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houppelandes-msg - 9/23/98


Making 14th century houppelandes.


NOTE: See also the files: Houppelande-art, cotehardies-msg, patterns-msg, fasteners-msg, clothing-L-msg, clothing-MN-msg, underwear-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Sun, 14 Dec 1997 09:37:26

From: Nancee Beattie <nbeattie at blackcat.dunklin.k12.mo.us>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Houppelande & plumpness


Morgan was right about a simple chemise covered by a kirtle (the cote was

the top layer). The word cotehardie gets used a lot to describe all

garments worn in the 14th C, but I think that if you look at the first word

in the compound word, "cotehardie," you'll see that this word probably only

referred to the outer layer. I'm not really a semantics mavin, but this is

something that helps to clear up some confusion, and make discussion easier.


I prefer the generic word kirtle to describe the middle layer, or

foundation garment worn under a cotehardie, and later, a houppeland. It

helps to remember that for a while, at the end of the 14th and beginning of

the 15th C, the cotehardie style gown and the houppeland coexisted (look at

Les Tres Riches Heures de Jean Duc de Berry for a very beautiful example of

this fact). It follows then, that the undergarments were similar.


The bottom layer was a chemise. It was made of thin, usually white fabric

(silk, linen?) It was not very full (in some cases even fitted) and had

short sleeves or was sleeveless (I'm sure there are exceptions with long

sleeves, but I have not seem them), and did not quite reach to the floor.

For these reasons, it was not visible when the wearer was completely

dressed. Therefore, it is usually neglected in SCA costume. I have no

problem with ommitting this garment, especially in overheated feast halls,

and summer tourneys, etc. Passing out for your recreation is not a good

idea. Being aware of it's existance is good, though.


It is the middle garment, the foundation garment, that I would like to

describe. The only extant examples of 14th C garments I know of are bog

finds. Strictly speaking, they cannot be assumed to be the same as the

kirtle worn under a houppeland, because they come from two very different

cultures. There probably are many similarities, however, as the final

products look very similar. The bog dresses were made with a six- or

four-panel bodice, with many gores added at the waist for fullness.


The western European dresses tended to be slim to the hip, and flair at the

waist based on visual documentation (manuscripts and sculpture). They also

tended to lace up the front or back, which would lend itself to a

four-panel bodice better than a six. My construction of these dresses is

based on knowledge of fabric widths (generally about 30 ", but they could

vary greatly), and an attempt to recreate the period silhouette (based on

visual history), with a nod to the bog dresses for all they can teach us.


I am not going to discuss the gores, or the skirt at all, for that matter,

nor sleeves. I just want to help anyone create the proper silhouette

without resorting to ace bandages or sports bras.


First, measure.  The important measurements for this part of the dress are:

        Horizontal measurements

*shoulder width (across the back, point of shoulder to point of shoulder)

*bust (widest part)

*ribs just under the bust (very important)

*waist (narrowest part of torso)

*hip (widest part of torso--if your tummy is the widest part, measure that,

and when I talk about the vertical measurements, substitute "tummy"

wherever I say "hips")

        Vertical measurements

Note: all vertical measurements are to be done with the measuring tape held

straight, and perpendicular to the floor. Do not follow the curves of the

body. Imagine that you are charting a person's body along an X and Y axis.

When you are done, you connect the dots, and voila, there's your pattern.

If it helps to use a yardstick to keep your measurements straight, do so.

By following the curves of the body, you result in a garment with too long

of a torso. I hope this is clear--it's very important.

*shoulder point to just under the armpit

*just under armpit to waist

*waist to hip


Now, use these measurements to plot a one-quarter bodice on paper or muslin

like so:


              (note: it's best to slant the shoulder seam down some, but I

        *---*    couldn't manage it with ascii text)

       /    |

      /     |

*____/      |




                \_                        With the exception of the shoulder

                  /*                    width, all measurements used are

                 /                      one-quarter of the measurement taken.

                 |*                       The shoulder width (which should be

                |                       taken across the back) will be one-half

               |                        of the measurement taken.

              |                           When plotting points, measure down

             |*                         along the center seam (vertical

              |                         measurements), and then out(horizontal)

                |                       to side seam.






In order to elevate the bust, the bust measurement is lined up with the

armpit. In order to hold the bust in place, the garment is cut to fit the

ribs just under this point. How far under? That depends on the difference

between the bust measurement and the rib measurement. Here's the formula I

use: (note: we are working in one-quarter measurements, because we are

making a quarter panel of the bodice). If the quarter measure of your bust

is 9" and the quarter measure of your ribs is 8", then the difference is

1". In that case, the vertical measurement between the bust and the ribs is

1". In other words, the vertical measure between bust and ribs is equal to

the difference between the quarter measure of your bust and ribs. If your

are very chesty, but small of frame, this gives you a little more up and

down space in which to fit your breasts.


This will give you the unibuzom sitting on a shelf appearance that was worn

under the houppeland. The belt of the houppeland goes right under your



Other tips: The sleeves of the kirtle should be close, but not tightly

fitted. It is my opinion that the million-button sleeve kirtle had gone out

of fashion by this time (and for good reason--what a pain to sew, repair

and wear). Wear a wide belt. If you have a long torso, wear a wider belt.

Tandy sells 4" buckles. If you want a longer one, I've seen merchants

selling hand-crafted, extra-wide belts. Spiral lace the kirtle: Imagine the

lace is a needle and thread, and that you are sewing the garment on your

body. Go in the left side and out the right, all the way up from the

bottom. This is much more stable than cross-lacing, and will not result in

gaps. When lacing, keep pulling your breasts up as you approach the

neckline. It may seem like the garment is too small at first (especially if

you're well-endowed). Have faith in your measuring ability, and keep

lacing. It will fit if you measured everything right. This dress is

positively gravity defying.


I hope this helps. Put away that ace bandage, and save the sports bras for

jogging. :)


Meredydd, OL (a hat person, too)


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org