1320s dress

And now, something else completely different: in which I research a costume that isn’t for me.  (Update: I’m not sure the images linked to bigger versions before; I believe I have now fixed that.)


Royal Armouries MS I.33, also called the Walpurgis Fechtbuch, is the oldest extant European treatise on combat.  The thing that really makes it memorable, however, is the page shown here, in which a woman, called Walpurgis (on the left in both pairs), is learning swordfighting from the priest who seems to be the master of the book.

So… if one wanted to dress like Walpurgis, where to begin?

The manuscript is from Germany in the 1320s.  Unfortunately, that’s far enough back that it’s not as easy to focus on a specific decade, but in this case I’ve already got a leg up in having a specific image to start from, rather than a person or event.  So I can say off the bat, based on Walpurgis’s shoulders and sleeves being different colors, that I need to find out about long-sleeved underdresses (cottes) and sleeveless but not sideless surcoats (or surcottes).  They’ll have full-length skirts; Walpurgis is sporting a lovely calf-length look because, like the priest, she has tucked her skirts up into her belt to keep them away from her feet.  (Fun fact: tucking robes up for swordfighting may be why Robin Hood’s clerical friend was called Friar Tuck.)

So.  I know what she’s wearing, but it would be nice to have more pictures, especially showing the torso area where all the complicated sewing will happen.  And anyway, look at that priest’s arms; would you trust this artist on fine details of fashion?

As it happens, I’m in luck: there is a manuscript from the first quarter of the 14th century which is about German writers of love songs.

800px-codex_manesse_311r_alram_von_grestenThe Codex Manesse has lots of pictures, many featuring women in sleeveless surcoats and long-sleeved dresses of contrasting colors.  Here’s one of a woman with similar fashion sense to Walpurgis: she’s added a headdress that is actually a fillet or gebende and not at all called a “pie-crust hat”, but she has the same sleeveless overdress and long, curly hair.

There are a bunch of examples of this style in the Codex, showing the fashion in different postures, in motion, and so on. There is also some variation in the arm-hole size in the sleeveless surcoats.

Also let’s just look at a lot of pages because this has to be the most adorable medieval manuscript ever.  Sure, war bunnies on snails are cute, but… look at these couples! (Click through for more pages, and a selection of reconstructed dresses and useful links.)

800px-codex_manesse_gottfried_von_neifen  800px-meister_der_manessischen_liederhandschrift_003  800px-altstetten  800px-codex_manesse_die_winsbekin  800px-codex_manesse_bernger_von_horheim1  800px-codex_manesse_311r_alram_von_gresten


No sleeveless surcoats here, 800px-codex_manesse_johann_von_ringgenbergbut it’s interesting to compare the two artists on fights as well as fashion.  The Manesse artist may have a better grip on what arms look like, but based on the image to the left he’s definitely an artist who prefers drawing dance parties. This one on the right, however, is very clearly  the move that ends a lot of the sequences in I.33.

It’s not a huge surprise that a lot of people have recreated the clothing shown in Codex Manesse:

Eva’s Historical Costumes
kostym.cz “German Lady”

Eva’s Historical (left) has a small image of her surcoat pattern on the linked page. The kostym.cz “German Lady” surcoat over the blue dress (right) is partly based on this extant garment/pattern. The “Noblewoman” surcoat over green (below and left, because WordPress formatting is annoying) is based on this extant garment/pattern.

I’m not sure this project is going to include a hat, since the I.33 images don’t, but just in case, here’s someone’s notes about making a pie-crust hat.

Another potential resource: a blog with a dress diary for a 14th century dress and overdress with half-sleeves and tippets.  The blogger says she’s not a purist because she machine-sews non-visible seams, but she does dye her own fabric and make her own lacing cord.  That’s more detail than I do, whether or not it’s pure.

Here’s a late-century fitted dress with tippets and a lot of nice construction details. This blogger is quite prolific; she has photos of a bunch of 14th-15th century projects, if you scroll down past the 18th century.

I used this cotte-draping tutorial to pattern my 1490s gamurra– it’s not an explicitly historical technique or for any particular period, but it is a draping method put forth by a researcher whose focus is 14th century women’s clothing, and who is interested in raising the supported-by-documentation bar at medieval events.

kostym.cz “Noblewoman”

Another 14th century dress diary with nice details and research links: Damsel In This Dress’s Blanche Mortimer gown.

If you’re reading this and want more and are a Pinterest user, come see my 1320s dress board.



I think it’s time to stick a fork in this for now, before I come up with something funny to say about “houppelande” or “cotehardie.”



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