Yellow Cote (late 14th - early 15th Century)

Yellow Cote (late 14th – early 15th Century)


Diary started October 19th 2004
Dress finished January 7th 2005


It seems like such a simple thing. I’m Sylvie. I’m french. I’m from the late 14th/early 15th century. It seems obvious that I would have a “cote”, “cotte”, “cotehardie”, “gothic fitted gown”, “kirtle” whatever you want to call it.. the fitted supportive layer seen in late 14th/early 15th century illuminations. It’s been a long road to get here. I’m at the middle of my third year in the SCA and I’m just now getting around to making a dress that’s appropriate to my persona.

This will actually be the second fitted gown I’ve made. I was terribly proud of the first gown (I blame the pride on the pain from my gall bladder (but that’s a different story)). A friend is now wearing it.. everytime I see her in it I want to tackle her to the ground and give her a proper fitting just so I can burn my “gothic fitted greenland gown”. It makes my teeth hurt. (my friend still looks perky and lovely in it.. but she’d knock their eyes out in a properly fitted dress). [Edit: The first cote sold for $45 at Ducal in 2006]

So when Etaine proposed “let’s all wear similar dresses for Twelfth Night” it seems like a really fantastic idea to push for the 14th century fitted gown.

Proposed dress fabric. Yellow wool on bottom, yellow lining linen on top.

I’ve set aside some lovely yellow wool gabardine for the outer layer and I finally found some lovely yellow linen to use for the lining (this yellow is the second yellow I’d bought. The first yellow was WAY too bright).

So cross your fingers for me. With luck and a bunch of work I should have a fitted yellow cote for Twelfth Night. If I get really ambitious (and ahead of schedule) I may even make up a lovely red overdress. I’m not holding my breath.

Research and Background

No one yet knows what this dress would have been called at the time when it was worn. I tend to call it a “cote” or “fitted gown”. The current recreationists theory says that this started out as the loose tunic of the 13th century and became more and more fitted as time progressed. Eventually this garment became the supported under-layer for the houppelande, and possibly even for some later garments.

My goal is to create a garment that is consistent with the fashions in 1425-1440 France.

My primary sources are the “Tres Riches Heures de Duc Berry” illustrated by the Limbourg brothers between 1413-1416 and a french translation of “Boccacio’s Decameron” illstrated by Flemish artists between 1430-1440.

Details to include:

  • Fitted dress of four panels (illus. 1) with gores for fullness
  • Front spiral laced closure (illus. 2)
  • Rounded neck opening (illus. 2)
  • Wrist length tight fitting sleeves (illus.1)

Boccacio's Decameron, seam detail.
Illustration 1
Boccacio’s Decameron, 1430-1440
Notice the seam lines in the underarm then going down her sides. NOTE: I do NOT believe this is evidence of a princess seam (no matter what some people on Pinterest think). I -do- think this is a side seam and possibly shows “proof” of inset sleeves. BUT in order to be proof of a princess seam we’d need to see her front.. which ISN’T SHOWN HERE!!!
Tres Riches Heuers de Duc Berry, June, detail.
Illustration 2
Tres Riches Heures de Duc Berry, 1413-1416.

Inspirational Pictures

Tres Riches Heuers de Duc Berry, April, detail.
Boccicio's Decameron, detail.


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