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T. Hamilton




Location: United States
Joined: 30 Dec 2009

Posts: 85

PostPosted: Mon 05 Apr, 2010 6:31 pm    Post subject: Surcoat length         Reply with quote

I'd be amazed if this hasn't been covered before, but I can't seem to find it in the search engine. I know the historic trend was for surcoats to get shorter, but in the hayday of the sugarloaf helm, was the surcoat still below the knee, or had it already migrated up? I can't tell from the period art I've tracked down, because everyone wearing a sugarloaf is on horseback.
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
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PostPosted: Wed 07 Apr, 2010 6:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The length of the surcote depends on personal taste, and the current tunic fashions.
Sugar loafs where in use around 1300, when tunics where still quite long. The short surcote appears in the second quarter of the 14th c, along with the bacinett, which replaces the sugar loaf.

The development can be seen here;
http://www.gothiceye.com/pictures.asp?categoryID=3&offset=18

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Jeff A. Arbogast





Joined: 16 Oct 2008

Posts: 180

PostPosted: Wed 07 Apr, 2010 5:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a pic of my surcoat based on a 12th/13th century era knight, just to give you an idea. It goes halfway down my calf, which I feel is about right, at least for me. I personally prefer the long surcoat over mail look myself, although I'm not wearing any mail here.


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My best Henry Morgan.jpg


A man's nose is his castle-and his finger is a mighty sword that he may wield UNHINDERED!
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T. Hamilton




Location: United States
Joined: 30 Dec 2009

Posts: 85

PostPosted: Wed 07 Apr, 2010 6:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you very much! BTW, the "gothic eye" site is quite helpful.
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Kevin Hemmingsen




Location: SF Bay Area
Joined: 20 Jun 2009

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PostPosted: Thu 08 Apr, 2010 9:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeff A. Arbogast wrote:
Here is a pic of my surcoat based on a 12th/13th century era knight, just to give you an idea. It goes halfway down my calf, which I feel is about right, at least for me. I personally prefer the long surcoat over mail look myself, although I'm not wearing any mail here.


Jeff,

Where did you get your surcoat? Was it custom made? I really like the style.

Cheers,
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Jeff A. Arbogast





Joined: 16 Oct 2008

Posts: 180

PostPosted: Thu 08 Apr, 2010 3:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Kevin,
Please bear with me as I try to answer your question. I got the surcoat from Pendragon Costumes out of California. It IS a custom surcoat, modified from their standard surcoat, which is normally split all the way down the front and tied with a belt (???) . Naturally, this would not do at all if you had something to add to the chest. So I had them modify it by sewing up the front from crotch to neck. They do excellent work, and the seam is hardly noticeable. This made it a lot easier for me to add the red and silver lion to the chest, which I had stitched up by a medieval heraldry company in the British Isles. Very expensive, but well worth it. Pendragon costumes also added a small split at the back of the neck that laces up so it is easier to get over your head (It's a pull-over sort of thing) without needing a huge flapping hole around your neck. It has crotch length splits front, back and sides. I really like the swirling effect all the splits give when you move about. It just FEELS neat, if you know what I mean, and is completely horse-worthy. It is laced up on the sides from hips to armpits with criss-crossed thongs, and a gold-toned multi-colored medieval floral motive on the edges. It is black leather, with a heavy black cotton inner liner.
Pendragon Costumes is very precise. This surcoat is tailored just for me. They asked neck size, chest, inseam, height, waist etc.etc. It really does make a difference in how it looks on you rather than something off the shelf. Their price was, I think, pretty reasonable, considering all the customizing.-$400.00 The lion was another $250.00, but it really is an outstanding piece of embroidery. It glitters brightly and stands out from the surface a good half-inch. But you pay for that, and even then I still had to cut it out of the black material it was sewn to and then hand-sew it onto the surcoat over many dull evenings. VERY scary. But it all turned out well in the end. Whew...
I was trying for the earlier "Ivanhoe" look rather than the later more plated "Henry V" look. Just my preference. If you care to, drop me a PM with your e-mail address and I will send you some more full-size pics that may give you a better idea than just this one small picture. Anyone else may as well if they wish.

A man's nose is his castle-and his finger is a mighty sword that he may wield UNHINDERED!
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T. Hamilton




Location: United States
Joined: 30 Dec 2009

Posts: 85

PostPosted: Thu 08 Apr, 2010 6:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think you nailed the "Ivanhoe" look. In fact, the first time I saw your kit on the "Show us your harness" thread, the first thing that popped into my mind was: "That's exactly how I imagined Richard looking when they stormed Torquelstone!" Well done!

Your description of your surcoat raised another question for me: You mentioned yours laces up from hip to armpit, was that the norm in that period, or a modification? I've been debating about sewing mine or leaving it loose, but lacing seems like a nice option. Again, GREAT kit!
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Troy G L Williams




Location: Moody, Texas
Joined: 20 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 5:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The majority of the effigies and images I have seen from the surcoat period do not indicate any lacings on the sides, at least the ones I have seen. I'm not sure that a period surcoat would be made of leather but possibly of wool. That is in my opinion of course Big Grin . I would be curious if there are any surviving surcoats that were made of leather. I have seen the Pendragon goods at faires before. They do great work. My wife has a courtesan outfit of theirs.
v/r,
Troy Williams

"Itís merely a flesh wound." -Monty Python and the Holy Grail
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 11:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Surcotes are as far as I know made of wool or silk. Lacing is also more of a renaisance feature than high medevial. The "standard issue" crusader era surcote was a quite simple garment. From illustrations it appears that they where often not even cut to fit on the shoulders.
"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Troy G L Williams




Location: Moody, Texas
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 11:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That is what I figured as well Elling. I believe they were simple rectangles with a hole cut for your head and sewn at the shoulders. It seems most surcoats were to protect the wearer from the elements and did not display hearldry until sometime later. Please correct me if I am wrong. I did not know about the silk construction but I knew they used wool. I'm sure it was the higher class that utilized silk.
v/r,
Troy Williams

"Itís merely a flesh wound." -Monty Python and the Holy Grail
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Ed Toton




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 12:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
Surcotes are as far as I know made of wool or silk.


Yes, wool, silk, and linen.

-Ed T. Toton III
ed.toton.org | ModernChivalry.org
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 1:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Troy; They seem to be a bit more complicated than that; Basically they are tunics without sleeves. Not all of the tunics of the 13th century had fitted shoulders, either. The surcotes worn by women on top of dresses seems to have been better fitted, though the 13th c aestetic is lose fitting around on the body and upper arms, with tightly fitted lower arms. The 14th century look has a tighter fitting torso.
"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Jeff A. Arbogast





Joined: 16 Oct 2008

Posts: 180

PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 3:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

T. Hamilton wrote:
I think you nailed the "Ivanhoe" look. In fact, the first time I saw your kit on the "Show us your harness" thread, the first thing that popped into my mind was: "That's exactly how I imagined Richard looking when they stormed Torquelstone!" Well done!

Your description of your surcoat raised another question for me: You mentioned yours laces up from hip to armpit, was that the norm in that period, or a modification? I've been debating about sewing mine or leaving it loose, but lacing seems like a nice option. Again, GREAT kit!



Thanks very much for your gallant and generous comments. And you're right, Richard WAS the black knight in Ivanhoe, wasn't he?
As for the side lacing bit, it just came that way, I didn't even ask for it, but I was pleasantly surprised. It makes it that much easier to get on and off, and adds to the tailored look. If you do it, make sure you use metal grommets and reinforce the area where they are added.
I couldn't say whether side lacing is period or not, but who can really say for sure? I see nothing wrong with it, and in fact find it very nice looking as well as practical. If all you go by are effigies and bits of clothing that survive, that could only be a tiny fraction at BEST of what may have been available at the time. This goes back to the old "If we don't have PROOF, it didn't exist" reasoning. Frankly, I reject that argument. I feel some artistic license, along with just plain old common sense, is perfectly acceptable in this hobby. There will always be purists who "know" what was and was not worn, and won't hesitate to tell you so, but then as now, there were no doubt many variations, especially among the upper classes, who could afford special garments made out of anything they wished. Tell Vlad the Impaler that he couldn't have a leather surcoat and watch what happens.
I noticed some questioned the use of leather instead of wool, linen, etc. That is true, a leather surcoat was probably not the norm. That was MY choice, mainly for durability, as well as appearance. I wanted a garment that is strong and will hold up to some degree of abuse. Leather was the obvious, if salty choice. And it is a very soft, flexible, yet strong garment. If we were all such sticklers for absolute authenticity, our wives would be shearing the sheep to weave the wool to work it into a garment on their looms, using period dyes, etc. for us to wear. How many of us have wives willing to do that? And how much would we be willing to pay someone to do it? 'Nuff said. But I would not simply say that a leather surcoat never existed. Uncommon, perhaps. Non-existent.? I doubt it. Can I prove it existed? No. Can anyone prove it didn't? No. Conjecture? Sure. Why not? History, particularly ancient history is too vast a subject to be too sure about anything. I try to keep an open mind, especially on such a fragmented and incomplete subject as that. That's my position, anyway.

A man's nose is his castle-and his finger is a mighty sword that he may wield UNHINDERED!
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David Sutton




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Apr, 2010 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wealthy people were often sewn into their clothes until around, IIRC, the 13th Century, when buttons began to become popular. Perhaps knights were similarly sewn into their surcoats before battle by their squires?

The subject of surcoat length lead me to recall the story of the death of Sir John Chandos in 1370. Chandos slipped on ice or frost after tripping over the skirt of his surcoat during a winter night time skirmish. He was struck in the face as he lay on the ground by a French squire and died a couple of days later. Chandos was a veteran campaigner by 1370 and disliked the fashion for short surcoats or jupons and instead continued to wear a long old fashioned surcoat over his armour. Unfortunately for him his aversion to fashion contributed to his end.

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'To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing'

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