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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(1,155 words)

Author(s): John Oldland
The term ‘homespun’ entered the English language in the late sixteenth century, to mean coarse cloth spun and woven at home for personal use. Perhaps the word ‘homespun’ was by then needed to describe the clothing worn by a poor minority, whereas it had been unnecessary three hundred years earlier as almost everyone had worn homespun. Unfortunately there are no statistics that can tell us how much homespun was produced or of changes in usage in the late medieval period. However, we can be fairly…


(971 words)

Author(s): Sarah Thursfield
Hoods are a very early and practical protection for the head, worn alone or attached to an outer garment: a hooded skin cape survives from Iron Age Denmark. Roman hoods already show the characteristic pointed crown (as worn by the figure of Winter, a mosaic at Chedworth Roman villa, Gloucestershire) suggesting construction based on a folded rectangle of fabric sewn at the top or the back. This simple construction is apparent in several archaeological textiles, the 3rd to 7th-century Orkney Hood and close-fitting headdresses of silk and wool surviving from Viking Age York,…

Horse armour

(689 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
A bard is the correct term for horse armour that could be made from mail, plate or cuir bouilli (see leather: cuir bouilli). It should be contrasted with the trapper which is a full covering for a horse including its head, that could be made from metal, leather or textile. It could be decorative (e.g. displaying the rider's coat of arms or heraldic badges during a tournament) or for protection. While it was not permitted to strike an opponent's horse during a tournament, horse armour could provid…

Horse hair

(8 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
See animal fibre. Elizabeth Coatsworth

Horse trapper, Musée Cluny, Paris

(412 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
The embroidery now in the Musée national du Moyen Age, Thermes de Cluny, Paris (CL. 20367) was previously in private possession, having been acquired from the Convent of Altenberg on the Lahn, Germany, after its suppression in 1802. While in the convent the fragments had been used as part of a set of mass-vestments (a chasuble), but are believed to have been originally from a secular object, a horse trapper. The Altenberg was used by Edward III in 1338 on a state visit to his brother-in-law, the…

Horse trappings

(1,389 words)

Author(s): Michael Lewis
Throughout the Middle Ages horses were used for work, recreation and war, dictating the form and use of their trappings, which also varied over time. Invariably most horse-equipment is functional, allowing the animal to be ridden or worked, but such elements could also be embellished. A head-harness (bridle) and stirrups were used to control the horse, whilst the body-harness was designed to keep the saddle in place. Other accessories were used to protect the horse (or rider), mark ownership, or to allow the horse to work equipment, such as pull a cart. Archaeology provides the best ev…


(1,263 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
Hose (caligas, chausses) were leg coverings worn by men and women but they differed markedly according to the wearers' gender. The hose worn by men were made in two distinct forms: separate hose and joined hose. During the 9th and 10th centuries men generally wore separate hose that were either thigh-length and usually of linen, or knee-length and of wool. By the 11th century men's hose were usually knee-length, made either of wool or linen and they were sometimes referred to as 'chauses'. From the 12th to 14th centuries hose were mostly knee- or thigh-length. Thigh-length hose we…


(355 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
The houppelande was worn by men and women and was at its most fashionable from c. 1380 to c. 1420. However, as with many fashions, some individuals could continue to wear it, or to be depicted in it, even if it was no longer the height of fashion. For example, the funeral effigy of Lady Elizabeth Keith, wife of Alexander Irvine of Drum (St Nicholas' kirk, Aberdeen) depicts her still wearing a houppelande c. 1455. It is a French term for a garment resembling a gown; the word was gradually replaced by the word gown in the 15th century. As the houppelande was worn by both genders, it was made …


(546 words)

Author(s): Ralph Moffat
Hourson is of unexplained etymology but documentary evidence indicates that it was a strap, often elaborately decorated, depending from the rear of the bascinet lining over the aventail (mail neck defence) to secure the helmet to body armour. A challenge to a duel between French noblemen of 1386 states that the bascinet may be ' attache avec un hourson destoffes de bourre de soye, de cotton, couvert de cendaux, de toiles de chanvre, & de lin, ou de lun deux, ou de tous ensemble' ('attached with a hourson equipped with silk padding, [and] with cotton, covered with sendal, hemp …


(63 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
A hure was a cap; hurers were makers or sellers of caps. There is some suggestion that they made shaggy caps or worked with hair as well as wool. Elizabeth Coatsworth Bibliography Kurath, H., Kuhn, S. M., Reidy, J. and Lewis, R. E., ed., The Middle English Dictionary (Ann Arbor, MI: 1952-2001), s.v . hure, hurer.