With the increased variety of dressing styles, terminology for items of clothing in these early periods grows more complicated and confusing. Names for garments often come directly from French. Frequently English-speaking costume historians adopt these French terms. This is especially evident when costume historians write about medieval styles of the thirteenth century and after. From this time on, the under tunic was usually called a cote; the outer tunic, a surcote, a word that has gained English usage.
The layering remained the same as in earlier centuries and undergarments did not change radically, but the cut and fit of outer garments has started to alter with greater frequency. Also, a number of new outdoor garments appeared. These included the garnache, "a long cloak with capelike sleeves," the herigaut or gardecorps, "a cloak with long, wide sleeves having a slit below the shoulder through which the arm could be slipped," and the chaperon, "a hood cut and sewn to a chape" [cape] (Tortora and Eubank 1998).
The influence of important individuals on style is evident. The reign (1226-1270) of the pious King Louis IX of France coincided with a turn toward looser fitting, more modest, and less ostentatious dress.
Around the middle of the fourteenth century, a wider range of types of dress appeared. At the same time, dress for men and women started to diverge, length of skirt being a major difference. Men of all classes now wore short skirts. One important short-skirted garment was the cote-hardie. The exact features of this garment seem to have varied from country to country, and it was probably a variant of the surcote. The Cunningtons, writing about English costume, define the term as a garment with a front-buttoned, low-waisted, fitted bodice with fitted sleeves that ended at the elbow in front and had a hanging flap at the back, with the bodice attaching to a short skirt (1952).
Under this garment, men wore a garment variously called a pourpoint, gipon, or doublet. In commenting on problems of terminology, Newton observes, "It is doubtful whether at any one time the exact differences between an aketon, a pourpoint, a doublet, a courtpiece, and a jupon were absolutely defined. In France the cotehardie comes into this category, and in England, from the early 1360s, the paltok" (1980). Probably adopted for civilian wear from a padded military garment, the pourpoint (later more likely to be called a doublet) attached to hose with laces that had sharp metal tips known as "points."
Maria Leczinska, Queen of France, by Louis Tocque, oil on canvas, 1740. Skirts worn by the upper echelons of French society in the eighteenth century were up to eight feet wide. The skirt's broadness was created by hoops near the hem or padding at the hip. Reunion des Musees Nationaux/Art Resource, NY. Reproduced by permission.
This combination might be worn alone or under an outer garment. Hose were worn either with shoes or boots or had leather soles and required no shoes. Shoes often had very long, pointed toes and were called poulaines or crack-owes, which may testify to a possible origin in Poland. Upper-class men wore the most extreme of these styles and thereby showed that they did not need to do any hard labor.
The houppelande was another important garment that appeared about 1360. Made in either thigh or mid-calf length or long, it was fitted over the shoulders, then fell in deep, tubular folds and was belted at the waist. Sleeves could be quite elaborate, sometimes long and full and gathered in at the wrist or widening at the end and falling to the floor. Fur trim was common.
Although women were wearing houppelandes by the end of the fourteenth century, they were more common in the fifteenth century. Other styles for women included close-fitting gowns, sometimes with either sleeved or sleeveless surcotes. Certain garments were visual statements of status. French queens and princesses wore surcotes cut low at the neck, with enormous armhole openings through which a fitted gown could be seen, and a hip-length stiffened panel with a row of jeweled brooches down the front. A full skirt was attached to the panel.
The imposition of sumptuary laws (limits placed on spending for luxury goods) on dress indicate that the elite classes feared that the lower classes were attempting to usurp their status symbols. Fashionable dress had become affordable to more people, and legislators attempted to restrict by rank the types of fur used, the types and quantities of fabric, kinds of trimmings, and even the length of the points of shoes. These laws were not obeyed and rarely enforced.
During the fifteenth century, styles continually evolved. Men's doublets grew shorter and hose longer, looking much like modern tights. A new construction feature, the codpiece—a pouch of fabric closed with laces— allowed room for the genitals. Houppelandes underwent some changes in style and construction, becoming more elaborate in trimming and sleeve construction. A short, broad-shouldered garment, sometimes called a jacket, had an attached skirt that flared out from the waist.
Women wore houppelandes and fitted gowns. One style appears so often in art that it has become almost a stereotype for modern illustrators who want to show medieval princesses. This gown had fitted sleeves, a deep V-neck with a modesty piece filling in the V, a slightly high waistline with a wide belt, and a long, trained skirt. Another style seen in Northern European art is a loose-fitting gown with close-fitting sleeves, a round neckline, and fullness falling from gathers at the center front. Some sources call this gown a roc.
Accessories. In the earlier centuries, medieval head coverings were relatively simple: veils that covered their hair for adult women and hoods or small caps like modern baby bonnets, called coifs, that tied under the chin for men. By the fifteenth century, upper-class men and women were wearing many fanciful styles. Men's hoods were wrapped turbanlike around the head, sometimes made with wide, padded brims. The prevalence of turbans may reflect contacts with the Orient. Hats with high crowns and with small brims resembled a loaf of sugar and were called sugar loaf hats. Adult women's hair was still covered, but coverings were often of decorative net fabrics, padded rolls, or tall, flat or pointed, structures. Lightweight, sheer veils were often attached.
Other accessories included purses, belts, and jewelry. Belts were often a mark of status, being highly ornamented and jeweled.
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