Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles

Get access Subject: History
Edited by: Gale Owen-Crocker, Elizabeth Coatsworth & Maria Hayward
The single volume Encyclopaedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles c. 450-1450 is a unique work that intends to bring together in 582 signed articles the latest research from across the range of disciplines which contribute to our knowledge of medieval dress and textiles.

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(7 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
See squirrel fur. Maria Hayward

Vambrace at British Museum, London

(393 words)

Author(s): John Cherry
This decorated leather armour (plate) is an arm defence, of the kind often known as a 'vambrace'. It dates from the 14th century, measures 287 mm by 245 mm (approx. 11.5 x 10 inches) and weighs 228 grammes. Leather was used widely for body armour (see armour: plate armour) in the Middle Ages. Horses often had leather plate armour, as is shown by a crupper in the Royal Armouries. Most frequently leather was used for the protection of joints such as shoulders, knees, and both lower and upper arms. Chaucer refers to Si…

Vegetable fibre

(366 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
Several plant fibres were available from the beginning of our period. One, the easily available common stinging nettle ( Urtica dioica L.), is better attested for its textile use in Scandinavia than in Britain: in Anglo-Saxon England there are only two recorded examples, from Buckland II, Dover, Kent and from Viking Age York. Willow bark appears also to have been used to make rope at Winchester; and a wooden belt made from a strip of willow was found at Buckland I, Dover, Kent. All these examples apart from the York nettle are from the pre-Conquest period. Better attested are the bast fibr…


(1,315 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker | Desirée Koslin
Modern terminology distinguishes between wimple and veil in the following way: the wimple is a cloth with a hole in it, framing the face, or an arrangement of textiles concealing hair, forehead, neck and the edges of the face, so that the centre of the face appears as if through an aperture, a style ultimately confined to nuns and widows; and the veil is a loose textile which might be worn over another headdress or directly over the hair. Medieval terminology is less clear, and on occasion direc…


(550 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth | Gale R. Owen-Crocker
References to a soft, piled cloth, velvet, or a piece of such cloth, go back to the late 13th century, when the textile was used for soft furnishings and ecclesiastical vestments. By the late 14th century it was fashionable for the secular clothing of the rich and royal. Many surviving embroidered vestments or fragments of garments have a ground fabric of velvet (see opus anglicanum ). While the earliest velvets were all silk, archaeological textiles from the London excavations included four fragments of half-silk velvets, in which a warp of linen or h…


(122 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
Zupko suggested this was a measurement of length synonymous with yard, with a first reference cited from 1300. The Middle English Dictionary suggests the possibility, but only as a query, and barely supports it. See also cloth: dimensions and weights , in which it is also suggested that this meaning is unlikely. Elizabeth Coatsworth Bibliography Kurath, H., Kuhn, S. M., Reidy J. and Lewis, R. E., ed., Middle English Dictionary (Ann Arbor, MI: 1952-2001), s.v. verge . Zupko, R. E., A Dictionary of Weights and Measures for the British Isles : the Middle Ages to the twentieth century (Philadel…


(62 words)

Author(s): John Oldland
Vesses, or set cloths, was a name originally, in the fifteenth century, given to coarse cloths, both narrow and broad, from Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. In the course of that century it came to be applied to a cheaper and lower-quality form of broadcloth. By the mid-sixteenth century vesses were lower quality, coloured cloths. See Broadcloth: history of English broadcloth. John Oldland


(18 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
See alb; amice; chasuble; cope; dalmatic; ecclesiastical dress; embroidery; liturgical textiles; maniple; mitre; stole; Elizabeth Coatsworth