View Full Version : Medieval clothing identification

01-06-2012, 09:32 AM
Lately, while doing some historical research, I've been coming across a piece of clothing that I can't find a name for. To me, it looks almost like an over-bodice-thing. And sometimes it's one with the sleeves, and sometimes it looks like the sleeves are separate. I've got example pictures of both.

Attachment 1 - Juana la loco, 1499
I'm looking at the white... bodice. Wikipedia has it listed as a "sideless surocat," which it looks nothing like, especially since it has sides. And to top it off, the sleeves are completely different colours from both the white bodice and the orange-red skirt. The sleeves could possibly be attached and made of a different fabric, but they could be separate too.

Attachment 2 - Unidentified Manuscript, 1490
The lady in gold with a green skirt (the bride) also has an example of what I'm talking about. It looks like a gold bodice with sleeves, to me.

Anybody have any ideas? Am I mistaking some heavy surcoat trimming for separate garments? I really have no idea where to go from here.


01-06-2012, 11:29 AM
The shading on those suggests narrow channels of more or less parallel stitching. To me, that says bodies/stays, probably stiffened with reed or cord or both (especially given how some of the channels curve all over the place and some are nice and straight). I think you're on the right track with that, and also with the detachable sleeves. (trying to find an image of the pink satin boned bodice with detachable sleeves at the V&A Museum, no luck. But it exists!)

01-06-2012, 12:30 PM
Awesome. That's exactly what I was hoping for, since I at least have an idea of where to start on a boned bodice. If you do find that picture, I'd love to see it.

Thank you!

01-06-2012, 10:30 PM
Found the garment! The sleeves are laced on, but naturally they could be stitched as well.

01-14-2012, 10:21 AM
Fantastic! Thank you!

01-21-2012, 10:17 AM
Only one problem with that-- The items from the Victoria and Albert Museum are from around 1670, which is almost two hundred years out of date. A very busy two hundred years.

Judging from the illustrations in John Peacock (which is an excellent reference book that I recommend) I'd say that the bride IS wearing a sideless surcoat-- but the bodice of it is made of the same material as the dress underneath, while the skirt is made of something else. The other picture looks like the same deal in terms of sideless surcoat with contrasting skirt. (You have to look fairly closely, but you can see the underdress on the side where she's holding her skirt.) The sleeves in the first pic might be detachable (or at least be smaller, with the big loopy ones detachable over top), but I'm not sure how period that is.

01-25-2012, 05:25 PM
I can definitely see what you mean in the Peacock reference (thank you for sourcing that, by the way!) But I definitely don't see it in the other picture. I'm not sure if I'm just missing what you're referring to though?

The V&A bodice may be out of period, but so far it's the closest example I've seen to what I'm looking for. I know that there were boned bodices/stays in the early 16th century, and that stiffened clothing started occurring before that, but I can't find any examples. I'm trying to recreate the look of a form fitting bodice in a way that fits in to the period, the same way that a some of the art I've found creates that look. So, basically, the bodice before the stays/bodies.

01-29-2012, 08:03 AM
They really aren't a good place to start at all- the consturction and method of support is nothing like what was used at the start of the 16thC.

The lines in the art are simply artifacts of the method used in illumination for symbolic effect. They do not represent boning channels. Notice how those lines are present in all clothing? Even loose drapery. Also how there are no semlines as such.

Those really are sideless surcoats, they are used in art of the time to denote queenliness or saintliness- often together. Notice how Juana has heraldry all over her mantle? And the turban on the other lady?

By the very late 15thC you can be pretty sure the figure is an allegorical, religious or historcal figure.

As to construction, this is all preboning and makes use of layers for support.
Lots of lists of fabrics used for gowns.
First item for entry 12. Bokeram is for lining the bodice. And then canvas ofr the same thing in the next item.
A summary of the bits of most interest.

lots of images showing mostly clothes worn by everyday people. It should be a start on how to create the look using the practices of the day. I'd start with the shift, then a sleeveless kirtle and then create the surcoat as a slide laced gown with all the layers faked. Most depictions look like the fitted gowns with the details painted right over that. Kind of like how super hero costumes essentially were figures with the details painted on- and it was later interpretted as form fitting clothing.

02-12-2012, 04:29 PM
Thank you so much for this! That is a ton of resources and it gives me a much better starting point. Looks like I have some more research to do, but at least I know where to go from here.