“Extant” does not mean a good example for everywhere and everytime

Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns
This is a book of patterns for the garments found in Greenland which have been dated to the 14th century. It has an interesting introduction with some helpful sewing hints. It leaves out some details which are crucial in the path from a picture of a pattern of the garment to an as-close-as-I-can-get-it-reproduction of the garment.. but it’s better than a bare line drawing.

That said:

Please pardon the rant.

The garments represented in this book are dated to the 14th century in Greenland. They are representative of the cut and construction of garments from Greenland in the 14th century. Any attempt to extend these garments as examples of garments that would have been worn on the mainland is foolish.

This means that NO, Herjolfnes #38 the so-called basis of the 12-gore style of cotehardie is NOT a good pattern to use as a basis of your 14th century French/English reproduction cotehardie (the find is described as a man’s garment, and even though it is somewhat shaped, it -still- isn’t form fitting. It can still be pulled on/off over the head. So, NO, it’s not a good example once you add a lacing to it).

This also means that NO, you cannot take all of the Herjolfnes finds and use these as patterns for your 10th century Norwegien impression. Despite the fact that Greenland is isolated from the rest of the mainland, some of the design features of the garments (notably the inset sleeves and hoods with liripipe) were not used in the 10th century. Inset sleeves seem to come into use on the mainland around 1340 and hoods with liripipe are a design feature of the 14th century.

The garments found at Herjolfnes are good examples and make good patterns for reproductions of Greenland garments from the 14th century. That is it. If you’re tring to use them as the basis for something else…


4 thoughts on ““Extant” does not mean a good example for everywhere and everytime

  1. Robin Netherton's take on these garments is very amusing. Her theory (and she is pretty expert on clothing of this time period) is that someone from Greenland went to the Continent, saw people in cotehardies — which were considered scandalous at the time because they clung close to the body and accentuated the figure. When this person got back to Greenland, they were all "you would not BELIEVE what these people were WEARING!!?!" So the Greenland colonists tried to copy the style from verbal descriptions — but they were missing one crucial piece of information. You can only make a narrow waist and close-fitting torso on a garment if it doesn't have to go on over your head: you need a front opening so you can put the thing on and then lace it up. The Greenlanders were not accustomed to making clothes with such an opening. So they did the best they could to make close-fitting garments that could still be pulled on over the head, and the result is only partially successful and uses techniques that are apparently not often used elsewhere.

  2. there is that tunic that they just found that *apparently* has set in sleeves, though ….. But yeah, she's spot on. Those garments are good for that time and place. Period. End of Discussion.

  3. Timely article! I have both Woven Into the Earth and Medieval Garments Reconstructed, and am planning to try to make a typical 14th c. Greenland outfit from it this fall/winter. Your post is a good reminder of how location and era need to be kept in consideration when planning such a project.

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