Saturday, August 23, 2014

When May Medieval Gentlemen Display Their Breeches?

Not often, actually.

The lower orders may do so more often.  Laborers in the fields in hot weather may strip to shirt and breeches without reproach. They need to sweat to do their duty. Likewise workers in a bakery serving a hot oven, or those burning heretics, or executioners. Huntsmen on foot pushing through damp underbrush might also strip down to their shirt, shoes and breeches.

Gentlemen rarely have good cause to be so underdressed under ordinary circumstances. The most benign exception might be young gentlemen exercising themselves with sword and buckler with their hose rolled down for limberness, but this was probably done in a somewhat private setting.

Special circumstances present exceptions, of course. A gentleman might be taken prisoner and stripped to his shirt, perhaps to prevent escape, or delivered up for execution,  or required to surrender a town under his authority to a victor eager to humiliate the defender.  Or be visiting a public bathhouse.

Most of the time a gentleman had little reason to walk about with his breeches exposed. Those of us attempting to recreate a medieval gentleman should dress accordingly.

A problem arises when individuals recreating the Middle Ages combine hose attached at a single point with a short outer garment.

The inevitable result is exposed breeches. This is neither authentic, fashionably medieval, nor flattering.

And a lot of the cases of "diaper look" I saw this Pennsic could have been avoided by properly fitted single-point hose worn at the right height. The coat wasn't so very short that the breeches would have been exposed if the hose was long enough. There's no need for the back of your hose to hang lower than your gluteal fold. Except that if off-the-rack hose is sized so that it's wearable by almost everyone in that shoe size, it's shorter than it should be for most wearers. Unless you always wear a long coat, it's worth paying extra for hose that's the right length.

Also, a belt will do a better job of keeping them up than a drawstring. I favor a belt within the breeches casing when wearing long single point hose.

Further, it's important to wear the right kind of breeches. The long and baggy breeches of the Morgan Bible were very poorly suited the shorter hemlines of the late 14th century. Tighter fitted and shorter breeches were increasingly favored by the fashionable, and by the last decades of the century the Tacuinum Sanitatis shows even peasant laborers wearing short, tightly fitted breeches.

Suppliers are not technically being deceptive when they sell as 14th century breeches garments that would have been quite acceptable in 1330. You, as a buyer, need to understand how obsolete such a garment would have been for a fashionable gentleman in 1390. A century is a long time.

Breeches and a Breech-belt

I made these breeches based on a pattern by Robert MacPherson. An earlier version appeared in the second edition of Daily Life in Chaucer's England, but he has since replaced the sinuous upper edge with a straight one. I used a wider casing to accommodate the belt, made of two separate pieces rather than a fold down of the breech fabric, making it easier to finish the two openings in the casing. I also added a modesty panel to the inside of the center front, of two additional layers of linen the same  shape as the front half of the Lengberg g-string. It was pointed out to me that the wear to the Lengberg breeches reveals multiple layers in front, perhaps as many as four. I find the additional layers over my privates more modest and comfortable.

The belt is just long enough that I can slide the belt over my hips with the belt buckled on the last hole, preventing the risk of the casing swallowing the unbuckled ends. Threading the belt through the casing initially is easier if the leather of the belt is not overly supple.

The design was based on the woodcut of St. Sebastian above from 1410-1420, as well as The Parement of Narbonne.

Update: I narrowed the modesty panel at its bottom from what 's shown above for better drape. Originally 6.5", it is now 4". I have a 40" waist. Also, I added an additional layer of linen, for a total of four over the crotch, to match what I think I see on the Lengberg breeches.

Click on the above images to enlarge them.

Banner Weathervanes in the 14th and 15th Century.

What is believed to be the oldest brass weathervane in England is still atop a 14th century parish church in Etchingham. (Update: it now seems to have been moved into the church) The Etchingham arms are pierced into the vane, and unlike later vanes the banner is not balanced by an arrow on the opposite side of the pole. As far as I can tell from the tiny images, this is also true of the banner weathervanes in the Tres Riches Heures.

Several images from 1380-1415 appear to show weathervanes atop tents, and they are explicitly mentioned in the 1496 Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotlandwhere they are made from dowbill platis, which in other references are described as white iron or tinplate.  They were painted by the same painter who painted the king's coat armor. The 1547 inventory of Henry VIII's possessions mentions, associated with his tents, 66 vanes of ironwork "painted and guilted with the  the kings Armes and badges".

A vane associated with the early 17th century pavilion in Basel is dated on the vane to both 1591 and 1736.  This relatively late vane is also unbalanced.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Breeches: 1370-1390

Livy, Ab urbe condita, French translation [Histoire romaine] by Pierre Bersuire Paris Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève Ms 777 f. 143r c. 1370 Vincent de Beauvais, Miroir Historial [Speculum historiale], French translation by Jean de Vignay. vol. III. (Livres XI-XIII). BNF NAF 15941 f. 112v 1370-1380 Aristoteles, Politica [French version (Politiques) by Nicole Oresme] Brussels, KBR, ms. 11201 f. 1v center (oligarchy) and bottom (democracy) 1376; Guiron le Courtois BNF Français 338 Ff 324v & 326 1380-1390

These images show a fairly rapid change in the tailoring of breeches. In the 1370 image the breeches are nearly knee length. The last image from the 1380-1390 Guiron le Courtois shows breeches that are hemmed much higher, and apparently cut tightly enough in the legs that side vents are needed for ease. And these sources may make the change seem more gradual than it was, because the 1370 Livy may be deliberately archaic in portraying the Romans: the armor looks to be pretty old-fashioned compared to contemporary effigies.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Retrofitting Historic Enterprises Breeches

I had the original center front opening for the drawstring sewn up and replaced with two eyelets 3" apart in front. The drawstring now crosses in the front casing so that the left end comes out the right eyelet and vice versa.  The breeches now fit better and the drawstring is easier to tie and untie.

Although the change improves the fit, I don't find the pattern entirely satisfactory for the late 14th century. The legs fit loosely but there's insufficient ease in the seat: I've had three different pairs fail at the center rear seam.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Camping in a Pavilion

A hoop-spread pavilion with separate walls provides  a lot of convenient points to hang s-hooks for stowing things in easy reach, and for a cloths rack for clothes and towels.  Anything you can do to reduce rummaging in chests is good, if like me you find the tops of chests a convenient surface to put things down on. The center pole also has four hanging hooks that press fit into prepared holes, easily removable for packing the pole.

If you can hire good minstrels to play while you eat then I think the joy you get of them will be great compared to the cost of their hire.