Gambesons

This article is the result of frequent requests of our customers. I hope it will help answer many of your questions and will be useful.

 

Throughout the history of the protective garment of the warrior the best material for armor was metal: steel, bronze and copper. However, despite its profitability, leather and various types of fabrics or wool served as a help, and sometimes as an independent armor. Metal provided the resistance to shock, quilted or padded armor came to the help in providing the other needs. Among them we can mark European gambeson.


What gambe
son, aketon, pourpoint and jacques are?

 

The term "gambeson" has Old German origins. Originally the word wamba meant "belly", "womb." Then, in the High Middle Ages, in Germal language it was transformed wambais. And then in the Old French this word evolved into gambeson, gambaison. In the specialised literature there is terminological disagreement over the differences of one concepts from another. We do not claim to absoluteness of our information, so for the convenience of an internal use we suggest the following gradation.

 

Gambeson in a broad sense is a padded jack, worn under or over an armour, or in a narrower context - quilted or padded fabric or leather long jacket, worn under the armour. It was also used as a separate kind of armour. Aketon - (the term "aketon" comes from borrowing from the Arabic language al-qutn "cotton") is a cotton or linen jacket, worn under the armour, composed of several layers of thick cloth or leather, quilted together. It can be both short-sleeved, and even without them. Sometimes leather cords were sewn to the sleeves of aketon to fix the armour. Doublet is a leather or fabric short jacket, worn under the plate armour. Unlike gambeson (in a narrow context) and aketon, doublet looked more like civilian clothes. Pourpoint is a fabric short padded jacket with a slim fit waist and puffed-up chest. Jacques (jack) is multi-layer fabric short jacket, used as separate infantry armour. Sometimes it was worn over the mail armour.

The use of padded and quilted jackets of different lengths were observed both in the East and the West.  Length, material, number of layers of fabric and function varied. The appearance of gambeson in Europe dates from about the X century. The Scythians used leather jackets and pants even in the IV century BC. In the Dark Ages leather jackets were also commonly used. Later leather and then fabric gambeson begin to take shape.

Gambeson is a jacket, that consists of several layers of leather or fabric. Such jackets could be quilted or padded. There is a mention of additional padding of fabric by soaking it in wine vinegar. During the manufacture of padded gambeson several layers of material stitched (flogged) with vertical or horizontal stitch. Sometimes they
were quilted together with a layer of wadding. Mostly the stitch was vertical. Later an anatomical drawing became widespread, repeating curves and body lines. The wedges were rarely inserted into gambeson. Leather, linen or silk could serve as the basis for gambeson. In the case of padding "pockets" (emptiness formed between the square or diamond-shaped stitches) were filled with waste cloth (rags), cotton, wool, horsehair or hay. Material for padding depended on region, time of production and solvency of the customer. Cotton was relatively common in Spain and Northern Italy. As a result, wealthier nobles could order it not only for sewing the outer and inner sides of gambeson, but also for its padding.



In the Middle Ages chroniclers and scribes often called gambeson that was both under and over the main armor. However, sometimes a jacket, worn over the armor, also call aketon. The word "aketon" comes from the Arabic al-qutn «cotton." As the independent armor this jacket was made ​​of a large number of layers of fabric. According to some estimates this number reached 30. It should be noted, that the original patterns of classic gambesons (which can be seen in many illustrations of medieval chronicles) have not been preserved up to date. From similar things, that performed the same function, prime examples of preserved things are the jackets of the Black Prince and Charles of Blois. Very often these jackets belong to pourpoints or aketons. Restoration of the appearance of gambeson is also achieved through references and images in medieval chronicles and manuscripts. Reenactors are actively using regulations of craftsmen, knightly orders. These sources contain references not only about the mode of gambeson production, but also about the materials for them.



 

 

Basically, if talking about the period of XI-XIV centuries, gambeson was a padded armour. Its main purpose was to absorb the shocks to mail. This was also the additional protection of the body. Padded armour saved from unnecessary rubbing of body parts with chain mail. When the armour was damaged, the edges of broken rings leaned to gambeson, but not to body. Besides sweat was not seeping through the clothes so quickly. Consequently chainmail was less exposed to risk of rust covering. When gambeson was worn over the armor, it protected the armour from external influence and heating from the sun. Gambeson dressed over mail, protected it from less serious  damages in battle.



 

 

Which sleeves had the gambeson, and how to fasten them?

 

Mostly, jackets were made with sleeves, although they could be with detachable sleeves. In this case, they were fastened with leather or fabric laces. Often the sleeves made narrower to the wrist. Sometimes they were practically absent, covering only the shoulders. Gambeson often had a stand-up collar. In some cases, gambeson had cuts beneath at the front and back. This was done for more comfortable seat of horse rider. Usually padded armour reached mid-thigh. Although there could be shortened versions that reached only to the waist. For the fastening buttons and lace could be used for the gambeson (from the right side or center). Additional cords could be attached to gambeson, that tied certain parts of the top armor. The most important element of gambeson is cut and sleeves joint. In contrast of modern clothing, where the arm joins the body, in these suits the cut goes through the cuirass line. This easy fit of sleeve provides complete mobility and doesn’t make hem to ride up when a hand is raised.

Often gambeson was used as an independent armor. This manner of use has been particularly popular among the infantry, which consisted of a simple class of people. With the advent of all-metal armor, nobility begins to use the shorter jackets. They are gradually losing their main function of depreciation.
Gambeson can be used not only with plate armour, but is a part of medieval costume.


 

 

Which material to use for sewing a gambeson? With what to stuff a gambeson? How to decorate a gambeson?

 


The products we offer are completely focused on customer’s requests. For tailoring of the submitted models of gambesons we use only natural materials. This provides not only sufficient level of protection, but also appropriate level of comfort. Gambeson cut options and used materials will satisfy both supporters of historical authority, and participants of SCA events, taking into account the practicality and convenience. The proposed site models take into account the various specifics of use of our gambesons. At the wish of the customer it can be machine or hand sewing. We manufacture gambesons individually for your measurements or for standard sizes. If you are not sure, how to define your size, please have a look at this table.


As a set for gambeson warp we offer linen, silk, cotton, wool, velvet, leather and suede. For the lining of gambeson we use cotton, silk or linen.

Combination of two or four colored pieces is possible for the gambeson.

If you wish, historical (mottos, names of city or area) and free nature inscriptions can be embroidered on the gambesons.

The sleeve of the gambeson can be completely sewn or with a hole under the armpit for better mobility.

Padding is done vertically, anatomically or rhomb-shaped.

The bottom edge of the gambeson can be decorated with festoons with configuration selected by the customer.

In case if the gambeson must be fastened we offer a choice of buttons (metal, cast bronze with ornaments, buttons covered with cloth) or leather lacing.

For the plate items' fastening to the gambeson we recommend to use additional leather straps on the sleeves.

It is possible to select the number of layers of padding (from 2 to 6) to create the padded armour of desired thickness.

 

Why to choose Steel-Mastery gambeson?

 

Producing gambesons since 2006, we have wide experience in tailoring. Our productive capacity allows to produce one-of-a-kind order, taking into account all the possible wishes of the customer, and to do a great project for a film shooting, or to make a complete set for fencing school or historical club.

And most important is reliability.


 

 

 

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