Wear Our Heritage: Medieval & More Collection

last updated December 30, 2020 by Sheila Schmutz, Saskatoon. sheila.schmutz@usask.ca

"Medieval & More" Fur Trimmed Garments

Medieval clothing is one small section of the Wear Our Heritage design line. This section is really "Medieval & More" because several of these items can be worn for Renaissance Faires, Medieval banquets, etc. but also in other contexts. The photo above is a merchant stall at the Prairie Paladin Medieval Market and Faire on the University of Saskatchewan campus on September 26, 2015, which was the beginning of this section. This is the only event that I "merchant" at.

I have used recycled fur for some of these items, whereas all the clothing in my regular line uses only new wild Canadian fur. The prices of these items, include mailing within Canada and tax.

This hood could be worn by a man or a woman, likely of not too high a rank in society. The raccoon fur trim is only around the edge, but in cold countries the entire hood may have been fur lined.

This 6 point hat is trimmed with sheepskin, actually "mouton". This can be worn by a man or women as Medieval attire, although more commonly by men in the Middle ages. This type of hat was worn by men from early Medieval times in many regions, including the Viking areas (Birka find) and Europe through at least the 12th century. This hat is made of 100% wool which would be an appropriate fabric in the Middle Ages. The wool is a herringbone weave, used by Vikings, and is a color acheived at the time. Sheep were raised and sheepskin was used in Medieval times but it probably was not sheared, as is this mouton. The fur on this hat is from a vintage coat.

During the 15th century in England, brocade, embroidered velvets and other opulent fabrics began to be more fashionable than fur. Fur trim, instead of complete fur linings of clothing persisted in the early part of the century though. (E. Veale "The English Fur Trade")

The hat at the left is made of satin with an embossed gold pattern. The brim is raccoon.

The hat at the right is made of brocade in the flat topped pillbox style, with red fox trim. 23" inner circumference, Medium.

This hat was inspired by a 16th century painting from Mongolia (right). The fur on the original hat reminded me of the stripes on raccoon tails and therefore, thatís the fur I used. However, it has been suggested that the original was likely a red panda tail. This was the first and only hat Iíve made of this type. I decided to sew the wool for the body of the hat with the seams facing to the outside to accentuate the multiple pieces used in the construction. It also created a pointed top, which was further highlighted with a bit of raccoon fur. Inner circumference 24", Large.

Capes or cloaks of this type were typical Medieval attire for both men and women through the 14th century. This cape is made of a wool blend in a relatively loose weave. The rabbit collar is removable so that the cape can be easily cleaned/washed. It is not lined but simply maximizes the shape of the pelt. This is probably a domestic rabbit but there could have been arctic hare in some northern areas at the time.

In the 14th centuray, the entire cloak might have been fur lined, with the fur showing only on the collar. Squirrel was a common fur used to line cloaks. Ermine or winter weasel/stoat was only affordable by the very wealthy. In certain periods, the cloak would likely have been floor length on people who were wealthy enough. It was often closed with a chain or a cord.

Capes are back in fashion today! Many women wear capes of this length, or shorter as their go-to winter outer garment. Sweaters, light jackets, etc. can easily be worn underneath.

Medieval Clothing Construction

"Medieval" Clothing varied by period and geographic location. Some re-enactors try to use authentic hand construction techniques but many suppliers used modern sewing machines and are after the "look" of the original pieces only. Words such as replica or reproduction are used, but I am not sure that they have a standardized meaning in this context. Some state that "no machine sewing is visible from the exterior".

Both flat fell and french seams were used by the 10th century (3). There was also some use of binding on seams by this time.

Fabric and Materials

The main fabrics used in Europe during Medieval times were linen and wool(1). Both are natural fibres, linen made from flax and wool spun from the fur of sheep typically. Silk became available in the late 9th century but was expensive and usually a heavy type of weave.

Leather and natural fur were also used in garments and accessories. Charlotte Johnson has given courses on "Working with fur" in Medieval garments at SCA events and shares her slideshow from 2008 on her webpage. She begins with: "One clothing element that was extremely common in the middle ages for people of all but the poorest classes was the use of fur. In many wills, fur-lined garments or linings outnumber those without fur." She later states that fur was used less by the 15th century, when heating became more common. Nevertheless, in some countries such as England, sumptuary laws were proclaimed which limited the type of fur worn by specific classes of people.

Embroidery and applique were used to decorate garments of both sexes by the 11th century.

Links for Medieval Fur Sewing and Garments

Patterns and Fabric

Patterns for men, women and children are available in several of the standard pattern books (i.e. McCall's, Simplicity, Butterick, Burda, etc.) in your local fabric store or by order online. Additional patterns are available via the internet.

Movies and TV Shows That Provide Inspiration and Examples of Medieval Costumes Note that many re-enactors do not consider the costumes on the screen to be very historically accurate.

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See also Fur in the Middle AgesA selection of paintings illustrating how fur was worn by men and women in Medieval times.