Student readingFurther Reading: for costume, and other medieval topics

by Cynthia Virtue aka Baronne Cynthia du Pré Argent  (it's French, not a misspelling)

There are lots of great sources out there for novice and advanced costumers alike.  This segment deals only with standard printed books, however, do not ignore other websites when looking for practical information.  Some of the "medieval" websites out there are truly terrible, repeating errors long discovered, but many are beacons of good information and creativity.

This page is divided into three sections:

You can use the info on this page to hunt these books down through your local bookseller (I like the folks at Green Duck Designs, an SCA merchant).  For libraries that do not have a catalog sortable by ISBN, look the book up at a store such as, and copy down the more thorough bibliographic information you might need.  Many of these books are available in both paperback and hardback editions.

Existing Medieval Stuff

For pictures, diagrams, and descriptions of some items which have been dug up from this time period, much from London:
Geoff Egan and Frances Pritchard, Dress Accessories c. 1150-1450: Medieval finds from excavations in London, ISBN 0-11-290444-0
Also in this series, but with different editors: Textiles and Clothing, The Medieval Household, Shoes & Pattens -- All referred to generally as "The Museum of London Books"

Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion: The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c.1560-1620, ISBN 0-333-38284-6  Extant garments,  and general techniques of construce, with pattern sheets.

Penelope Walton, Textiles, Cordage, and Raw Fibre from 16-22 Coppergate, ISBN 0-906780-79-9  Similar to the Museum of London series, but for York instead of London.

Reproductions of Medieval Pictures

There are a great many more books with reproductions than I can list here.  Search for books about Medieval Art, Tapestries, Illuminations, Statues, Effigies, Brass Rubbings, Museum Catalogs, etc.

Alcega, Tailor's Pattern Book (1589) ISBN 0-89676-234-3  Facimilie edition of a pattern-book from 1589, with translations, cutting diagrams, etc.

Sally Fox and Belle Tuten, The Medieval Women: An Illuminated Calendar -- multiple ISBNs, as they come out yearly.  Unfortunately can not be bought once calendar-season is over, but lots of SCA folk have them and save them. Great illustrations of period paintings and illuminations.

Sally Fox, The Medieval Woman: An Illuminated Book of Days, ISBN 0-8212-1587-6 The book that launched the calendar series.  There are lots of pictures of men here also.

Time-Life Books: What Life Was Like: In the Age of Chivalry  ISBN 0-7835-5451-6

Illuminated Manuscripts: Tresures of the Pierpont Morgan Library ISBN: 0-7892-0216-6 This is a tiny book - about 4" x 4" and 280+ pages, but with good pictures.

Costume Histories & Interpretation

Stella Mary Newton, Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince : A Study of the Years 1340-1365 ISBN: 085115767X

Jean Hunnisett, Period Costume for Stage and Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress, Medieval - 1500, ISBN 0-88734-653-7  A wide and useful range.  This would be an ideal book for a serious costumer.

Dorothy K. Burnham Cut my Cote, ISBN 0-88854-046-9 An overview of rectangular construction across time and ethnicity.  Interesting; booklet style.

Carl Kohler, A History of Costume ISBN 0486210308  General overview, useful pictures, a few extant garment photos, incomprehensible pattern diagrams.

Francois Leon Louis Boucher, 20,000 Years of Fashion ISBN: 0810916932.  Covers a lot of time, has a few apparently unfounded conclusions, generally a useful book.  Has several small pictures of extant garments, including a sideless surcoat.

Francois Piponnier & Perrine Mane, Dress in the Middle Ages, ISBN 0-300-06906-5. Sociological overview of clothing, class, and with many good pictures.

For an overview of this era with lots of drawings, the following book is very useful.  However, be aware that some of his conclusions seem to be utterly unsupportable from the references for them that he gives; before taking anyting as gospel, look up his source.  With that caveat, it's a good book to look through for inspiration before going to more narrowly-focused sources:
Herbert Norris, Medieval Costume and Fashion, ISBN 0-486-40486-2.  Note that this is the 1999 Dover Edition, which claims to be an unabridged version of his 1927 book Costume & Fashion, Volume 2: Senlac to Bosworth, 1066-1485.

A book to use as only the most general of references, because many details are missing or invented: John Peacock, Costume 1066-1966.

Other books worth reading, or at least looking at

Andrew Langley, Medieval Life (Eyewitness Books) ISBN: 0679880771
If I were asked: what one book should someone interested in the Middle Ages get or be given, it would be this book.  Simple to understand for kids, but a great tone even for adults, with fine photos of solidly-documented reproductions, entertaining descriptions, and attention to all walks of life.

Francis and Joseph Gies, A Medieval Family: The Pastons of 15th-Century England ISBN 0-06-017264-9  Note that the letters can be found in their apparent entirety various places online; this volume is selected passages, putting the letters in the context of their society.

Philippe Aries and Georges Duby, A History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World, ISBN 0674399765 This book is a great overview of history and culture, with good pictures.  It is part of a series.

Caitlin and John Matthews, The Arthurian Book of Days, ISBN 0-02-606675-0  I consider the text of this book nearly worthless; it tries to make a sort of ecclesiastical calendar out of the events of the Arthurian cycle.  However, the pictures, which are entirely from period sources, are wonderful.
All material (c) 2000 Cynthia Virtue Email Author with comments
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