& Garters for Medieval Women
HOSE - FOOTED HOSE - SOCKS - GARTERS
as well as socks, were worn by medieval women. Our model woman
Margherita Datini's wardrobe account of 1339 lists both white
linen undersocks and long hose of silk or wool. The wife of a
wealthy Italian merchant, Margherita had access to commercially
produced items in the town, and would have worn what regular women
of her class wore. The illumination detail at right shows a female
musician with her kirtle raised to reveal a pair of striped hose
Hose were worn by all classes of women as a precursor to the modern
sock although socks were worn also. Hose in medieval England were
cut on the bias to allow for a certain about of elasticity in
the cloth, particularly linen and wool. At right is a detail from
Ruth Threshes Grain For Naomi from the Maciejowski Bible,
showing green, striped socks or hose.
Rosemary Hawthorne's book Stockings and Suspenders states
that in Spain, knitted silk hose were known as early as the 11th
century and gradually made their way to Europe and eventually
France but seemingly no further until 1562 when the English Queen
was gifted silk stockings from The Yeoman of The Wardrobe, Robert
was a craft which was exclusively a male dominated art, and in
the early stages, an occupation only permitted by the clergy.
Fine stockings and ecclesiastical gloves were knitted from fine
silk using two or more needles on round frames similar to the
modern French knitting bees, only substantially larger. Only in
the late 15th century were widows admitted to the guild to carry
on the skills of their husbands. Regular two-needle knitting does
not appear to have been used to make hose, only short socks.
Pictured at left is a beautiful brocaded
silk hose belonging to the Archbishop of Bayonne in the late 14th
century. The cut and pattern is still very uncomplicated, but
the fabric denotes it as an item of clothing of great worth.
Leggings worn from the knee to ankle
have also been known as streapeles. While a man's hose
extended over his upper thigh and joined to his waistband or upper
clothing, it is believed that a women's hose, as best we are able
to define, reaches no further than just above her knee and was
kept up with a garter buckled or tied under the knee.
Footed hose were popular with men during the 13th and 14th centuries
and can be seen in many manuscript illuminations and artworks.
The footwear is essentially hose which covers the entire leg and
foot with a sturdy leather sole sewn to the underneath. A late
13th century altar front painting from France The Three Magi,
from the Episcopal Museum shows two of the Magi with gowns drawn
back to the hip showing long, thigh high hose with two side straps
very much like suspenders but it is completely unknown whether
this is a fashion which was adopted by women.
The image of the artifact at right
shows hose dated to 1247 which are the burial hose of Rodrigo
Ximenez de Rada from Madrid. Although these are men's hose, they
do give us an idea how the hose were worn for men: that is, tied
to a band around the waist. There is no proof that this method
was adopted by women, but there is also no real proof that it
was absolutely not.
Owing to the nature of hose itself,
it is difficult to ascertain whether women wore footed hose or
hose with shoes only. Generally a wealthy woman's leg is not depicted
under her voluminous robes other than the point of her shoes and
written references to this item seem to be either not worth writing
about, unseemly to write about or not written about because they
were not worn. Some manuscript illuminations do how women wearing
hose which resemble long socks, so we do know that they wore them.
The Museum of London has a few woollen finds from London excavation
sites from which recostructed hose have been made, showing the
various styles of foot and seam placement. It is impossible to
tell whether these were worn by men or women.
Socks can be documented back to the 8th century.
The sock at right shows a different
construction to earlier types of sock or hose- that is, it appears
to have a triangular gore in the side as well as the seam which
joins the foot to the top. They are made of knitted silk and are
dated around 1540-1560 and are part of the Museum of London
collection. It is unknown whether the sock belonged to a man or
In order to keep the hose from slipping down the leg, a garter
or hoggers was utilised. Some tied above the rounded part of the
calf and just under the knee itself, but the more affluent ladies
had those which buckled.
garters were not intended to be seen by any man other than her
own husband or wishful lover, a woman's garters may have fine
needlework embroidered onto them, French mottoes of courtly love
or amorous words of love.
Shown at left, a garter from a late 14th century deposit in London,
although once again, it is not possible to know whether it was
worn by a woman or man. The daggued edges are actually woven scallops
which were seemly done by hand when the band was originally woven
and not cut in afterwards.
all garters were made this way. It was quite usual for the selvages
or other strips of material to be cut and sewn into garters as
a way of reusing scraps of fabric. It is probable that it belonged
to a man as the decorative daggueing seems designed to be displayed
rather than concealed. The straight edge would have been worn
of the upper of the leg with the daggues dangling downwards. It
is interesting that the wearer could afford time-consuming, and
thereby expensive, daggued garters and yet they garters are tied
rather than buckled which is what one expects of a person who
can afford specially-woven narrow ware.
Also from a late 14th century deposit
in London, at right, woven twill used for a garter. It is an unpatterned
compound twill. Image from the Museum of London.
Since the fabric is a plain weave
and the garter is tied, we can deduce that the wearer was perhaps
a regular person and not from the upper classes. A working person
would see no need for expensive metal buckles when they would
not be seen at any rate.