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Hose & Garters for Medieval Women
HOSE - FOOTED HOSE - SOCKS - GARTERS
Hose, 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 or socks.
Knitting 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.
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.
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 a woman.
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.
Not 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.
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