|Ian S LaSpina
|Posted: Yesterday at 6:03 pm Post subject: Charles de Blois Pourpoint, a sewing project
|The proceeding will be a combination DIY project with a little bit of a review:
The arming clothes that we wear beneath our armor forms the foundation necessary for a good fit and comfort of movement. If neglected, it would be akin to building a beautiful home on naught but the bare earth. However, our arming clothes do often go neglected for none other than the simple fact that they are neither glamorous nor visible when we don our kits.
I've been through many iterations of my arming clothes, and I believe I've finally found the solution, as both practical and historic to the best of my knowledge. My period of interest is the late 14th century, the tail end of the transitional period from the maille hauberks of before, to the white harness of Agincourt. During the age of maille, the standard foundation for the hauberk is a thickly padded gambeson, perhaps made from many layers of linen, or padded with raw cotton, horse hair or other materials. The padding beneath maille serves not only as a cushion for the wearer, but when struck, the outer skin of the maille flexes into the cushioning of the gambeson beneath and acts to dissipate the force of the blow. As plate began to cover the knight, padding got lighter, and disappeared altogether by the time of the white harness, when a tightly fitted doublet replaced a padded gambeson completely. In the late 14th century, the maille hauberk had shrunk to a three-quartered sleeve garment, and the skirt only approached mid-thigh. With a majority of the body being covered in plate, the need for the older thickly padded textile armors of before became redundant and unnecessary.
The late 14th century pourpoint, or aketon, or gambeson (the language of the Middle Ages is not nearly as precise as our modern sentiments would prefer), was most likely the foundation for the late 14th century harness. This garment is much more closely tailored to the body than the older heavily padded gambesons. Similar to the arming doublets of the 15th century, it must also serve as the support garment from which to point plate armor, specifically the leg harness.
As my knowledge increased, so too did my collection of arming garments. For the last several years I had settled on the combination of a vest-like garment, very closely fitted to support my leg harness, and a lightly padded gambeson worn over it to support the maille. The vest-like garment is a modern solution and there is little evidence for such a garment in the historical record. The late 15th century does depict some vest-like garments from which hose could be supported, but this is too late for my period of interest, and also not appropriate for martial use. In order to correctly support a leg harness, the garment absolutely must be very fitted and tight through the waist and hips. If you can imagine pulling down on the bottom of the garment (as the leg harness will when supported by it), if the garment creates this girdling effect, it will support the weight of the legs on the hips instead of transferring the weight up to the shoulders. If your garment is even slightly too large, it will not girdle the waist and hips, and you will be holding up your leg armor with your shoulders, resulting in vertical compression of the spine, and thus fatigue will set in much quicker than you want it to and your armor will be incredibly uncomfortable to wear for anything other than a few minutes.
It seemed that the only way I could really get what I wanted was to either have a custom tailored garment done in person, or make it myself. I decided to try my hand at making the garment myself. As a complete novice to sewing (my wife had to show me how to turn on and operate the machine), I was a bit intimidated, but I found the ideal solution. Tasha Kelly (some of you may be familiar with her as Tailoress on the Armour Archive) has for sale an excellent pattern for the Charles de Blois pourpoint. The actual surviving garment is a civil garment, but as was custom, many civil garments mimicked their martial counterparts. This particular pattern is very approachable for someone who has little to no sewing experience. I contacted Tasha directly and asked some questions before I began and she was immediately helpful with all kinds of advice on how to get started and what I should do to make it work for me.
Here's a photo set of the progress on the garment I've been reproducing. I elected to machine-sew for the sake of speed, sanity, and ease of construction. The outer layer is heavy linen. In between the outer layer and lining are layers of cotton batting to provide padding (ahistorical, but invisible and easy to use, this of course can be done using more historical techniques if preferred), and the lining is a medium weight linen. The lacing eyelets and arming point eyelets are hand-sewn and made using embroidery floss
Here is the pattern booklet, followed by the pattern laid out before cutting.
This is a quick prototype I did in muslin before committing to the linen and batting.
Here are pieces of the linen quilted garment prior to being assembled
The inside of an arming point. Each cuisse has two pairs of 4 eyelets from which to suspend it from the garment. I've placed a square piece of leather inside the garment as well through which my arming points go to take some of the stress off the garment itself.
Here you can see the cuisse properly suspended from the pourpoint.
In this shot you can see why the grand assiette sleeve design is so important. The grand assiette sleeve is inset into the torso of the garment much further than any modern cut jacket. If you imagine a modern suit jacket, when you raise your arms, you also raise the body of the garment itself. This would be less than optimal for arming clothes, because it would mean that every time you lift your arms over your head, you'd also be pulling your leg harness up in to your groin! The grand assiette sleeves allows full mobility of the shoulder joint while keeping the torso of the garment in place.
There are still a couple small tweaks I would like to make before I declare it 'done.' But it's fully functional at this stage. It is relatively light in the padding compared to some of my other arming garments, but I find this to be a good thing with this particular style of harness. All during the construction process, Tasha was always available to answer any questions I had. She made the process very pleasant and I really didn't run in to any major problems. She stands by her product and I recommend it 100% to anyone interested in making something similar, be it an arming garment or a civil garment. The pattern itself has multiple construction methods depending on how historic you woud like your garment to be. It also has options for button up or lace up front closures, as well as button up or pull on cuffs. The step by step instructions are clear enough for people of all experience levels to walk away with a very well constructed garment when it's all said and done, and if you run in to any snags, Tasha was always there to help.
If you're at all interested in the reconstruction of medieval garments and textiles, please stop by Tasha's website, La Cotte Simple. There you can see some of the museum grade reconstructions of garments she has done, including the magnificent reproduction of the Charles VI Jupon.
Charles de Blois Pourpoint Pattern:
"War is delightful to those who have had no experience of it" - Erasmus