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Ian S LaSpina




Location: Virginia, US
Joined: 01 Jun 2010
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PostPosted: Sun 11 Mar, 2012 3:14 pm    Post subject: Jessica Finley Custom Gambeson Review         Reply with quote

As many of you who own full harnesses know, the arming garments worn beneath the armor can make all the difference in the world. I've tried many off-the-rack gambesons, or aketons if you prefer, and have never quite been happy with the way they feel. I decided it was time to do what I probably should have done from the beginning and have a custom garment made. I sought to find a solidly constructed garment that would be worn beneath a maille haubergeon and thence under a plate harness in the style of the mid to late 14th Century, yet keep me comfortable and maneuverable.

My first choice was to work with Jessica Finley of Fühlen Designs. She needs no introduction, and her reputation precedes her. I contacted Jessica toward the end of 2011 to work out a timeframe and discuss what I wanted done. She promptly let me know that she would contact me when my turn in the queue was approaching and we could go over the details then. When my spot came up, we began going over the specifics of what I wanted. All communication was done through email, and Jess responded quicker than anyone I've ever worked with before, and I mean this with no exaggeration. When communicating with craftsmen, I'm used to emails taking a couple days here and there for responses to come in. With Jessica, I promptly received a response within the day, if not within the hour of sending off an email. Measurements were easy to do, since Jess sent a diagram of exactly where I needed to tape myself. Design detail choices were made easy by her knowledgeable guidance. She was willing to replicate as much historical technique as I wanted with regard to hand-sewing, stuffing, construction etc. We decided the inner and outer shells would be constructed of linen and stuffed with cotton batting. Machine sewing is fine for me and chose to go that route. The stuffing would be differentially thicker in parts of the garment to allow for more flexibility in certain areas and more cushioning in others. Stylistically I elected to have the outer shell done in red and a dagged edge done on the bottom hem.

Once Jessica started work on my garment, she kept me updated with regular progress photographs and emails. Within one week's time the garment was ready for shipment! I received the garment within a couple days of it being sent. When I first tried on the gambeson there were some slight fit issues. The sleeves were a little too baggy and there was some bunching on the back of the neck. I contacted Jessica with my concerns and a couple photographs so she could see what I was talking about. Inside of 30 minutes she had responded and identified what she would fix, asked me to pin the sleeves and send the garment back and she would alter it free of charge while covering shipping both ways. Make no mistake, I cannot blame anyone for not getting a custom garment fitted to a customer perfectly when they live over 1,000 miles away and have no physical contact, as I imagine 'long distance tailoring' is quite frustrating. Once Jess received the garment, she had it turned around for me within a few days and had it shipped back.

The garment now fits wonderfully. It's as if I had all the fitting done in person. It feels great on the body and is solidly constructed, yet not restrictive. On it's own, it looks so good and functions so well it could easily be worn as a stand-alone garment for your soft kit or for WMA training. When worn underneath my maille haubergeon, it really shines functionally. It is not bulky and does not interfere with movement under the maille, but it is padded enough that the weight of the haubergeon is easily cushioned over the entirety of my torso. The true test of an arming garment comes down to how protective and comfortable it is, while simultaneously allowing you to move freely in harness. Once I've donned everything, the aketon functions like a dream. It forms the ideal base layer for 14th century upper body harness. Previous garments I've owned are usually too restrictive, inadequately protective, or just plain don't fit. The Fuhlen Designs gambeson does not disappoint in any of these aspects.

I cannot recommend Jessica Finley highly enough after working with her on this piece. Not only is the garment top notch, but her customer service is absolutely unmatched. She is a true professional, and a class act.

Below I've included some photographs of the gambeson being worn as just a base layer without my harness:






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Last edited by Ian S LaSpina on Sun 11 Mar, 2012 6:36 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Kirill R




Location: Montreal
Joined: 31 Jan 2011

Posts: 36

PostPosted: Sun 11 Mar, 2012 5:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Excellent review. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
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Bill Grandy
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Location: Alexandria, VA USA
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PostPosted: Sun 11 Mar, 2012 8:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That looks fantastic, Ian!
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,436

PostPosted: Sun 11 Mar, 2012 10:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

agreed, it looks excellent.
ill definately keep her in mind when i decide to do later periods.
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Mar, 2012 10:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I received her wrestling jacket a while back with some minor modifications like a higher collar and more padding on chest and shoulders so that it could also be used as " under armour ".

Jessica took measurements and as the opening comment on this Topic said: I couldn't be happier with her work and good communication.

So just a post to add my highest recommendations to anyone wanting some period soft kit made to measure at a very reasonable price.

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Johan Gemvik




Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Joined: 10 Nov 2009

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PostPosted: Wed 14 Mar, 2012 3:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Looks great really!
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