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Alianor of Ravenglass Abstract This set of clothes is based on men's garments of the late 12th century, but has been adapted to be suitable for rapier combat. It consists of four pieces: a shirt, a pair of braies, and two tunics. They are constructed of linen and sewn with cotton and cotton/poly thread. The long seams were sewn by machine; all finishing was done by hand. 12th Century Men's Clothing In the 12th century, men's clothing consisted of tunics, shirts, braies, and hose. All but the hose are represented here. During this era, men wore both short and long tunics; there seems to be a relationship between social status and tunic length. Under the tunics they wore undergarments ­ braies ­ and it is hypothesized that they may also have worn the medieval equivalent of an undershirt, similar in construction to tunics. Braies are essentially bloomers with a wide, baggy crotch (see Illustration 1 for the layout I use in their construction). They vary in length from short to relatively long (see Illustrations 2 and 3). We only have illustrations of braies being worn by individuals of lower status, but since higher-status individuals are always portrayed wearing long tunics, we cannot say for certain that they did or did not wear them. I believe that it is a logical conclusion that men of all ranks wore braies. The shirt made for this set of clothes is nearly identical in design to the tunics. It is quite short, however, and as such does not need gores for fullness in the skirt. As in the case of braies, there is little to no pictorial evidence of shirts. The closest I have come to a short shirt is a man depicted in Matthew Paris' "The Life of Edward the Confessor," shown in Illustration 4. My layout for the shirt appears in Illustration 5. It appears to have been common for men to wear at least two tunics, as under- and over-tunics are frequently visible in contemporary illustrations. These were constructed with underarm gussets for fit and mobility through the chest and shoulders and triangular gores in the skirt for fullness, following extant garments such as the tunic of St. Louis and some of the Herjolfsnes finds. Short tunics like these can gain enough fullness with a gore in each side seam (see Illustration 6). Rapier Armor Requirements of the East Kingdom The most important consideration in constructing fencing armor is whether or not it meets the safety standards of the East Kingdom. The relevant requirements follow.1 · · No skin shall show anywhere on the fighter's body, regardless of the position or stance of the fighter. The entire torso (the chest, back, abdomen, groin, and sides up to and including the armpits) must be covered with puncture resistant material. (Puncture resistant material is any fabric or combination of fabrics that will predictably withstand puncture. The material used for this armor has passed a 4-punch test, the standard test for fencing armor in the East.)

East Kingdom rapier combat rules can be found at



· ·

The rest of the head and neck [not covered by the fencing mask] must be covered by at least puncture resistant material. The bib on a modern fencing mask is not sufficient by itself. Abrasion resistant material is required on the arms (save as noted above) and legs and any other area not otherwise mentioned in these rules. (Abrasion resistant material will withstand normal combat stresses (such as being snagged by an unbroken blade) without tearing.)

The garments I have constructed, when worn with knee-high socks, fill all of these requirements. Adapting 12th Century Men's Garments for Rapier Combat As constructed, this armor consists of two tunics (one with a high neckline and an overtunic of standard construction), a shirt, and braies. All of the garments were constructed on the sewing machine with cotton (white) and cotton/poly (black) thread; all garments are hand-finished at the hems, cuffs, and necklines. Obviously, exact reproductions of the tunics that appear in contemporary illustrations are not ideally suited for fencing. Depending on the material used in construction, the garments might or might not pass a punch test. Fabrics that do pass a punch test are generally heavier and, more importantly, tightly woven. I used two different weights of linen for these garments: the two tunics are made of 7.4 oz linen; the shirt and braies are made of 5.9 oz linen. The two layers of heavy linen by themselves pass a punch test and cover all areas where puncture-resistant material is required (with some modification to the design of the tunic; see below); the braies (plus socks and shoes) cover the areas where abrasion-resistant material is required. The addition of the lighter shirt serves two purposes. First, it allows the armor to be worn without a modern t-shirt underneath. Second, it adds another layer of strength, which means that the armor will have a longer useful life. While the garments of the period are generally fairly high-necked, their necks are not high enough to conform to the requirement that no flesh be exposed. Even while wearing a gorget and fencing mask with attached drape, there is a significant risk that the wearer's neck will be partially exposed. For the high-necked tunic I simply attached a triple-layered 3-inch wide "turtleneck" to the neckline rather than simply turning a hem or using a narrower facing. I then ran a drawstring through the neck so that the wearer can tighten it and either avoid wearing an additional gorget for light rapier combat, or have an added layer of cushioning between their neck and the gorget during heavy rapier combat. Men appear to have worn tunics of varying lengths during this time period (see Illustrations 711). I decided to make this armor short (knee-length) for a number of reasons. Most importantly, most men are not accustomed to moving in long skirts, so knee-length tunics are much more practical and safe. Second, my husband, for whom I made this armor, is very fond of showing off his underwear, so the short tunics mean that his braies are visible. Finally, my husband's persona is a servant in the household of a wealthy Jewish family, and thus it seems likely that he would have worn short tunics given that most illustrations of men of lower status show them wearing short tunics. I also found it necessary to make some minor modifications to the design of the braies in order for them to work for rapier combat. Most braies appear to have been made with open inseams. This alone would mean that they would not be suitable for rapier combat, so I sewed the inseams all the way to the cuff on this pair of braies. Additionally, on the "everyday" braies that I have made, the joint between the legs and the crotch section falls right at the wearer's knee; this has 2

proven to be a problem when fencing (the point where the inseam and the crotch section come together is a weak point in the garment), so I shortened and widened the crotch section. I also lengthened the legs in order to guarantee that the wearer's legs would not be exposed. The drawstrings at the wais and at the leg openings are made of the same material as the braies and the eyelets through which they pass were made by hand. Reflections This was the second set of rapier armor I have made along these lines. In this set of armor, the high neckline is a bit too snug; there seems to be a delicate balance between making the neckline too big (as I did on the first set of early-period armor I constructed) and nearly too small (as it is on this set). Keeping that in mind, I think that the next time I make this kind of armor I will change the general plan; rather than making one high-necked tunic, I will make all of the tunics with the normal round neckline and make hoods to be worn with the armor. This will have two advantages. First, it will eliminate the problem of fitting the high neckline. Second, it will mean that the armor has a much more authentic look when worn off the field, thus increasing its versatility. Illustrations

Illustration 1: Braies Layout Illustration 2: Man wearing a short, center split tunic with braies just visible at the top of the split.2


The Life of Edward the Confessor, folio 16r.


Illustration 4: A man wearing a shirt and braies.4

Illustration 3: A man wears braies and a coif while working in a field.3

Illustration 5: Shirt layout Illustration 6: Two-Gore Tunic Layout

3 4

Maciejowski Bible. The Life of Edward the Confessor.


Illustration 7: Two men wearing short tunics5 Illustration 8: Fisherman wearing a short tunic.6

Illustration 9: Two men in slightly longer tunics.7

Illustration 10: Men in mid-length tunics.8

5 6

MS Ashmole Folio 10r. The Life of Edward the Confessor. 7 Murthly Hours Folio 87r


Illustration 11: Men wearing long tunics.9

Illustration 12: Matatias in the full armor

Illustration 13: Matatias in the shirt and braies

Sources (Late 12th Century). MS Ashmole 1462, Bodleian Library, Oxford. 2002. (~1250). Maciejowski Bible. 2002. (~1280). The Murthly Hours, National Library of Scotland. 2002. Crowfoot, E., F. Pritchard, et al. (1992). Textiles and Clothing c. 1150 - c.1450. London, HMSO. Paris, M. (~1250). The Life of St. Edward the Confessor. 2001.

8 9

The Life of Edward the Confessor. Ibid.



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