Online retailers of living history and reenactment clothing have photos of their products, but you are limited to the photos they provide to get an idea of what the look of the garment will be. Depending on the retailer, those photos can be of variable usefulness. The photos may be of the garment alone, hanging or lying down, or on the models they have available to them. The Red Carpet series provides more context for what certain items of gear look like on individuals by taking photos of people in their living history gear with a detailed guide of what they have, where they got them, or how they made them.
Today’s outfit (and I intend to do many more as possible even if they are not my outfits) is the soft kit I wore when not dressed in armor. This outfit is the impression of an esquire or knight of 14th/15th Century England as he mills about a camp at war. To get an idea of what this outfit would cost to buy from scratch, I include prices, valued as of January 2020 (not the values I paid for them, as many are years older and prices fluctuate). If prices change as this article ages and people want me to I will update with the new prices. I do not include shipping or taxes.
Hat: Orion’s Belt
Hat (feather included): $20
Brooch: $40 ish (it has been years since buying it without a receipt.)
It was a gift from a friend (and fellow living history presenter, and my co-host on How Two Medieval) who bought it from Orion’s Belts through an SCA marketplace Facebook group. He gave it to me because it was too big for his head, but fit fine on my watermelon. A prominent perch with which to display wealth and status, I like having a green hat instead of my old blue one because it is a nice parallel to the turnip greens topping my device. My impression loves the noble recreation of “The Chase” and so I wear a bycocket as a subtle signal of his dedication to hunting. In this picture, the ostrich feather the hat comes with, which would have been too expensive for a commoner to attain, is held onto the front of the hat (moved from the side where it was placed when I got it) with a circular brooch adorned with semiprecious stones. The feather is getting a bit beat up and it may need replacing. I have some pheasant feathers to put up there for higher contrast with the green fabric. The brooch was bought at Kris Kinder from North Star Armoury (I think.)
Hood: Historic Enterprises
Their late 14th-early 15th Century, dagged edge, wool hood in blue (they also have a Royal Blue, not pictured.) This hood was an upgrade, taking an old blue wool hood (homemade) and replacing it with a finer made, dagged one. I like the way this shade of blue looks over the shoulders of the red brocade. I always thought it looked better than either the nutmeg or the light green of the London style hood I have from them, but since the hood was a bit ratty, I avoided wearing it with the brocade. Going forward, I would like to get a few more and experiment with color combinations. A one size fits all hood with a glorious long liripipe, it fits over my broad shoulders with aesthetic drape and the opening does not strangle my 17.5″ neck.
Cote: Historic Enterprises
A bespoke brocade Doublet of Charles of Blois to be precise. I love this garment, but it is a great cautionary tale for finishing your research before starting your expensive purchases. Back in 2016 when I purchased and had this made my timeframe was going to be 1390. The more I dig into society, material culture, battles, technology, and politics of the period, my desired time frame has crept away from the late 1300s and into the early 1400s; drawn in like a moth to the flame of Agincourt as so many are. As such this garment is growing more “dated” for my impression. To my benefit, I had it cut short when I bought it since I wanted to have a reasonable time window of ±10 – 15 years and knew the cotehardie grew shorter as time rolled on before they bit the bullet and became early doublets and no longer resembled cotehardies anymore. The older I get, the easier it is to wear a “conservative” garment, as with even today the younger you are, the more likely you are to be at the cutting edge of fashion trends.
Shirt: Historic Enterprises
Not pictured, but a necessity worn under the cote, I have a Saint Louis style shirt under the cote. It is pure linen, fits with the feel of any modern shirt, stays cool, and does not hold smell over long weekends.
Hosen: Historic Enterprises
I am sensing a theme. Yes, I love Gwen’s clothing. No, they are not a sponsor for this article, I am a fanatic and I am not ashamed. These are a pair of to-measure, not stock size. I also have a pair of split hose. I purchased these joined hosen as an addition, intended as exclusive to my martial kit. However, I have fallen into the bad habit of wearing them in my civilian outfit.
Underwear: Historic Enterprises
Not pictured, and I am not wearing them in this picture, but it is worth mentioning since most medieval outfits require a pair of underwear to tie or cover your leg-wear over. I tend to eschew period underwear when wearing the split hose since boxer-style underwear (like braies) bunches up under them for civilian wear (modern briefs work best if you are not going with period ones) and a pair of compression shorts with a cup-pouch is safer when wearing armor. These 14th century braies from Historic Enterprises are what I wear under chausses or split hose.
Shoes: Boots by Bohemond
The aptly titled Medieval Boots are the replacement for my previous shoes which I had since 2014-ish and had worn through. I had a pair of shoes from him ankle height and, for reasons I cannot articulate, I vehemently dislike the way I look in hosen and “sneaker” height shoes. Without breaking the bank on boots (I still have $500 in boots I want to buy from him already) I chose these because they are tall enough to break up the long lines of my Big-Bird legs and balance my height. Unintended consequence: my shynbalds do not fit over them well, so I am going to have to go get some arming shoes for the harness. It is for the best, so they do not get chewed up by the armor and look damaged when in soft kit. Unlike my other lower-calf height shoes from Bohemond, these have a little bit of a heel nailed onto them. It has five sets of ties on each boot and take about five minutes to put on.
A Sword: Ravensbeak Arms
This is not my sword so I do not know how much it costs. It belongs to the esteemed Josh Warren and was lent to me for use at Days of Knights. It was made by Beniah of Ravensbeak Arms. If I were to commission my own I would choose a lighter colored belt to contrast my cotehardie better, but I enjoy the patina to the hardware for a sword of war.
Cost: $675 (pictured)
$1,070 (including not pictured elements)
Even at the thousand dollar mark, not including shipping, this is a very minor English Knight/Esquire portrayal. It does not include the cost of the sword (or alternative armaments such as a falchion and dagger and/or decorated buckler). The higher number does include the cost of items I wear on the right hip but are not pictured in this photograph: a Lorifactor belt, an ornamented belt pouch from Boots by Bohemond, and a simple rondel dagger. This is a good example of why prevailing wisdom recommends those getting into living history begin with a commoner’s portrayal; not because we have a desire to own our friends or believe newbies are peasants: but because for the cost of the cote alone you could outfit an entire commoner impression sans shoes.
We would all be lying if we ever said we have “finished” an outfit or impression. Not taking into account when our garments betray us by wearing out, or we betray our garments by growing out, making an impression is a process of constant learning, improving, and tweaking. For this outfit, I intend to add embroidery to the hood to fancy it up. My calves need garters. A good shoulder button style waist-length cloak would round everything out on chillier days. I do need to stop borrowing a sword and purchase one of my own with a scabbard and belt to suspend it from. I have a couple period rings I want to wear and I want a single piece hat in darker green. Though you cannot see it here, I have a quite plain rondel dagger which works well for my lower status impressions, but this impression needs a nicer knife. I want a plaque belt for when I am not wearing a pouch and I have a concept design for a unique livery collar.