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Late 14th century Heraldic outfit based on the Armorial of Guillaume de Revel

Recently I discovered the Armorial of Guillaume de Revel, which is an armorial manuscript commissioned by Charles the 1st, Duke of Bourbon and Auvergne (1401-1456) of his herald Guillaume de Revel. Charles requested that Revel document the lineage and estates of the major families living in his lands. This included the lands of Bourbonnais, Auvergne, and Forez. Revel and two others took on the task of documenting the lineage of many of the noble families in these lands; however, only 100 of the 400 pages were completed in this very ambitious project which has been dated to roughly 1450. This armorial is still in existence and is currently housed in the National Library of France, though it has been displayed in other museums and libraries throughout France.


I found the armorial when I stumbled across this picture of Jean the 1st, Duke of Bourbon (1381-1434) and his wife Marie, Duchess of Auvergne, the parents of Charles. I was researching French clothing in the late 14th century and early 15tjh century and stumbled across an obscure Pinterest pin of his outfit only in the picture below. It took quite a bit of key word searching, digging and dead ends to land on the origin of the picture, but I eventually found it.

The time period of Jean the 1st is a period in French fashion that I find particularly intriguing and is where I have been spending a good deal of my time in research of late. The garments worn by Jean in the armorial completely stunned me, and I decided I wanted to attempt to recreate them as close as I am able within the context that this is a heraldic armorial and I am going to make some changes for my personal heraldry.


I am uncertain whether or not this garment actually existed as it is represented. The armorial is likely 50 years post the fashion illustrated on Jean; however, compared to other illuminations, manuscripts and pictures - it is not far off the mark. Also, if you look at coronation pictures of the Bourbon dynasty in France in the 16th century, many of them are wearing garments of similarly lavish blue and gold Fleur de Lis fabric.


The likelihood that this specific outfit existed is possible, but not definitive. 

In order to accurately create this outfit, it is necessary to understand all of the components of the outfit, their composition, and construction. This is where I will be documenting my progress as I move forward in creating this outfit. My goal is to have this completed by mid-January, 2015. This gives me roughly 7 months to complete this endeavor. My goal is to construct as many of the items as possible, though if I were only able to construct the outer robe (Houpelande) and the jacket underneath (pourpoint/doublet) I will consider it a success. I would also like to make black velvet shoes (poulaines) as well, but we will see. I am a notorious procrastinator.


Here we go.....


Deconstructing the Silhouette

The first step in the process is to gain an understanding of all of the components of the outfit and research each of them separately in order to determine how to construct them.The seven major components I will be focused on are these:

  • Houppelande
  • Doublet/Pourpoint
  • Hat
  • Hose/Harlots
  • Shirt
  • Brais
  • Poulains

Fashion the in French court had experienced a bit of a lethargy in the prior 20 years leading up to 1590 due to the young Charles VI primarily being governed by his older, more powerful uncles. He was without much of a court until his marriage in 1386. Once Charles established his court and himself as supreme ruler of France, fashion began to accelerate in to the turn of the century.


Houppelande:


Surcotes featured a new fullness to them in the waning of the 14th century with larger, ornamented sleeves and were belted at the waist. The French termed this new amplified surcote, "Houppelande." This term was bastardized in the English vernacular as Houpeland.


The Houppelande, the outer garment pictured above on Jean de Bourbon, is fairly common in period pictures from roughly the 1390's to the mid 1400's give or take a few years depending on region. It typically came in three lengths: Floor length, mid-calf length and mid-thigh length.


Houppleandes that were calf length were considered "bastard" houppelandes, while the ankle/floor length garments were known as "great houppelandes," and the shorter mid-thigh versions were called "haincelins" after Charles the VI's fool, Haincelin Coq. Coq was by all accounts a midget, and it took very little fabric to construct his houppelandes. These smaller houppelandes eventually became the mode of the more fashionable in the court including Charles VI himself as well as Henri V.


"Royal accounts from the reign of Charles VI show that a checkered red and green houppelande was made in 1386 for Haincelin (a dwarf as indicated by the small amount of fabric used to make his harlot/hose), after which hainselins were frequently made for the kind and other princes. The final inventory of Henry V of England lists an especially lavish one embroidered with more than 323 pearls, 20 rubies, and 20 sapphires" van buren p. 82


Below you can see and example of each of the lengths of Houpelande all dating to roughly between 1390-1400

A c. 1400 - all types represented

B. Haincelin

C. Great Houppelande

D. Bastard Houppelandes

The sleeves of the houppelandes also had three common treatments:

  • standard tapered sleeved (figure D, red houpellande)
  • a bombarde - (figure c)
  • poke or bag sleeve (figure a, red and white houppelandes)

With this rudimentary understanding of Houppelande composition, we can tell that the garment worn by Jean de Bourbon is in fact a Haincelin with dagged a bombarde sleeves.


Next up...... picking fabric


Fabric

Wool and velvet were quite common to use as the outer layer of fabric with either silk or linen as a lining fabric. If one examines the extant Zhořelecký houppelande, it is constructed of velvet lined with silk. There are also numerous accounts from royal wardrobes including Charles VI , Henry V and Charles VI's brother, the Duke of Orleans of houppelandes constructed of velvet lined in silk. Also there is an extant heraldic banner from the 15th century that is velvetwith silk and velvet appligued on it which I really like the look of. There are also plenty of examples of wool being used as well; however, for most court clothing, velvet seems to be the way to go for the nobility of the time. Also, I personally love the look and feel of velvet in general. I cut my SCA teeth sewing velvets.

Above is a 15th century Burgundian Banner silk applique on velvet and an extent 17th century heraldic tabbard with silk and silk velvet on velvet applique and couched cording.


Once I knew I wanted to use velvet, the lining was pretty easy - silk....I have an affinity for pairing slick silk fabric with the luxuriousness of a natural fibered velvet. I favor silk shantung or taffeta for the sheen, hand and texture.


So, the quest began to find the right fabrics - I eventually found everything I was looking for between the interwebz, large SCA events and my friends.


outer fabric - after several failed online swatch orders, I found a lovely medium weight royal blue cotton velvet to use as the outer layer of the Haincelin. I prefer to use medium to heavy weight cotton velvets, because they are breathable and are a much better approximation to period velvets than the readily available rayon and polyester blend velvets that you find in your local fabric stores 100% wool and silk velvets are difficult to find and almost prohibitively expensive.


lining - After waffling on the the type of silk I wanted to use, I found an spectacular lightweight cream colored silk taffeta to line the Haincelin and a gold shantung to do the guard and fleur de lis applique. You can see them here:

We will talk about the stones and settings in a bit.


Pattern


There are several different theories on houppelande construction, some based on conjecture and draping and others based on they few extant garments that still exist today that lend themselves to understanding how to achieve silhouette. In this case I am refering to the houppelande of Jan Zhořelecký (1396) and garment 63 from the Herjolfsnes Finds. This, in addition to period records and extensive experimentation on my part, has lead me to my preferred construction techniques.


In the wardrobe accounts of the Duke of Orleans, it speaks of black velvet being ordered to make a houpelande constructed of gores, which has been translated in the book "Illumionating Fashion." This gore construction method is supported by the construction of both the Zhořelecký and G63 garments pictured here.


G63

Zhořelecký

Both of these garments make use of a gore construction to achieve the desired effect; however, for the specific garment we are engineering a bit more had to be engineered in the collar.


The collar of the Jean de Bourbon is an open slit down the front that has a guard applied around the neckline. This type of neckline is exceedingly common in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. The interesting thing is that back also resembles the front in how it is constructed.


Front

Back

After some trial and failure and quite a bit of discussion, I have landed on a construction method that achieves this look and actually makes complete sense. 

This is a very rudimentary drawing of how I approach constructing Houpelandes that have the pointed neck opening in friont and back. This lands fairly close to the the layouts of extant garments.


The shoulders are cut on an inverted curve and the collar is actually just a portion of the front center and back center seams that is not sew shut.


As the garment settles over the shoulders, the inverted curve follows the line of the shoulders which opens up the center seam and creates natural pleats in the fabric that are then belted in.


As the 15th century progresses, the pleats are more structural and become an structural element on their own, but that is for a different discussion on a different, later garment.

This is a line drawing of the G63 garment that uses a very similar construction for the body.

Here is an example of this pattern used in real life on a hainselin made for me by Mistress Melusine in An Tir. As you can see, using this construction techniques achieves the desired result in the body and shoulders.

Sleeves


For the de Revel outfit, the sleeves are clearly dagged "a bombard" sleeves. They style is common in France during the turn o f the century and can be seen in many manuscripts.


The a bombard sleeve is often executed incorrectly due to the forearm and shoulder seams not being placed correctly on the body of the garment.


Often people will orient the sleeves like a 12th century "angel-wing" type of constructions which is incorrect. The forearm seam is set in about 4-5 inches up from the bottom of the armscye on the front and the longer, traling shoulder seam is placed about 4-5 inches from the top of the armsceye in the back . What you are trying to achieve is the long, back of the sleeve suspending from upper back of the armsce rather that from the top or bottom of the armsceye. If you center the long seam on the top of the armsceye, you will end up fighting your sleeves everytime you move your arm.


If you center the long seam on the bottom of the armsceye, you will have a disaster on your hands :)


This is a rough pattern of how I cut an "a bombard" sleeve for a houpelande, hopefully it is clear how the sleeve fits in to the body of the garment.

Mock Ups.


The next step for me was to mock-up a garment to practice getting the length and drape right before I cut in to the good velvet for the de Revel outfit.


I decided to make two outfits: one to get the body and drape right and another to nail down length and sleeve placement. Each mockup will have it's own page dedicated to it; however, they are still under construction.

  • The first mock up is a Burgundy patterned cotton velvet trimmed in mink with gold passmenterie trim.  

The second mock up is a blue and red 100% wool melton that I appliqued crosses on. This also allowed me to start playing with the placement of crosses to estimate how many crosses I would need for the de revel outfit.

With both mock ups complete, I am pretty happy with the construction, drape, length and style off the pattern I have developed;however, I am going to make some small midifcations to the neck opening, as the one on the blue wool is a bit too deep in the front.

Getting Started.

I started by cutting out the sleeves using the exact same pattern I used on the blue wool mockup. I will hold off until the very end to set in the dags, because I will do the outer fabric and the lining at the same time.

Cutting out one sleeve in velvet to prep for appliqueing the silk crosses.

Pinning the silk crosses in place to begin the applique process. I have documented my approach to appliqueing the silk crosses here in an effort to reduce how much is on this page.

Dagging and Edge Binding

Once the sleeves were completely appliqued, I lined them with cream silk, dagged them, and then bound them with gold silk bias binding. The bias binding was made from the same silk I used for the appliques. 

References: