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Basic Clothing

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To present yourself as a commoner, you must have at least one basic set of clothes.

Herein we provide guidelines. This is about as simple as it gets. There are variations and elaborations to most of the items, but for now we’re sticking to the basics and trying to keep it as simple as possible while remaining typical, typical, typical.

All clothing should be in colors achievable with natural dye materials available to Europe in the late fourteenth century.

Basic clothes consist of undershorts (braes), leg coverings (hosen), a shirt, a tunic, and a hood. Shoes are nice, but are daunting to some, so we recommend beginners try sewing leather soles onto their hosen, a popular period approach.

Basic accessories consist of a belt, a belt pouch, a sheathed knife or dagger, and a bag in which to carry your stuff. We also recommend a cloak or a second, possibly heavier, tunic for warmth. You’ll also need a minimal set of eating gear (consisting of bowl, spoon, and drinking vessel) and an archer will need the minimal arms and armor but making those is outside the scope of this article.

In looking at what you need, we’ll start from the inside and work our way out.


We have little in the way of hard data on these most basic garments. Most of our information comes from illustrations, leaving us to speculate on the actual construction. You’ll be making a pair to look like those in vogue for centuries before our time. Only in the later part of the fourteenth century do they begin to be supplanted by shorter and more form-fitting styles.

Braes should be made of linen, almost always white (or natural fabric color). They appear to have been held up by drawstrings (cording or linen tape) or by a belt called a brygyrdyl (a brae-girdle). You can select either method.


Hosen are leg coverings that do the job of pants legs as well as socks. We’re giving you a pattern modified from a survival detailed in Norlund’s Buried Norsemen at Herjolfnes. Besides simplifying the number of pieces, we’ve added a foot. We call them footed point hose, “footed” because they have feet on them and “point” because the come to a point on the top.


Our shirt design is based on the pattern of a 13th century man’s linen shirt pattern presented in Cut My Cote by Dorothy K. Burnham.

The original is linen and linen is the most suitable fabric for a shirt. Shirts were apparently always white (or natural fabric color).

Tunic or cote

The tunic design we suggest for a simple commoner is based the tunic documented in Bockstensmannen by Margareta Nockert. The tunic is of similar form to the shirt but is fuller in the skirt. The Bocksten man’s tunic uses more pieces than the Notre Dame shirt. The extra pieces are underarm gores and more gores in around the hem.

The Bocksten man’s tunic is wool, and wool is the most likely fabric for this garment. Alternatively it might be made of linen for summer wear. The original is typical bog-recovered brown, but tunics might be dyed in any number of natural dye colors although red and blue were popular. Company archers are encouraged to make tunics in miparti of azure and murray, which if to say, one half of the garment in blue and the half in mulberry.


The most common form of headgear is a hood. Other forms of headgear such as coifs and caps are considered supplemental. Hoods are made of wool or linen and may be lined or unlined. Coifs are most commonly made of white linen. A piece of leather headgear similar in appearance to a coif would be considered a cap.

Hood material is wool again in all the usual veggie dye colors.


We turn to the Bocksten man again for this pattern. It is a side opening cloak, the opening on the right side to allow that arm full freedom. The BM’s cloak is sewn together at the shoulder, so it must have been pulled on over the head. Keep that in mind when designing your neck hole.

Once again, wool is the material and the colors are veggie dye colors.