Medieval Stockings


Figure 1.--This is a miniatures from a 15th century Latin codex. The manuscript could have originated in northern Italy, but we are not sure. This minature showw three boys picking cherries. The boys wear knee-length tunics with colorful hose and shoes. Click on the image to see a second minature showing a woman and a boy (I think because of the short hair). They are picking dill. This boy wears a tunic cut quite long. He has bare legs and feet. That seems more common for a rural scene.

One destinctive medieval garment was stockings or hose which covered the legs of men and boys. . These were known as "chausses", often "haut de chausse". This was the French term for hose. France was of course, a country which was very influential in fashion during the medieval era. These stockings are clearly shown in countless medieval paintings, often died in bright colors. This is the primary source of informstion because there are few surviving vintage examples of these stockings and accompaning "braies". Medieval stockings were worn with "braies", a kind of underpants. The braies were used to suspend the chausses. The chausses were held up by attaching them to the braies, often by a cord or ribbon which ties on to a belt which fits through a fabric channel at the waist of the braies. Both men and boys wore braies and chausses. This would have been aristocrats and men in the growing towns living in comfortable circustances. The braies were common made in linnen while the chausses were normally done in wool. Cotton was not grown in Europe at the time. It might be imported from the Arabs, but was a very expensive fabric.

Chronology

I am not yet sure about the chronology of braies and chausses. We are not sure when the first appeared and when. We suspect Italy or France. One source suggests stockings developed from the leggings worn by the Barbarians which overwealmed the Roman Empire. These leggings were normally animal skins held up at the waist by a leather belt. They were often cross tied along the length of the legs with strips of leather. They were common during the early medieval era or Dark Ages. Leggings were designed for both warmth and protection. Over time as the economy in Europe quickened and people became more prosperous, fashion gradually became more important. Clothing became more frefined as weaving techniques improved. At least by the 12th cedntury, stockings which were increasingly well fitted became commonly wore. We do know that they were being worn by the mid-medieval period. And by the late-medieval period they were even more common as Europe was becoming more prosperous. A painting of Prince Henry, the teenage eldest son of James I, shows how long stockings were worn in the late 16th and early 17th century in England. The long stockings are worn under "trunk hose" (the short, bloomer-like trousers).

Chausses

One destinctive medieval garment was stockings or hose which covered the legs of men and boys. . These were known as "chausses", often "haut de chausse". This was the French term for hose. France was of course, a country which was very influential in fashion during the medieval era.

Importance

Chausses were very important garments in the medeival era. This is essentially because pants/trousers had not yet been invented. During the early medieval period men wore long ribes which covered theur torsos and legs. Early paintings make it sometimes difficult to tell mem from women. Gradually men, especially younger men began wearing shorter cloaks and thus the stockings they were wearing assumed considerable importance in their overall dress and fashion.

Construction

Most people seem to think that medieval and Renaissance men and boys wore tights, whereas they often wore long stockings that reached to the waist (like tights) but which were really separate stockings and secured to doublets or shirts by "points" (laces, strings, or straps). Most early images make it impossible to determine if medieval men are wearing long stockings or tights. Only a few period illustrations offers some clues. They wear long, thigh-length hosiery. There seem to have been different types of chausses. This is not evidenced in medieval paintings. They were sewn to fit as tightlky to the leg as possible. An illustration of a French page boy from the same period shows a boy in full costume wearing such stockings under his very brief doublet. The bog finds, however, have provided setils as to the construction of these garments. Some chausses have legs that are single pieces. They wrap around the individua's front and are sewn together at the basck. Some of the bog finds reveal chausses with a single foot top. It then wraps downward to to a seam along the bottom center of the foot where it can not be seen. This is right before the heel. This of course is not detailed in paintings, but is evidenced in the Bocksten Bog Man.

Sources of Information

These stockings are clearly shown in countless medieval paintings, often died in bright colors. This is the primary source of informstion because there are few surviving vintage examples of these stockings and accompaning "braies". One of the few exceptions is well preserved indicuals found in bogs. There have been both Vinging and English bog discoveries. The English finds date to about the 15th century.

Braies

Medieval stockings were worn with "braies". They appear to be a kind underpants, at leadt for the well-to-do. Medieval paintaings show peasants working in the field wearing braies without stockings.

Stocking Suspension

There appear to have been different methods of holding up the stockings. This is a difficult topic because much of the information we have about medieval stockings sime from paintings and with few exceptions there are no clues about suspension. The braies could be used to suspend the chausses. The chausses were held up by attaching them to the braies, often by a cord or ribbon which ties on to a belt which fits through a fabric channel at the waist of the braies. These modern illustrations from the German Hosiery Museum show how men and boys of the 15th century wore long stockings that were attached by "points" or ribbons to their waists (figure 1). The underwear shown here is modern, not medieval, however, but the length of the stockings and the means of attacment are authentic to the period. By the late middle ages or early Renaissance, stocking might no longer held up by a belt but were instead tied tied through holes sewn in the shirt which at the time was referred to as a doublet. There might also be jerkins which had lacings attached to the waist of the hose.

Stocking Supporters

There were Medieval stocking supporters. Another illustration, this one from the 13th century, shows long stockings worn with a very early version of hose supporters.

Colors and Patterns

We note brightly colored stockings, althought we are not quite sure when these bright colors first appeared. By the late medieval era we notice stockings worn with stripes and different-colored legs. Particolour hose appeared in the 15th century. The fashion may have been launched by the Swiss. They defeated a military expedition launched by the the Duke of Burgundy (1477). The Swiss/German soldiers after the battle reportedly mended their ragged uniforms with strips of tents and banners sized from the retreating Burgundians. The Swiss-German people upon the return of their army saw this a a dashing new patriotic fashion. It also became popular to slash clothing to show contrasting fabric underneath. This include the stockings. Europeans in other countries copied the fashion.

Gender

Both men and boys wore braies and chausses. I'm less sure about medieval women.

Social Class

The men and boys wearing chausses would have been aristocrats and men in the growing towns living in comfortable circustances. It should be stressed that the illustration shows how nobels and the wealthy would have dressed in the 13 century. They wear extremely long stockings. This is not how the peasantry which made up the great bulk of the population dressed.

Children

HBC of course focusses on children's clothes. There were at the yime, however, no specific children's wear except for infant clothes. Children tended to wear the same clothes as their parents suitabled scaled down. We suspect that in the case of hosiery that children especially peasant children might have more commonly gome barefoot than their parents. It should be pointed out that in Medieval and Renaissance culture, boys (after they had been breeched) wore the same kind of clothing as adult men. A separate style of children's clothing to distinguish them from adults didn't become usual until the 19th century.

Material

The braies were common made in linnen while the chausses were normally done in wool. The more affluent might be able to afford silk stockings. Cotton was not grown in Europe at the time. It might be imported from the Arabs, but was a very expensive fabric.







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Created: 9:19 PM 2/3/2007
Last updated: 9:19 PM 2/3/2007