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Josh MacNeil




Location: Massachusetts, USA
Joined: 23 Jul 2008

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PostPosted: Thu 05 Feb, 2009 5:04 pm    Post subject: Rapier vest & gambeson         Reply with quote

Hi all. I'm trying to find a 14th-15th Century tunic style gambeson in the sub $150 range that is mostly historical accurate. I came across these two in a search. I'm a novice when it comes to picking out historically accurate period clothing, so I was hoping somebody here could give me some insight.

The vest...



The vendor description says: "The Rapier Vest shown here is a form of Gambeson...very heavy with solid half inch stuffed cotton. Often, particularly when traveling from place to place, the gambeson was worn as a sort of uniform. This Rapier Vest has eyelets in the top edges to which you can attach chain mail sleeves if desired. As a concession to reality, it is zipped up the side, however the heavy plastic zipper is covered by a flap so you cannot see it."

And the gambeson...



description: "Aketons are worn under the armour to absorb sweat, and to ease the armour sliding over the skin. If you wanted to use this as a base to attach chain mail gussets, and make this into an "arming doublet", it is strong enough to handle it. It is superb for wearing under a chain mail hauberk because the padding is actually quite slight, and these are made from 100% cotton for comfort and breathability. The problem with people making home made arming doublets from moving quilts is the polyester stuffing which contributes to possible heat prostration."

I like the idea of using a gambeson as an arming doublet in the future and building up a kit. Like I said before, I want something that is mostly historical, but am not too concerned about 100% accuracy. That's why I liked the vest as it has the eyelets on the shoulders for attaching chainmail. But if these pieces are pure fantasy, then I hope somebody can point me in the right direction.

Thanks

-JM
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Thu 05 Feb, 2009 5:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I read things like "mostly historical" and so I'm going to have to say that both these items would make "almost completely non-historical" solutions.

Because history is at least partly important, I suggest that a bit of research might be in order on that front. Beginning with some study of historical portraiture may be the easiest start. If you like what you're learning from that, there are likely some sources on the 'net that discuss such things in the context of clothing and fashion and even perhaps for the purpose of re-enactment. There are good books on the subject too, but these may not be within your spending interests currently.

I'm going to make a bold statement here so please bare with me:

There really are very, very few sources of "off the shelf" historical clothing options available that are even close to being in the same ballpark as what was worn historically. Please note that I am not being a "historical accuracy snob" here but am saying that a vast majority of these "off the shelf" items are absolutely wrong.

In a response to another one of your posts, I suggested Historic Enterprises as a possible solution. This may be one of the very few companies making historical clothing off-the-shelf and in the right ballpark as things found in history. They even go so far as to rate their own "historical accuracy" and mention when things fall short. Pretty cool.

At the end of the day, budget will be an issue. Once you've looked into what historically was worn, perhaps you could talk to a local seamstress and have something made for you. Given some sort of research and even patterns (which are available online or elsewhere for sale!) will result in a piece much, much better than most anything off-the-shelf. This is the suggestion I'd make for any person, frankly, as it hits one extremely important thing in historical (and modern) fashion: the issue of fit. Properly fitting clothing is as important to clothing as any other factor. Get that one wrong, and a piece that is otherwise pretty good looks (and is) completely wrong.

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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Thu 05 Feb, 2009 10:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And to add to Nathan's appraisal, these items are also of very little use if you plan on using them for any sort of Western Martial Arts. The gambeson in question gives about as much protection as a heavy sweater, and the fitting doesn't allow very good movement. It is even worse if you intend to wear it under armour (I used to have one). The rapier fencing vest is somewhat more functional, but not anymore so than a typical fencing jacket (in fact, it is less functional than a fencing jacket because it is sleeveless). While it is true that a fencing jacket is very modern, I find the look of that doublet to also be very modern... it looks like it belongs in a science fiction movie to portray some kind of bullet proof vest.
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Bjorn Hagstrom




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2009 2:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For decent historical accuracy and reasonable price there is only one way to do it. Using your own precious time and labour.

For your time period I would suggest an arming doublet or a padded jack.

http://www.nachtanz.org/SReed/doublets.html

Is great link for doublet info. An arming doublet is based on the same pattern as the civilian, although no need for puffy arms, and you will need to add points for strapping on armour parts. And of course layered/quilted/padded to comfort. Beware that materials, techniques and amount of padding is an issue of constant debate among reenactors.

For a padded jack, a pattern can be found here:

http://www.armourarchive.org/patterns/paddedjack_sinric/

I know that it might seem daunting to embark on a project like this, but it will save you money and be as good or better than anything you can buy if you are careful about material selection.

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2009 7:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If historical accuracy is your concern, heed the advice of the folks above. If your first concern is WMA training, read on.

For training, I'd definitely choose the vest over the gambeson. I bought and reviewed that CASI vest when it was launched many years ago (2003?). The review floated around online for years but I can't find it anymore. The upshot is that I loved it for rapier and sword training when I was an ARMA student. It was thickly and firmly padded, very stiff. The downside is what folks have mentioned above--it's not historical, not as safe as a fencing jacket/tunic in terms of coverage and won't be allowed for use in classical fencing schools and groups such as SCA. However, I found it to be much better than my fencing jacket (Triplette fencing tunic) over the areas it covers because it's so thickly padded. I used it with a thick leather and aluminum gorget, three-weapon mask, cup and long-cuff welding gloves, and felt that it was a good "middle way" for my ARMA study, providing good puncture and blunt trauma defense over critical areas of the body, but allowing range of motion appropriate to the historical context of the weapons I was studying.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Josh MacNeil




Location: Massachusetts, USA
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2009 12:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've seen a couple depictions of something similar to the vest in period artwork. The main difference is usually appears to be colors and patterns (I'll try and dig up some examples). My idea with the vest was to cover it with fabric and add some trim and possibly add additional padding. I'm more interested in a historical look than function right now. I figure this way I can get a rough idea of how to go about making a more functional doublet in the future. Does this sound like a good idea, or should I just completely start from scratch and make my own?
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2009 12:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The vest is not historical at all and has nothing to do with 14th-15th century clothing. Given that you've said that historical accuracy is at least somewhat important to you, I'd say that it's not a very good idea at all.
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2009 1:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, I think you can spar "safely" and you can be historically authentic, but probably not at the same time. Some groups manage an interesting compromise--studying WMA with the usual safeguards but then using choreographed demonstrations in historically authentic clothing to create a very compelling illusion.

Like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kj4Ng6DBfrg&feature=related

But please note that these folks are very serious WMA students and there's still danger here to unprotected eyes and joints.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2009 1:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Josh MacNeil wrote:
I've seen a couple depictions of something similar to the vest in period artwork.


Those are likely 16th c. As far as I can tell, the CASI fencing vest is meant to vaguely resemble a doublet of that era, as in this image from Achille Marozzo's Opera Nova (1536) (image from ARMA's historical manual resources).

But the emphasis here is on "vaguely resemble". Note also the fit of the doublets shown below. I had difficulty finding a non-ridiculous fit with the CASI vest (which came in only two or three sizes, IIRC).



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-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Michael Ekelmann




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Feb, 2009 11:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've worn that gambeson or a similar design from MRL and it's horrible in terms of historical acuracy and functionality. Too ill-fitting to wear under armour and too thin to function as armour on it's own. Since you've written that you are interested in historical accuracy, you should look at paintings and drawings from the area and time frame that interests you. I've found the Web Gallery of Art to be an indespensible tool http://www.wga.hu/ for research in clothing and armour. Now there is a piece of armour that the rapier vest sort of replicates, albeit badly, the jack of plates. This a doublet/jerkin made of tough fabric with small plates sandwiched between the layers of fabric. More of a common man's armour it was worn by troops as diverse as the Scottish Border Reivers, the Conquistadors and the Virginia Jamestowne colonists. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons..._Leeds.JPG

There are a bare handful of online companies, such as Historic Enterprises and Revival Clothing, that sell off the shelf historically accurate stuff. You would do well to add terms like reenactor and living history to your searches and said to say, concentrate more on European than North American companies.

Cheers,
Michael

“Men prefer to fight with swords, so they can see each other's eyes!" Sean Connery as Mulay Hamid El Raisuli in The Wind and the Lion
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