in to the circlet/headband.

      If you want to use fake hair as stuffing, buy a very fine hair net in a matching hair color and possibly fold it in half before stuffing the hair into it. Hair for dreadlocks comes in super long sets and has a more accurate texture when braided. They come in tons of colors. Just sew the netting together with matching thread. Alternatively this is also a great way to do create hair pads for more authentic ancient Chinese hairstyles. With the netting, you can use hair pins with no trouble.

  8. I also was hoping you might do a step by step tutorial on how to make these. I am in the Kingdom of Artemasia, Griphon’s Lair in the western USA,

  9. I adore seeing the detail work. For one, I’m glad I’m not the only one who uses these types of trim. I often look up upholstery trim since that seems to be the only accurate looking trim to find these days. I’ve seen Kat’s hats before, and obsessing — I mean admiring them — had inspired me to branch out and try my own work. I’m slowly getting somewhere. I do love that velvet bag as well. Everything you have coordinates so well, yet change the headdress and it’s a new look.

    • Thanks for visiting Ann and for your very useful tips about headdresses, buckram would be lot easier to use if I make another pair. Am due to make a torque at some point to go with my daughter’s red and green velvet dress. Kat is a genius isn’t she and so lovely and helpful, she has taught me so much and I wish that I was nearer to be able to join in some of her workshops.

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