A Manly Gown

RH005 – 15thc Man’s Gown
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The man’s pleated gown (sometimes called the “men’s Burgundian houppeland”) is one of the most stunning examples of fabric sculpture and manipulation in the history of clothing.   And yet I have yet to see a replica that adequately mirrors the beauty and fine detail of those in period paintings.   It seems that reenactors and costumers have decided that the gorgeous substantial and evenly arranged pleats show in the pictures are simply the artist’s fantasy and cannot be replicated in a real garment.   My answer to that is then why do so many artists from different countries as well as varying levels of talent all show the same shape in their renderings?   The only answer must be that this garment did indeed exist as it is represented and that modern reproductions have simply fallen short of the mark thusfar.

Well, you know me, friends. I wasn’t going to let this challenge get away from me!

This man’s overgown is characterized by a substantial arrangement of pleats on the front and back of the garment which narrow from the exaggerated width of the shoulders to a slim waist and continue beneath a belt to the hem of the garment, be it knee-, thigh- or ankle-length.   The garment is often lined in fur or velvet, giving substance and body to the drape.   The square shoulders are pleated only at the top and are held out by wearing a doublet with ball-topped sleeves underneath it.   The sleeves of the gown may be worn rolled up to reveal the fur lining or split down the front seam to allow the arm to emerge.   The front neckline approximates a boatneck, but the back neckline is invariably a V, thereby increasing the effect of the broad shoulders.   Indeed, this ensemble is most appealing when viewed from behind…

Buy a pattern for a 15th century Man’s Gown here.


© 2003 by Kass McGann — The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research purposes provided the author’s name, the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.