Once upon a time, I thought I knew what a surcote was. First and foremost, it was a loose, sleeveless garment that knights wore over their armor from the 12th century through the 14th. Second, it was a loose sleeveless garment worn by women.
But when I looked at how the term was actually used in the Middle Ages, I found something different. Surcotes were rarely described in a military context. When they were, examples of sleeveless garments worn over armor were rarer still: a surcote might be worn without armor or beneath it.
And the far more numerous civilian references often explicitly mention sleeves. Chaucer's reeve wears a surcote, and the almost contemporary illumination of him in the Ellesmere Chaucer shows his surcote as a sleeved garment