Historical Clothing

  • More Clothing and Accessories from 1150 - 1250 AD Continued.
  • To return to the 12th century once again. The finest example of the sleeve variation on women’s gowns known as the tippet appears on a casket depicting images from the cult of courtly love, made circa 1180AD in Limoges, France, in Limoges Champleve enamel. The women on the casket wear the sleeves that are tight to the wrist. However, the tippet is a long trailing piece of ornamental fabric that descends from the rear of the wrist to the floor, in a long flare, ending in a point. The tippet is often richly decorated with pearls or gems, or enamelling. Out of interest, the hair of both ladies illustrated on the casket is down and free flowing in the long, stylised curls and waves that seem to be so popular during the period. The tippet is also seen in the wall painting at Montmorillon, Notre Dame, Chappelle St. Catherine, dated at around 1200AD.

    The stained glass windows of Chatres Cathedral, which date to the later end of its construction period (1150-1250), especially the windows telling the story of the Prodigal son show with great detail the goffered fillet and barbette combination, along with the ordinary fillet and barbette, fillet, barbette and crespine combination and free flowing hair. These styles and combinations are again utilised in the Prodigal Son window at Bourges Cathedral, late 12th, early 13th centuries. The 13th century window, again depicting the story of the Prodigal son, a popular motif for stained glass in religious houses shows the combination this time of veils concealing the hair, and women with no veils, but free flowing hair. This is the first time I had noticed that the traditional curling of the hair had been done away with to show straight hair. The window is located at Sens, France. Uncovered and curled hair is seen again in the manuscript by J. Gielee, called “Renart le Nouvel”, Paris, France, mid 13th century.

    To me, one of the most beautiful images of manuscript art come from the mid 13th century manuscript called the Great Heidelberg Song Manuscript, from Germany. Figure 63, folio 151, is the clearest representation I have seen yet of the sideless surcotte gown and tunic, decorated fabrics, free flowing hair under a barbette and fillet, and a rectangular mantle. The lady in the image is wearing a long, full gown, tight to the wrist, covered by a rectangular mantle, lined in a very elaborately designed fabric. Her hair is long and curled, and she wears the barbette and goffered fillet upon her head. The man in the image wears a full length surcotte tunic, lined in elaborately designed fabric, which is revealed by his being on slightly bent knee. The figure 62, folio 300, shows the men wearing the tunics with tight sleeves to wrist, with a slightly fulsome cut at the armpit, belted. The ladies both wear the curled hair with goffered fillet and barbette, and one lady is wearing a mantle over her tight sleeved gown. The other lady wears a sideless surcotte gown, the overgown is caught up over her arm, showing the hem of the undergown. Figure 61, folio 73 shows a man riding a donkey, wearing a guarde-corps and undertunic, and a tricorn hat, made so popular in the 18th century by Napoleon. The hat appears richly decorated, and may be a fashion exclusive to the area. The figure 64, folio 46v shows that a man is being bathed in a large wooden tub, his female attendants wear their hair down, except for one, who wears a crespine and circlet. Two women wear tight sleeved gowns, while the last wears a sideless surcotte gown, with the loose hair.

    The guarde-corps is seen again in the Jacob window of Chatres cathedral. It is in the lower left hand corner, and is seen with the wearer also wearing a hood. He appears to be in the market place, and the merchant he is buying fabric that seems to be richly decorated from, wears the sideless surcotte tunic. This is some of the most compelling evidence, coupled with the Great Heidelberg Song Manuscript of various styles of clothing been worn simultaneously in the one period, being the mid 13th century. More evidence of uncovered hair from earlier in our time period: the statue at Lodi, in Lombardy cathedral of the portal figure of Eve before the fall, dated to the last quarter of the 12th century.


    The subject of jewellry for men and women is another interesting debate. The previous trend had been that there were no cut stones of any type, that all Christians wore a crucifix somewhere on their clothing at all times, bracelets, earrings and plain neck chains were not worn. The crucifix was largely worn by Crusading knights or pilgrims, who were on God’s holy work, and therefore needed a visible symbol of such. Most Christians of the medieval period wore their crucifixes to church only, although some chose to wear them at other times. Member of monastic orders also wore crucifixes at all times, again as a visible symbol of being on God’s holy work.

    The French moralist writer, Adam du Petit-Pont, who died in 1150, wrote that in the chests of the toilet of the nobility, such things as garlands, coronals, bandeaux, circlets, diadems worn by women, hairpins, earrings, hair bands with various sorts of hats and other ornaments of the head were to be found. Hair nets, such as the crespine were current at this time, and were first mentioned in a document of 1184, found in Naples, which mentions ‘a gold net for the head of a noble woman.’

    The principal jewels of a European lady in the 12th century were a coronal/chaplet, earrings, a brooch and necklace (also called a collar), and a slender chain. Alexander Neckham, who lived from 1157-1227 wrote that he had noticed this trend. Brooches and earrings were the most common jewellery in late Romanesque France, and were influenced by Byzantium. One of the richest expressions of 13th century jewellery is a Roman agate cameo in a gold setting of a triple border of filigree. These cameos were often stitched to the overgown, at the throat, and were also worn as pendants.

    “For the neck, shoulders and breasts there are collars (torques), buttons, brooches, both of gold and humbler metals, slender flexible necklaces (murenule), and slender chains, bracelets, cloak clasps (fibule, tachet). For the waist there were girdles (semitacia or semitinctia, explained by a Latin glossator as a girdle made of 2 different colours of leather, white and black), succinctoria (explained by French glossators as a baldric), strophea (explained by a French glossator as liseres or borders, braidings) and catulae. For the arms there are brachilia (glossator in Latin explained as girdles which go about the arm)”

    Filigree balls were popular later in the 12th century and early 13th century. They were made either of silver or gold and suspended from a chain. By the late 12th century, it was customary throughout the Holy Roman Empire to wear a pendant suspended by a riband around the neck. This fashion was worn into the late 1230’s. A good example of this is 2 mounted crystal pendants from Stockholm, Sweden, circa 1100’s. Engraved cameo’s are also popular. The stylised dragon head was a popular motif, appearing on several medallions and so on. Other ornaments worn at this time were armlets, more than ordinary bracelets. Other popular motifs were stylised acanthus plants, which was a motif borrowed from German Romanesque metalwork, on a ground decorated in one case by dotting, in the other by wrigglework. The ribband through which such a pendant hung was passed through a corded ring, or else through hasps fixed to the back of the medallion pendant. This custom of wearing ornaments suspended around the neck by ribands was more general throughout Europe than was thought in earlier studies.

    In 2 German brooches of the second quarter of the 13th century, the rich filigree is still dominant. The tradition of brooches containing motifs and openwork, already present in the eagle brooches of the early 11th century which form part of the Gisela Treasure, continued into the 13th century. Fine examples of brooches are the Florentine brooch which is small, of silver gilt, and set with green stones. It is decorated in openwork, pierced with a circular hole in the center, and fastened by a pin. The square form is also recorded on sculpture and in documents. In 1262, for instance, Cardinal Ubaldini also deposited a square brooch set with two rubies, two sapphires and 4 pearls. Brooches were still decorated in the 13th century with non-figurative enamels as well. The favourite type of jewelled enamel is cloisonne enamel-a favourite technique of 13th century Paris.

    Earrings were very popular during classical times, and during the Byzantine Empire, into the early to mid middle ages. They were particularly popular in Hungary, south Italy, Sicily and Spain. The popularity of earrings in these regions is attributed to Byzantine influences, as well as Moorish influences. Neapolitan documents mention earrings from the 12th century, pendant ones in 1110, ones of silver gilt and gold in 1194. A pair of gold earrings in crescent form but shaped as stylised birds and made in filigree are in the Galleria Nazionale, Palermo. It has been suggested that they come from the tomb of Constance of Aragon, who died in 1222, the first wife of Emperor Frederick II. In the 13th century, the Neapolitan records speak of a pair of earrings with nets of pearls, (1286), perhaps they were the type represented on the bust of a wealthy merchants wife.

    The Sutton Hoo burial (7th century AD), while much earlier than our time period, gives us a wealth of information about early jewellery that is still relevant for our time period. A pair of shoulder clasps formed by separate hinges secured by a pin. The undersides of the clasps have loops for attachment to fabric or leather. The upper surfaces are elaborately inlaid with cloisonne garnet and millefiori glass interspersed with complex motifs in filigree. The supreme skill of the court jeweller is demonstrated by the pair of boar images at the end of the clasps and in the elaborate scheme of the center panels, which are thought to have inspired the ‘carpet’ pages in the earliest Anglo-Saxon illuminated manuscripts.

    Cloisonne is one of the most popular forms of enamelling. Gold and garnet inlaid mounts from a sword harness from the Sutton Hoo burial has cloisonne inlay. It also includes stones cut to irregular shapes and fitted to moving parts of the mount as well as curved surfaces. Some of the most elaborate jewellery of the period was done in cloisonne, which can be described as a carpet like arrangement of cellwork.

    Empress Constance’s tomb in Dicomo of Palermo contains faceted garnets pre dating the burial site, which was dated to 1222. The cross of King Sancho 1 of Portugal, 1214 has four hexagonal table cut garnets, each with a simple slopping cut on its sides. Roger de Mortagne, Lord of Esperre, nobleman of Hainault, who died in 1275, left a ring set with a square cut sapphire. Phillipin de Luxembourg, Countess of Hainault, gave her daughter Marguerite in 1299 to wear at her wedding to Robert of Artois a crown of rubies and cut sapphires. These are but a few examples of extant pieces of jewellery containing cut stones.

    A lot of early stones were cut in the middle east by Islamic lapidaries. Stone cutting was practised in 11-12th century Iran. A scholar and scientist , al Biruni (973-1050) wrote in his “Book of Collection of Knowledge of Precious Stones”, (1014-1049) that the people of Khurasan and Iran knew how to use diamonds for drilling and cutting. He also implied that “they knew how to cut the diamond itself, knowledge perhaps derived from India where the art of diamond cutting was already being practised before the 6th century AD” Excavations of the site at Nishapur, dated at 10-11th centuries contained faceted amethysts, one hexagon and one octagon. Complex faceted beads were also found.

    Frederick II’s crown dated at 1236 contained square and cut emeralds. Paris had a reputation for glass stones by the mid to late 13th century. The stones were made in white glass, melted down and then after cooling, reshaped by a chisel and hammer. Under some stones, a rose tint was applied. They were held in high esteem as superior substitutes for real, precious stones. The site at Wittersham Kent, dated to circa 1200, contained a ring set with a cut sapphire in gold. Other finds included silver rings set with a rectangular cut bezel, yellow paste / glass, twisted silver band, and clasped hands.


    From this examination of extant sources and scholarly works, it can be seen that there is again, much more to the world of medieval clothing and clothing accessories for men and women than was previously thought. It is my hope that this study will provide members with more information to broaden their sphere of purchasing for costuming within our time period. This is, in a nutshell what I have found so far. It is by no means a complete study, for their is so much more available. At least however, I hope this will provide a starting point for members of Companie.

    PRIMARY SOURCES. (in no particular order)

    Bronze rectangular buckle with incised decoration (H), 1250-1380, Thames St, London, Museum of London.
    Square bronze buckle (H) with moulded bars, 13th century, London, Museum of London.
    Rectangular brass buckle with stamped decoration (H), 1250-1380, Thames St, London, Museum of London.
    Bronze buckle with roughly incised ornament (H), Thames St, London, Museum of London.
    Oval bronze buckle with ornate design (H), Roman excavation, England, Ebay (http://www.ebay.com)
    Pendants, rock crystal and silver, Scandinavian, circa 1100, Dalhem Parish, Dune, Gotland. Statens Historiska Museum, Stockholm
    Pendant, silver, circa 1200, Sweden. Statens Historiska Museum, Stockholm.
    Aosta brooch, gold, Roman agate cameo, stones, pearls., Rhenish, circa 1200. Aosta, Italy.
    Brooch, silver gilt and stones, Hungarian, 1250. Magyar Nemzeti Muzeum, Budapest.
    Bust of Sigelgaita Rutolo, Southern Italy, circa 1270. Duomo Ravello
    Shoulder clasps, gold, stones, and enamel., Sutton Hoo Burial, 7th century, Suffolk.
    Gold and garnet inlaid sword harness, cloisonne enamel, Sutton Hoo Burial, 7th century, Suffolk.
    Rectangular cut bezel in silver
    Cut sapphire in gold
    Crystal bezel
    Yellow paste
    Bezel with niello
    Twisted silver
    Clasped hands, RINGS, Wittersham, Kent, circa 1200 and Lark Hill, near Worcester, with coins of Henry II, circa 1180. London Museum.
    Syrian filigree and granulated earrings (hoops around the rims would have strings of pearls or beads), 12th century, Syria. Museum of London.
    Mosaic of the Discovery of the relics of St. Mark (detail), Venice, 1270, Basilica of San Marco, Venice
    Brooch, onyx cameo, gold, stones, pearls., Upper Rhenish circa 1230-1240. Museum zu Allerheiligen, Schaffhausen, Switzerland.
    Reliquary pendant, gold rock, crystal., Hungarian, 12th century. Wavel State Collection, Cracow.
    Earrings, gold, Byzantine, 12th century, Gallerice Nazionale, Palermo.
    Pair cloak clasps, gold, silver, niello, north German, circa 1200, Ostfiesisches Landesmuseum Emden, Germany.
    Cloak clasps, silver, gilt, stones, copper gilt, pearl, stones, French, circa 1225-1250. Carrand Collection, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.
    The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine, Montmorillon Notre Dame, France, circa 1200.
    Hair net, Byzantine, 11th century, National Museum of Ireland
    Two bands, 10th-11th centuries, Byzantine, National Museum of Ireland
    Woollen cap, 10th-11th centuries, Hiberno-Norse, National Museum of Ireland.
    Great Bible of Winchester, Winchester Cathedral, 1160-1170, England. ‘Queen’.
    Engelberg Monastery Library Codex 14, 12th century, Switzerland, Engelberg Monastery Library.
    St. Juliana and the Devil, circa 1175, Spain
    Regensburg, Ratisbon, 12th century, Germany.
    Superbia, Alsace, 1180, Strassburg Library, France.
    The Birth and Christening of St. John the Baptist., Cantebury Cathedral, St. Gabriel’s Chapel, 1180-1190
    Lady of Noble Birth, Chatres Cathedral, 1230
    Old Testament Scenes
    Story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz, Maciejowski Bible, 12th-13th century.
    Morgan Library MS 730, circa 1250, Arras, family at prayer., France.
    Silk mesh hairnet #399
    Detail of hairnet repair and fingerloop braid, London, 13th century. Museum of London
    Silk fingerloop braids, London, 13th century. Museum of London.
    Hanging lamp with marine life, stonework, metalwork, rock crystal, silver gilt, glass, Byzantine, 4th, 10-12th centuries, Treasury of the Basilica of San Marco, Venice.
    Turquoise glass bowl, glass, enamel, metalwork, glass, gold, silver gild, gold cloisonne enamel, semiprecious stones, Iran, Byzantine, 9-11th centuries. Treasury of the Basilica of San Marco, Venice.
    Portable alter of SS. Kilian and Liborius, circa 1100. Diozesan Museum, Paderborn, Germany.
    Casket with scenes of courtly love, circa 1180, Limoges champleve enamel, British Museum, London.
    Prodigal Son Window, Chatres Cathedral, France, 1150-1250
    Prodigal Son Window, Bourges Cathedral, France, circa 1200
    Prodigal Son Window, Sens Cathedral, France, circa 1200.
    J. Gielee, Renart le Nouvel, circa 1150, Biblioteque Nationale, Paris.
    Great Heidelberg Song Manuscript, figure 61, folio 73; figure 62 folio 300; figure 63 folio 151; figure 64 folio 46v, 1250-1300, Heidelberg, Universitatsbibliothek.
    Jacobs Window, Chatres Cathedral, 1200-1250
    Eve, detail, Lodi (Lombardy) Cathedral, 1250-1270.


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    Crowfoot, Elizabeth, et al, Textiles and Clothing circa 1150-circa 1450, HMSO Museum of London, UK, 1990
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    Kelly, Francis M. and Schwabe, Randolph, A Short History of Costume and Armor 1066-1800, David and Charles Ltd, UK, 1972
    Kemp, Wolfgang, The Narratives of Gothic Stained Glass, Cambridge University Press, UK, 1997
    Lightbrown, Ronald W. , Medieval European Jewellry, Victoria and Albert Museum Trustess, UK, 1992
    London Museum, ed. , Medieval Catalogue, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, UK, 1954
    Petzold, Andreas, Romanesque Art, The Everyman Art Library, UK, 1995
    Roesdahl, Else and Wilson, David M. eds, From Viking to Crusader-The Scandinavians and Europe 800-1200., Rizzoli, New York, 1992
    Spier, Jeffrey, and Morrison, Gordon, San Marco and Venice., The National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, 1997
    Tait, Hugh, ed, Jewellery 7000 Years, Harry N. Abrams Inc, New York, 1987
    Toman, Rolf, ed, Romanesque: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting. , Konemann Verlagsgesellscaft mbH, Germany, 1997
    Willet, C. and Cunnington, P, Handbook of English and Medieval Costume, Faber and Faber, UK, 1969


    Ebay Auction House, http://www.ebay.com, California, USA, 1998.