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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(98 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
The apparel is a decorated panel, usually stiffened, made separately from the vestment to which it is attached. In medieval times it could be embroidered or made from patterned silk. It was usually attached to the white linen amice and, from the 12th to the 15th centuries, the alb ; and later to the dalmatic. Elizabeth Coatsworth Bibliography Johnstone, P., High Fashion in the Church. The place of church vestments in the history of art from the ninth to the nineteenth century (Leeds: 2002), 8 and 146 diagram V.


(593 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth | Gale R. Owen-Crocker
There are several types of appliqué, of which two are represented in medieval work. In the first, pattern or ornament is produced when shaped pieces of a secondary fabric are overlaid onto a ground fabric and fastened to it, usually (and in the medieval period always) by stitches. This type is sometimes called onlay. If the stitches used are functional merely, they can be invisible or meant to be so; where there is also decorative stitching this can become the main feature of the appliqué, so that the secondary fabric becomes a background, or even…

Archaeological Textiles

(3,645 words)

Author(s): Penelope Walton Rogers
The term 'archaeological textile' embraces a wide range of fibrous products recovered from the earth or from submerged sites such as shipwrecks. Although 'textile' in its strictest sense means 'something woven', its meaning is usually extended to include non-woven goods such as felt, knitting and netting. These represent some of the most difficult artefacts to be managed in the post-excavation process: their fragility means that they need careful handling and their complexity makes them costly t…

Arming Doublet

(273 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
From c. 1425 it was less common than before for armour to be worn over a full haubergeon. Instead, individual pieces of mail were attached to the arming doublet with arming points to provide protection where there was no plate armour. These pieces of mail were intended to protect the neck ( the standard), the armpits ( voiders) and the groin and upper thighs (the skirt) . The arming doublet gradually replaced the aketon as the padded undergarment worn under armour. It was shorter than the aketon. An example of a 15th-century arming doublet, probably made in Germany, is in the collecti…

Armour: coat of plates

(1,379 words)

Author(s): Ralph Moffat
A coat of plates was flexible armour for the torso made from steel plates riveted inside a leather or textile support and sometimes faced with a fine textile. It was invariably sleeveless. The name derives from the Latin word p lattus and the French and English 'plate' denoting a rigid lame or sheet, generally of metal. A coat of plates was often referred to in contemporary documents as a 'pair of plates'. This does not indicate that it comprises two plates but rather that it was composed of a dual defence, one for the chest and one for the back. The coat of plates was cheap to make, often reu…

Armour: coif and capados/helmet linings

(1,197 words)

Author(s): Ralph Moffat | Mark Chambers
The term coif comes from the Old French/Anglo-Norman term coife, coiffe, the Latin cuffia and the Old High German kupfe, meaning cap. The military coif seems to have derived naturally from non-military usage, the word generally referring to a close-fitting head covering of various descriptions, appearing in British texts soon after the Conquest. Thus it is often difficult to make strict distinction between military and civilian dress, with coifs being worn by knights in various contexts, including military and ceremo…


(502 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
Evidence of armourers producing plate armour and linen armour can be found in 14th-century London. There is also evidence suggesting that a group of armourers making plate armour was working in York towards the end of the century. Regulations for making textile, mail and plate armour were issued in London in 1322, and in 1347 the makers of plate armour formed themselves into a separate guild -- the Heaumers guild or makers of helms. The masters included Roger and Simon le Heaumer and Gilot le Hauberger who w…

Armourers and Armour: textual evidence

(2,221 words)

Author(s): Ralph Moffat
An anonymous Frenchman writing about the armour worn in France in the 1440s made a telling statement. When he came to describe the most common sort of arm defence -- those made in Milan (‘ les plus comuns qui se font à Milan’) – he concluded: 'and if you were ask me from what parts they are made, I would answer that there is no need from me to describe them in detail -- for everyone knows!' (' Et si vous me demandez de quantes pièces ilz sont faiz, je vous respons quil n'est ja besoing que je le déclaire plus particulièrement, car tout le mond le seet'). This succinctly encapsulates the greatest obst…

Armour: plate armour

(1,760 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
According to Claude Blair there were three main type of armour in the period from c. 1066 to c. 1700: plate armour, mail and soft armour or armour made from quilted fabric and unhardened leather. This entry will focus on the first of these, plate amour, and it will cover four key themes: the development of plate armour; the decorative techniques used to ornament it; the types of evidence and the key pieces of a suit of armour. The evolution of plate armour can be linked to the rise of projectile weapons, especially the long bow and cross bow which were able to pierce mail…