Women’s Clothing

(All of our members are required to begin with the clothing of an average person. )

Required garments for all women in Lord Grey’s Retinue:

  1. Smock or Shift of bleached white linen
  2. Hose of wool
  3. Garters to hold up your hose
  4. Shoes
  5. White Linen head wrap or tailed cap or wool looped band and hood
  6. Laced front kirtle – a short (or long) sleeved laced front kirtle of 100% wool

The above items are absolutely required to start with your first event. Don’t worry! We have lots of loaner clothing to help save the expense and time of putting it all together for your first event with us. Please speak with us early so we have time to plan/gather and possibly make what you need to borrow to attend your first event with us. Lara and Steve can assist you. 

The list continues with the other required items for our Women’s kit:

  1. Over Gown – of 100% wool, a few variations will be offered as options below
  2. Dining set – Cup, bowl, spoon and knife (required for all members)
  3. Large wool or natural linen bag to carry your medieval items to the event and hide your modern items while at the event (required for all members)
  4. A heavy natural linen tick (mattress) to be stuffed with straw
  5. Wool blanket – see fabric selection for wool standards.  If blanket was purchased please cut away or remove any modern stitching or labels.

(Details for non-clothing items can be found under the Standards – Common Kit Items.)

Optional common items you may want:

  1. A second or third smock/shift
  2. Additional pairs of hose for varying degrees of weather
  3. Wool hood (aka open hood with liripipe)
  4. looped head band of wool
  5. Apron
  6. Belt
  7. Purse (of wool or leather)
  8. A Paternoster (like a rosary, they were very religious in the 15th century)
  9. Wool cape
  10. Wool mittens
  11. Additional shoes – perhaps a pair for bad weather
  12. Pattens
  13. Wooden box for your personal medieval belongings
  14. Tent
  15. Tools/instruments for whichever vocation you prefer

Suggested modern items you will likely want to bring:

  1. A flashlight and lantern
  2. Sunblock
  3. Bug spray
  4. Baby wipes
  5. A giant zip-lock bag to keep your modern items dry within the large wool bag
  6. A modern sleeping bag (hidden within the large wool bag during the event)


Let us get specific about the clothing items required….

  • Smock or Shift of bleached white linen –  

    From the Medieval Tailor’s Assistant

This is your underwear, it is always made of bleached white linen. It should have long sleeves, under-arm gussets, a scoop neck and be between lower calf and ankle in length. The sleeves need to fit under the fitted sleeves of the gowns worn over it. The scoop neck should be low enough to not stick out much past the necklines of the gowns worn over it (a peek of your smock in the neckline of your gown is fine but preferably it should not stick out more than an inch or so). A possibility to consider while making your shift is to leave the neckline cut deliberately too high and left unfinished until after your gown is completed. Then you may mark your neckline exactly while wearing the gown over it. Many of our group prefer when the shift/smock is snug at the bust – making less fabric to bunch up beneath your gown in the bust area. There are no drawstrings at either the neck or wrists nor any gathering anywhere. You want a smooth fitted finish at the neckline ideally. The shift may or may not (your choice) be cut with gores inserted in the side seams from the hip to hem. You can machine sew your shift and finish all visible areas (neckline & wrists) by hand.  
*Please consult page 72 of The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant  by Sarah Thursfield for instructions on how to make your smock/shift, ask Lara for a pattern to borrow or you can often adjust many basic 18th century shift patterns to work for ours by raising the neckline and lengthening the sleeves and hem.                                                                                           
You may also buy your smock/shift and alter it as needed (you may need to replace any  visible machine stitching with hand stitching). Here are a few places that sell them:
  • Hose of wool

From the Medieval Tailor’s Assistant

They should be made of 100% wool, pre-shrunk/pre-washed in hot water so they are machine washable later. Many of us prefer a thick plain weave wool (like a plain woven  100% wool flannel) which when washed gets very soft and thick. It keeps the toes nice and warm and gives additional padding under the feet (some of us make the sole part of the foot a double layer of wool for strength and padding) . Others like a thin plain woven “Tropical” weight 100% wool – your choice. Just make sure it is 100% wool for accuracy and the fire protection pure wool offers.  

Color – Stockings are often dark in the research we have so far. Muted colors are fine – please avoid extremely bright or fluorescent shades of the color you choose (see the fabric standards page for more advice).
Though they appear simple, getting a proper fit can be a bit tricky. We usually create a pattern for each individual by draping the fabric (on the bias) on the persons leg itself.  Ask Lara if she has a pattern in your size to borrow or consult pages 108 – 109 of The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant  by Sarah Thursfield for instructions on how to make your stockings. Kannik’s Korner makes an 18th century accessory pattern (KK6001 – Stockings, Pockets & Mitts) which includes a stocking pattern that appears identical to the correct cut for our time. Lara just ordered the pattern to see how it is for our use.                                                         
Or you can buy your wool hose and alter them as needed. Here is a place that sells them:
  • Garters to hold up your hose
Garters are worn just below your knee to hold your stockings up. They can be the sort that either ties or buckles (please speak to Steve about which sorts of buckles are correct to buy and where to buy them). The tying variety is the easiest and can be made from scraps of wool. Fancier garters might be made of  woven wool or silk braids (Lara can show you some examples and there are some sellers on etsy who sell lovely inkle woven wool and silk braids – just be careful of your color choices – see the color section of the Fabric standards page please).                                                                                                            
Or you can buy your garters. Here is a place that sells them:
  • Shoes –
Women’s shoes should have a pointed toe and be made of leather. The medieval “Turn-shoe” is acceptable but by our time period the “turn welt” construction is most accurate … and of course, more labor intensive and expensive.
Many of our members have more then one pair – a favorite pair and a cheaper pair to be worn in the poor weather. Take good care of your shoes, moisture will allow mold to build up and possibly shrink and harden the leather. We are all so unhappy when we find that we forgot to put our shoes away nicely and discover that they have shrunk and become moldy and hard.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Before you make your purchase please speak to Lara and Steve to confirm that what you have chosen is correct for use within Lord Grey’s retinue:                                                              
The best:
  • White Linen head wrap or tailed capTailed_Cap_a
It was considered indecent and unsanitary (lice and related pests were common) to have your hair exposed. Head wraps or caps were something everyone wore. You can simply wrap your head in a long rectangular piece of bleached linen in a turban style. Or you can make yourself a “Tailed cap”  (shown in photos) with  the Tailed_Cap_binstructions on page 199 of The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant  by Sarah Thursfield


You may also make or buy a linen head wrap (just make sure any machine stitching is hidden or removed). Here is a place that sells them:
    • Wool Hood –

See cutting diagram for style “b.” on page 201 of The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant  by Sarah Thursfield

You may make or buy a wool hood (just make sure any machine stitching is hidden or removed). Here are places that sell them:




  • Under Gown – laced front kirtle made of 100% wool with short sleeves and it may or may not have a ruffle at the hem. 
The women in the 1471 image (of peasants dancing) above are both wearing laced front kirtle under gowns with a ruffle at the hem. The woman on the left has her’s showing from beneath her simple over gown, she is fully dressed. The figure on the right is wearing her short sleeved undergown over her smock/shift and with an apron on top. She is essentially dancing in her underwear, LOL! This is unusual, a woman would not commonly walk around without wearing her over gown unless she were actively working.
***If you are making a laced front kirtle under gown:
  • It must be of 100% wool for accuracy and fire safety.
  •  The bodice should be lined in natural or bleached white linen. Lining the sleeves and skirt is optional.
  • The sleeves would be short – between upper and mid-bicep
  • You may make a pair of pin-on sleeves if you like, but not of a brocade. Use a plain wool to either match your under gown or of another color wool.
  • The hem of the gown would be shorter – about 2″ – 2.5″ above the floor (barefoot)
  • You may add a ruffle at the hem if you like – the finished length should be between 5″ to 8″ long. The fullness of the ruffle should not exceed a ratio of 1.5″ gathered into 1″ (…so if your gown’s hem circumfrence is 100″ then your finished ruffle width will be a maximum of 150″.)
  • You may machine stitch if you like as long as there is no visible machine stitching. Finish off your hems and necklines with hand stitching please.
  • Follow the construction notes for the laced front kirtle over gown below for the rest of the cutting, fitting and sewing details please.

Or, here are options for where you may purchase one:

  • Matuls: Woman’s Gown – 15th Century (get the short sleeve version for the under-gown. If you want pin-on sleeves get them of wool and not a brocade)(adding hand stitching would be even more correct – or you can add it yourself)
Over Gowns – Of 100% wool in three common varieties:
1. The first over gown option is the long sleeved version of the laced front kirtle:
This is a very practical gown to start with since it may be worn without an under gown and be easily converted into a true under gown later if you choose.
The gown is to be made of 100% wool. Many of us choose to pre wash/pre-shrink all fabrics twice to make the gown machine washable. The bodice is cut in four pieces; two fronts and two backs. The side seams and shoulder seams are at their true locations. The bodice should be lined in a white or natural colored linen – the sleeves may or may not be lined, your choice. The bodice should be snugly fitted and support the bust. If the bust is larger try not to cut the center front with too much curve – take some of the fullness into the side of the front at the side seam. Make a mock-up of the bodice and work on getting the fit just right for you before you cut into the wool. Cut the bodice and lining with the center front on the straight of grain and leave 1″ seam allowance at the center front. That 1″ seam allowance left inside will serve as a stable base for your sewn eyelets later.
Arm holes are cut high and snug to allow for maximum mobility. Sleeve is cut in one piece with the seam running down the back of the arm. Sleeve fits smoothly into the armhole with no pleats or gathers. Sleeve can have small fabric ball button closures if desired though are not necessary.
Skirts are gored and flare out wide beginning around the hip line. You may use as many gores as you like and piece your fabric however necessary, it varied greatly in the period and fabric was precious. Don’t be skimpy though, the hem circumference should be no less than 100″ and can appear to go as wide as 250″. The skirt fits into the waist seam smoothly (no gathers) except at center back where there are an even number of side pleats – pleating towards the center back (usually 4-6 pleats in total). Remember to calculate for your pleats when cutting your skirts. The recipe Lara often uses is (bodice waist measure + seam allowances + 12″ for pleats) (The 12″ makes three 1″ deep side pleats per side. You may vary your pleat depths and quantity – speak to Lara). Cut the center front skirt panels on the straight of grain (selvage ideally) and use 1″ seam allowance there to be turned back as a foundation for your eyelets again. All other seams may be whatever seam allowance you prefer. The center front of the gown laces closed in a spiral lacing method from about hip level to neckline. Yes, that is quite a bit of eyelets to sew, sorry. Eyelets are usually spaced about 1″ – 1.25″ apart. Hem should be long. No shorter than 1.5″ above the floor when barefoot please.
Or, here are options for where you may purchase one:
  • Matuls: Woman’s Gown – 15th Century (get the long sleeve version for the over-gown.) (adding hand stitching would be even more correct – or you can add it yourself)
2. The second over-gown option is what we call the “simple” over-gown. A long sleeved gown with no waist seam and possibly no closures at all (it has a scooped neckline, is pulled over the head and fitted from the bust up). This is the most common over gown we see in images representing average people. It was often made deliberately too long and is shown bunched up at the waist so the wearer does not trip on her skirts. It  may be lined in either a fur or a contrasting color of wool. (See the Fabric standards section for advice on choosing correct type of fur)
3.  The third over gown option is the V-Necked gown lined or edged with fur. Most often associated with higher classes. Possible as the best gown of middle and upper lower class people. The quality and color of the wool used in combination with the quality and type of fur used will determine it’s class status. This is the least common over gown in use in our camp. It is not very practical or logical for most of us to be wearing one. But it is quite beautiful.
  • Women’s Purses –
Women’s purses were often worn hanging from the waist between the layers of gowns, over the under-gown/beneath the over-gown. They were made in an assortment of materials…..
(Sorry, this page is still under construction)