Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Wearing Dresses and other Garb

Tunic and hose are the most maligned pieces of costume I can think of. Even codpieces are afforded the  benefit of the doubt. Hosen, though, seem to rarely make it onto the screen properly or into the consciousness of people playing D&D. I humbly submit it is because of the delineation of non-bifurcated garments to the traditionally female gender role in modern Western society. Whether or not that's true (and I have no intention of attempting to prove it either way, at least not in this post), the fact remains that you will rarely see a tunic and hosen combo presented properly in fantasy artwork, fantasy movies, or even historical movies. There's just something that rankles most people, I guess, about wearing a dress and "stockings."

This means that players newly come into my games are unprepared for the prevailing worldview that hosen are chosen and breeches are for bitches. The single garment known as the breeches (which we Americans call pants and the British call trousers, I guess) are a sign of rough living or poverty. Nobles only wear them when they absolutely have to: such as underneath their armor for better movement. They are, in a sense, the sign of the great unwashed masses. Even peasants with a small amount of extra capital will buy some chausses/hosen to cover their legs in public when they aren't working the field.

It behooves me, then, to go over some standard medieval dress. This can serve as a reference to my own players as well as to anyone in the great wide internet who cares what medieval people dressed like. As for the 10th Age, this will clearly have to serve as a simple baseline, since there's so much regional variation... but the same can be said of the middle ages itself. For today, I'll just be talking about male garments.

The first element of the clothing is what is known as the braies. These were a form of breeches worn as undergarments by the nobility (but potentially as outer garments by the lower orders). They're loose knee-length trousers that can be tied up to the waist to keep them short.

Atop this, the upper part of the body was fitted with an undertunic, or "shirt," usually of plain linen. The sleeves were usually long and open with ties to close them. This undertunic would show beneath the outer garb, for it was generally longer at the wrists and hem.

You can see a bit of Hugh Berengar's
undertunic in this Cadfael screen cap
And here another one.
On the legs, one would wear a pair of chausses (which are what we have been referring to as "hose" in the PHB for all those years). Single-piece hosen only came into vogue during the Renaissance. You know, with those fancy dickcovers on top of them to make you look super horny all the time. "Lick my love pump," as Romeo was wont to say.
Here's a pair of chausses.
Once they were snugly on your legs, those little holes there at the diamond-tip were tied to an undergirdle worn atop your linen undertunic but beneath your outer tunic. This kept them in place. Hell, you thought people just wore mail hauberks with some mail pants? Think again, they wore chausses of the stuff:

On top of all this was your overtunic, which usually had either a square, keyhole, or round collar. Hems were embroidered with other material to cover the seams and also to be fancy. And outer belt was worn atop this set of cloths to hold your purse, knife, and other such goodies. So the next time you buy a pair of breeches at character creation remember: those are either your underwear, or you're a filthy peasant with no class.


  1. Thanks for this - very interesting.

  2. I don't know how I missed this, but very good to know.