A Few Basic Do's and Don'ts
DO get yourself a basic set of clothing before other more glamorous items e.g. weapons.
DO ask for help, we want to encourage people to learn about the times we portray.
DO look for references and contemporary evidence if you want a different design for your clothing.
DON'T assume that if you see someone else wearing something it's O.K. to copy it. Sometimes we get things wrong, or it may be something we no longer feel is appropriate and we are phasing out that article.
DON'T make or get made anything out of the ordinary without checking with the authenticity officer first.
Please consider the following when you are making or buying kit.
(Now for nitpicking; this is just a summation I have come up with from all of the medieval books I have read, rather than specific evidence)
Imagine a social scale 1 to 10, with one being a homeless beggar and 10 being the King/Queen.
1 Homeless beggar / day labourer / manual labourer
2 Farm worker / cottage worker / camp follower / manual labourer
3 Farm manager / town worker / basic drafted solider / camp follower
4 Larger farm manager / minor landed gentry / retained solider / guilds / woman with small pension
5 Tradesman / merchant / guilds / well paid retained solider of skill
6 Trades man / merchant / guilds / Captain (without substantial own wealth)/ landed gentry
7 Greater landed gentry / Captain (with substantial own wealth)/ minor nobility / successful merchants
8 Greater landed gentry / very successful merchants / nobility
9 General nobility
10 King and Queen / wealthiest nobles in the country
Some of these categories are repeated at different levels, which show how it was possible to be these things but your status level would still be related directly with your wealth.
I would suggest everyone first get kit for a basic drafted soldier/ camp follower level. Once you have done this, it is possible if you have larger plans to just be consistent with what it is you want to portray.
Women tended to be at the same level than their husbands through levels 1-5, but could vary within the nobility depending on the type of match, but for consistency just call them the same level. If a woman had a skill, she would be placed the same as the man, but would have often been a 'widow' rather than an independent business woman.
This is the area that can go disastrously wrong with the kit and it shows your inexperience the most. So the most care should be taken when purchasing kit, as it is not uncommon to buy items at the beginning of your re-enactment time that are so incorrect you never use them again after you have been a member for a few months.
It is hard when you are first joining the group to understand what is correct for the period and what accessories should go with what kit. So if you are unsure please ask a more senior member of the group.
There are several things that you need to keep in mind – most importantly the material types that were available to the different levels of society because of the
Remember, just because other people in the group have it, does not mean it is right!
For the period from about 1470- 1500
For the following, the numbers follow the people and society positions above.
1 Wool/Linen Basic - only clothes would be on their back, basic leather belt, hat – probably would not even have had shoes, probably in dire need of replacement. Manual labourers often worked in just their braise and shirt, especially when there was potential to damage the only clothes they owned.
2 Wool/Linen Basic – no good colours or weaves. Basic leather belt, hat, would have mostly had plain ankle boots or simple shoes, plain rosaries, spare shift/shirt, over arms, aprons to protect clothing
3 Wool/Linen Basic – may have had a change of clothes for church and best. Wooden buttons.
4 Wool/Linen - same as about but with some good colours and weaves creeping in for best wear, Wooden buttons
5 Wool/Linen with some good colours and weaves creeping in for best wear, possibly scraps of woollen damask, in highly visible places. One or two changes of clothes would have been normal. Stamping on leather goods like belts and shoes.
6 Wool/Linen improving in colour and quality. Rarely woollen damasks would have been used for whole items. It was very important to have good clothes, so as to look successful; which in turn would have repercussions for business success. Pewter buttons, valuable accessories strategically placed to show wealth. Stamping on leather goods like belts and shoes. Patterns to keep your shoes good. Trying to keep up with fashion changes!
7 Wool/Linen/woollen damasks, Pewter buttons, valuable accessories strategically placed to show wealth. Nice ladies shoes with vamping or nice shoes and boots for men. Patterns to keep your shoes good. Keeping right up to date with the fashion trends.
8 Wool/Linen/Remnants of silk Pewter buttons, pewter on belts, valuable accessories strategically placed to show wealth. Keeping right up to date with the fashion trends, high fashion shoes like poulaines, riding boots when riding, only shoes for other times, patterns to keep your shoes good.
9 Wool/ Linen/Silks in moderation Setting the fashion trends high fashion shoes like poulaines, riding boots when riding, only shoes for other times. Patterns to keep your shoes good. Posh daggers, jewels, rings.
10 Wool/Linen/ Silk/Cotton (rare) This level sets the fashion trends, they have several sets of clothes for different activities: Court, hunting, travelling etc. Specific accessory for specific outfits, very posh daggers, jewels, rings. High fashion shoes like poulaines. riding boots when riding, only shoes for other times.
Hopefully, you can see the progression in these society stations and how it would be completely wrong to be a camp follower (level 3) wearing the clothes for a level 7 person!!!