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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Ladies' knives in period Reply to topic
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Nathan Webb




Location: Fairbanks, AK
Joined: 13 May 2013

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Mon 22 Aug, 2016 10:20 am    Post subject: Ladies' knives in period         Reply with quote

Hey all, I've been trying to research women's knives in period for a project I have in mind. I've found a couple of illustrations of women with knives hanging from belts in the traditional utilitarian fashion, but I was wondering if anyone has ever seen a reference to knives worn on their person. These days we'd probably call them bodice knives, but really I'm looking for any blade that was designed to be worn concealed by a woman for use and defense.

Anyone seen anything of that sort of thing in their travels?
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Matthew Bunker




Location: Somerset UK
Joined: 02 Apr 2009

Posts: 483

PostPosted: Mon 22 Aug, 2016 12:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Which period are you interested in?
"If a Greek can do it, two Englishman certainly can !"
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

Posts: 578

PostPosted: Mon 22 Aug, 2016 12:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The down-the-bosom style always seemed like excessive Victoriana to me; most historic womens' fashions in Europe tended to keep that general area covered during everyday wear. 'Cleavage' is a semi-modern phenomenon ('semi' meaning 'a few hundred years or so').

That said, I'm sure that such a... ahem... convenient place to conceal items quite likely got used for weapons on occasion. Any small, easily concealable knife or dagger would've been used. I doubt there were any weapons specifically intended to be placed there.

Regarding other places of stashing weapons about the body, I doubt women bothered for the most part. If they had to for some reason (say smuggling a knife in to a male comrade in captivity) then tying it about the leg under a full skirt would have been one option. Some fashions would have permitted putting weapons elsewhere.

As for knives and such that were daily used, I would expect them to be pretty much the same as men would carry-- honestly I don't think there was that much 'gendering', so to speak. A knife was just a knife. A women's knife might be slightly smaller (to fit smaller hands) and perhaps a little fancier, but this was the age where men could wear pink satin and look mighty fine in it-- you got what you could afford, same as any other time.
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Mon 22 Aug, 2016 1:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As suggested above, women's clothing in the medieval period was quite modest--even the head usually covered. It would have been a simple matter to conceal a knife under clothing, but she might not have been able to get to it quickly (compared to the ubiquitous knife at her waist). Anyone looking for another hide should note that medieval English women did not typically wear underwear, and that hose came up only to just above the knee, where they were secured with garters. Could she hide a small knife in her head cover? Hmmmmm...

I recommend this book for related information: https://www.amazon.com/Time-Travelers-Guide-Medieval-England/dp/1439112908

See, also, the women in the Company of Saint George: http://www.companie-of-st-george.ch/cms/?q=en/Gallery_Camp

-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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Nathan Webb




Location: Fairbanks, AK
Joined: 13 May 2013

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Mon 22 Aug, 2016 2:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know that the whole low cut bodice thing, and thus "bodice daggers" aren't period at all. I merely use the term bodice dagger to describe that small, concealed blade since I couldn't come up with a better descriptor...

If what I'm looking for doesn't exist then it doesn't exist, but I thought maybe I had been missing something.

Matthew Bunker wrote:
Which period are you interested in?


Later period/Renaissance for this project. Say early 15th century on into the 16th.
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JG Elmslie
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Location: Scotland
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PostPosted: Fri 26 Aug, 2016 10:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think its Tod whose website has a line on it saying "Please, please dont EVER ask me for a bodice knife"

Which is pretty much the best summary of that nonsense I could think of.

When is rather dependant - however, for later renaissance, the long corded sheaths on the belt arent unheard of (as in, it becomes a fashionable item for it to be suspended from the belt, rather than simply utility), and there's a number of examples (Solingen, the Musee invalides, V&A, etc) of women's knives with particular two-piece opening lidded sheathes which are highly decorated with embroidery and pearl/beadwork.



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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Tue 30 Aug, 2016 4:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is no way I can comment on this without saying something that might offend someone. My wife has found a perfect solution, though. When we go to Ren-Fest, she always has a sharp, non-peace-tied sgian dubh under one of her....uh....boobies. She says that the person checking her for weapons will get in trouble before she does. I guess she has kind of a legitimate point there. Laughing Out Loud .....................McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

Posts: 494

PostPosted: Tue 30 Aug, 2016 7:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Moore wrote:
There is no way I can comment on this without saying something that might offend someone. My wife has found a perfect solution, though. When we go to Ren-Fest, she always has a sharp, non-peace-tied sgian dubh under one of her....uh....boobies. She says that the person checking her for weapons will get in trouble before she does. I guess she has kind of a legitimate point there. Laughing Out Loud .....................McM

Yeah, I couldn't help but think along the same line when seeing that fancy renaissance. The small top annd bottom sheathe design allows a lady to concel it on/in extremely personal places.
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Glennan Carnie




Location: UK
Joined: 23 Aug 2006

Posts: 289

PostPosted: Wed 31 Aug, 2016 3:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

JG Elmslie wrote:

When is rather dependant - however, for later renaissance, the long corded sheaths on the belt arent unheard of (as in, it becomes a fashionable item for it to be suspended from the belt, rather than simply utility), and there's a number of examples (Solingen, the Musee invalides, V&A, etc) of women's knives with particular two-piece opening lidded sheathes which are highly decorated with embroidery and pearl/beadwork.


That's a beautiful piece! Do you have any more details on it?
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Nathan Webb




Location: Fairbanks, AK
Joined: 13 May 2013

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Wed 31 Aug, 2016 9:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

JG Elmslie wrote:
I think its Tod whose website has a line on it saying "Please, please dont EVER ask me for a bodice knife"

Which is pretty much the best summary of that nonsense I could think of.


Granted. But it's an easily recognizable, if modern, term for a concealed lady's knife. I couldn't think of a better way to describe what I was looking for in general terms...

Man, that is an amazing piece. Do you have any provenance on it?
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