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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Late 14th Century Surcoat Material Reply to topic
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Patrick Lawrence

Joined: 07 Feb 2007

Posts: 131

PostPosted: Thu 10 Nov, 2011 10:57 pm    Post subject: Late 14th Century Surcoat Material         Reply with quote

What was some of the range of materials of the late 14th century surcoats? Both the right fitting ones and the more loose ones like you tend to see in French illustrations.
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Randall Moffett

Location: Northern Utah
Joined: 07 Jun 2006
Reading list: 5 books

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PostPosted: Fri 11 Nov, 2011 5:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The only evidence I have seen is from a London court record from the mid 14th and it seems to indicate linen but it is not 100% clear. It is an account talking about a man painting arms on a mans surcoat, pennon and such and the knight forgets to pay.

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Paul Mullins

Joined: 22 May 2006

Posts: 120

PostPosted: Fri 11 Nov, 2011 6:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Linen, hemp, wool and possibly silk.
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Brian Robson

Joined: 19 Feb 2007

Posts: 185

PostPosted: Fri 11 Nov, 2011 6:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Always wondered how the arms were applied I think I just assumed textile shapes sewn on or embroidery.

Do you know over what timeframe they were painted?
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Gregory J. Liebau

Location: Dinuba, CA
Joined: 27 Nov 2004

Posts: 669

PostPosted: Fri 11 Nov, 2011 10:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

According to Stella Mary Newton's Fashion In the Age of the Black Prince: A Study of the Years 1340-1365, cendal, which is a rough silken , was popular for lining surcotes, generally made with outer shells of finer silk or cameline, a fabric of Eastern origins which was thought, in period, to be made from camel's hair. As early as 1275 or so, John of Joinville describes both being for surcotes (without specifying lining or shell use) in his Life of St. Louis.

I suspect that heavy silken fabrics were very popular for making surcotes - cendal is described as being rough and stout, making it good for laying over the top of armor. We also know it to have been silk in some form, so it would be considered high quality but not hard to find by the 14th century.

As to the application of arms... I personally only research the 13th century, but am actually writing a paper about surcotes right now! Also coming from John of Joinville, he discusses an episode where he critiqued King Louis IX for wasting 800 livres being spent on embroidering his arms onto surcotes for himself and his men, while John recalls how "the previous king" would have merely had his arms sewn to them, saving much of the money spent.

EDIT: I just went through Chaucer's descriptions of the Knight and the Squire from the General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales. The knight wears a jupon of fustian (a heavily woven fabric, typically linen at this point in time), so no surcote to be found... But the squire, interestingly, seems to be wearing embroidered flowers on his garb, if the line is to be taken literally.

"Embrouded was he as it were a mede, / Al ful of fresshe flowres, white and rede." (lines 89-90)

This would have applied to his gown, which is also described...

"Short was his gowne, with sleeves longe and wide." (line 93)

Hope that helps a bit!


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Johan S. Moen

Location: Kristiansand, Norway
Joined: 26 Jan 2004

Posts: 259

PostPosted: Sat 12 Nov, 2011 5:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, what can you afford?

I wouldn't really use anything besides wool or silk, but within those categories you have everything from different grades of plain cloth to brocades and lampas, with the addition of embroidery and whatnot, so it depends on the budget. Gregory mentions sendall, which I believe was also used for the outer layers of padded armour. It is a pretty cheap grade of silk though, so I am not sure about whether it would be used for the outer layer. Maybe if your budget was seriously constrained, but depending on the period prices of fabrics, you might be able to get a nicer looking wool for the same price.

Linen and hemp; forget that I'd say, unless it is as a foundation for something else, like paint. Both fabrics are most commonly seen as linings or for underclothes, but not as visible outer layers. Maybe if we're talking fustian, but then there's the problem of deciding what period sources refer to when they say something was made of fustian - I've seen suggestions ranging from wool-linen/hemp blends, to pure linen.

Johan Schubert Moen
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