Books worth owning

The books recommended on this page are ones I personally own and adore, unless otherwise noted in my description. If you are new to the study of late medieval clothing these books are worth the investment. I recommend you take the time to read them. Let their wisdom soak into your brain and improve the quality of your current-day recreations. Check back regularly; I plan to add books over time.

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The Museum of London’s Textiles and Clothing: 1150-1450 by by Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard and Kay Staniland

The wealth of useful information in this book is staggering. It is something of a bible for students of 14th century clothing. Photographs of extant clothing fragments dated to the 14th century along with clear descriptions of sewing techniques makes this a priceless part of your historical clothing library. Of particular interest are the hood and hosen fragments, the facing treatments, and the buttons and buttonholes.

The Museum of London’s Dress Accessories:c.1150-c.1450 by Geoff Egan and Frances Pritchard

A companion volume to Textiles and Clothing, it contains valuable information about hair dressing, purses, belts, and all manner of bits and pieces involved in the making of a full late medieval outfit. Indispensible.

Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince by Mary Stella Newton

This scholarly classic provides a dense read full of amazing details about the clothing worn by Edward III of England’s court. Lots more than one court’s clothing preferences are covered in this book. If you read the whole thing you’ll rocket to the top 1% of knowledgeable experts because most people don’t bother to actually read this book. They should.

Woven into the Earth by Else Østergård

In 1924 Poul Nörlund published information on extant 14th and 15th century clothing found at a lost Norse settlement from Greenland. Until Woven into the Earth was published, most clothing historians had to rely on photocopies of photocopies of Nörlund’s obscure volume to study these clothing finds. This volume details new information about the patterns and sewing methods used in making this rather large hoard of clothes.

Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns by Lilli Fransen, Shelly Nordtorp-Madson, Anna Norgard and Else Ostergard

A follow-on companion to Woven into the Earth, this book provides clear diagrams of the Greenland garments’ patterns. Any fan of the Norse style of medieval tailoring should own this book.

A Visual History of Costume: The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries by Margaret Scott

This book is a classic and should be on your self. There used to be an excuse for not owning this book. It was hard to find and expensive when found. I paid $90.00 for my copy years ago. Now, some used copies are under $20.00.

Dress in Mediaeval France by Joan Evans

Another classic which will teach you a great amount about French clothing terms and who wore what. This is harder to find these days, but if a copy is available it really is worth jumping on. And, it’s not too dense a read. Highly recommended.

The English Fur Trade in the Later Middle Ages by Elspeth M. Veale

You cannot begin to understand how medieval people wore their clothes until you understand how prevalent fur linings were. Chapters touching on 14th and 15th century usage of fur are fascinating. A must-have for any serious student of this topic.

Chaucer and Costume: The Secular Pilgrims in the General Prologue by Laura F. Hodges

Don’t let the name fool you; this book only uses the descriptions in Chaucer’s General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales as a jumping off point into the deep end of the clothing terminology pool. A fascinating look into the complicated topic of historical clothing terms and what they meant. Unfortunately, at the time when I added this link the only copy available out there in Used-Book-Land is priced at over $300.00. However, other sellers may add their wares at some point, making this book a worthwhile investment.

Illuminating Fashion: Dress in the Art of Medieval France and the Netherlands, 1325-1515 by Anne H. van Buren (Author), Roger S. Wieck (Editor)

This is the Pierpont Morgan Library’s catalog volume for their exhibit by the same name. There is a ton of great figural art worth studying, and some research that taught me things I didn’t know, but there are also some unsubstantiated assertions (the assumption of the existence of back-lacing as one example) which should signal the reader to use discernment while ingesting the book’s information. That said, I believe this is a must-have due to the art alone.

Kleidung im Mittelalter by Katrin Kania

This book is highly-praised by German-speaking students of medieval clothing. My understanding is that it contains a huge amount of information about accurate medieval tailoring and sewing techniques. I do not own it yet, but am really hoping for an English language version soon.

Medieval Tailor’s Assistant by Sarah Thursfield

Are you just not ready to draft or drape your own patterns yet? No problem. This handy book walks you through the patterns for some basic outfits that accurately recreate the look of late medieval clothing.

1381: The Peel Affinity by La Belle Compagnie

Do you want to see some inspirational living history? This book is a clever melding of an American late 14th-century living history groups portrayals with period backdrops photographed in England. Lots of practical every-day information about life on the road, too.

Daily Life in Chaucer’s England by Jeffrey L. Forgeng and Will McLean

A great resource for the basics of daily living, not just for nobles but for commoners too.

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