Guest Star: The Inimitable Jenna Jaxon with Lady’s Wear Daily
I’d love to introduce you to the amazing Jenna Jaxon, writer of wonderful historical and erotic romances. Her latest is Betrothal and I highly recommend this medieval tale of passion and courtly romance.
Today, Jenna’s offering us a little look at fashion in the middle ages. I’ve been looking forward to this!
Take it away, Jenna…
First, let me thank you, Patricia, so much for having me on your blog today. I love to visit you and today I’m going to be your fashionista from the past.
The medieval period spanned such a long time (5th century until 15th century) that clothing and fashion changed with every century. Since my medieval romance is set in the middle of the 14th century, I’m going to give you an idea of what my heroine, the princess, and the other ladies in court would have been wearing.
Let’s start dressing our noble lady–Lady Alyse or Lady Anne, perhaps. First thing in the morning, she would put on a white shirt made of linen, called a chemise or smock. Everyone wore these, both men and women. They served several purposes: 1) to keep sweat and oils away from the costly clothing; 2) linen could be washed and bleached often and easily; and 3) linen was soft against the skin and shielded it from the scratchy wools or other fabrics.
And that’s it for my lady’s undergarments. Yes, as far as we know, they went commando all the way!
Next, our lady would don a kirtle, also called a gown. In the early part of the century, the kirtle was worn very loosely over the shift. As the century wore on, the kirtle got tighter and tigher, accenting the woman’s silhouette. High Fashion called for tight, buttoned sleeves and fitted torsos.
Over these two layers, our lady would add a supertunic or surcote. This outer garment’s sleeves were long early in the century–almost to the wrist–then shortened as the century progressed until they were above the elbow by the end of the century. The kirtle shows through both long and short-sleeved surcotes.
The back of the surcote sleeves had a distinctive piece of fabric that hung down, called a tippet. This cloth attached to the back of the surcote sleeves and extended to the ground. It is believed to be an extension of a fur lining of the sleeve.
These garments, the kirtle and the surcote, were often embellished with embroidering in gold thread and with gold plaques called bezants. They might also have the edges of the sleeves and hem dagged–where the edges were cut to make a pattern like this: WWWWW. This was popular for both men and women.
The most popular medieval fashion accessory, however, was the pouch. You didn’t leave your room without one. The most fashionable courtiers had tassels at the bottom. This pouch carried your knife (for eating!) and any assorted other small objects (coins, favors, jewels).
The 14th century is called the party century. Ooops, I meant parti-colored century. Parti-colored clothing was the most popular style of clothing. A kirtle or gown would have one color on one side and a different color on the other. Entertainers and musicians favored the style and the noble ladies picked up the fashion from them.
A variation on this style is the Heraldic Gown. This gown has heraldic devices, such as a coat-of-arms emblazoned on it. It showed loyalty or denoted the wearer’s heritage. This picture is of Phillipa of Hainault–the mother of Princess Joanna and a minor character in Betrothal. She’s wearing a heraldic gown denoting her the lions of Hainault, thus her father’s heritage.
I really could go on and on about women’s clothing and fashion! I haven’t touched hairstyles, footwear, the Sumptuary Laws (they decreed what people could and could not wear according to their social status!).
Perhaps another post for another day?
I’ve enjoyed this little chat so much! I’d like to offer a giveaway to one commenter: a book from my backlist, other than Betrothal. And you can choose either a print or e-book version of Only Scandal Will Do if you choose that work. Hope you’ve had as much fun as I did!
Thanks again, Patricia, for having me!
Thank you, Jenna. It’s always a pleasure to have you. Yes, please do come back on another day; you’re more than welcome.
Now you know, dear reader, just how talented this lady is. Her research is impeccable. Here’s her bio:
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical and contemporary romance. Her historical romance, Only Scandal Will Do, the first in a series of five interconnecting novels, was released in July 2012. Her contemporary works include Hog Wild, Almost Perfect, and 7 Days of Seduction. She is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as a member of Chesapeake Romance Writers. Her medieval romance, Time Enough to Love, is being published this summer as a series of three novellas. The first book, Betrothal, was released on April 19th.
Jenna has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets. When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director. She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.
She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.
Now about Betrothal…
Jenna has supplied us with a blurb, and after seeing that gorgeous cover, I know you’ll want to read it.
Lady Alyse de Courcy has fallen in love with Lord Braeton, a nobleman in King Edward III’s court and a man to whom she has barely spoken. Fate, however, has decreed her betrothal to his best friend, Sir Geoffrey Longford—a handsome and imposing knight, yet hardly the man she wants to wed.
When Sir Geoffrey is bound in betrothal by his father, he could not have expected the beautiful stranger to win his heart the moment they meet. Nevertheless, the fascinating Lady Alyse has done exactly that, and his feelings for her only grow as he learns more of her gentle yet spirited nature. But Alyse’s infatuation with his friend casts doubt on whether she can ever return his regard and their wedding day is fast approaching…
Will he have time enough to win her love?
And here’s an excerpt:
“What do you require of me, Majesty?” Her mouth so dry she could taste sand, Alyse fought to speak in a normal tone. With a sigh of relief, she dropped into a deep curtsy, hiding her face in the folds of her skirt. If only she could remain bowed thus before His Majesty for the remainder of the evening.
King Edward laughed. “Obedience, Lady Alyse, as I require of all my subjects. As your father requires of his daughter.”
Her heart thumped wildly in her breast. That could mean but one thing.
“Rise, my lady.”
She did so on unsteady feet. “I am ready, as always, Your Majesty, to obey my father as I would you.”
Holy Mary, let it be Lord Braeton.
King Edward lifted an eyebrow toward Alyse. “A very pretty answer, my lady. And are you ready to accept your father’s decree for your betrothal? His messenger has today reached me with the contract, as I am to stand in his stead in this matter.”
Alyse took a deep breath and hoped her voice did not tremble. “Yea, Majesty, I will obey my father.”
King Edward nodded and leaned over to whisper something to Queen Phillipa, who sat beside him, heavy with their twelfth child.
Mere seconds before she learned her fate. She could scarce affect an indifferent pose before the court when inside every inch of her quivered with anticipation of the name. His name, pray God, on the king’s lips.
In her mind, she heard the word.
The king straightened, glanced at her then at the man by her side.
“What say you then, Sir Geoffrey? Does the lady not speak fair? I vow she will make you a proper wife and a dutiful one as well.”
Alyse turned, until that moment unaware that Geoffrey Longford stood beside her. Chills coursed down her body as the king’s words echoed in her mind. The sensation of falling backward assailed her, as though she rushed away from the tall man at her side even as his figure loomed larger and larger in her sight.
Not Lord Braeton.
Her numbed brain repeated the phrase, trying to comprehend that instead he would be her husband. Geoffrey Longford.
God have mercy on me, for by the look of him, this man will not.
Fearful, she cringed as her gaze climbed higher, over his chest, over his chin, finally resting on the dark blue eyes turned toward her.
Geoffrey returned her appraisal, his gaze sweeping her figure as a smile crept over his face. “Your Majesty.” He spoke to the king but his attention remained fixed on Alyse. “When my father told me of the betrothal contract before I left his home, I resolved to play the dutiful son. Now, however, I find I do not wish to act that role after all.” His eyes held hers as he paused.
Dear God, does he mean to renounce me here before the entire court?
Alyse stared at the man beside her, willing herself to remain upright, despite the waves of ice and fire alternating through her body.
“Now I find I would rather play the ardent lover.”
An amused murmur ran through the Hall at his words. Sir Geoffrey grinned, his eyes sparkling with humor and something more. Despite the uneven light, Alyse saw an unfathomable promise in their dark depths. She took a shaky breath and looked away.