Tuesday, June 6, 2017

ADP Series: Gambeson, Ackerton, Hackbutt and resulting silhouettes

Gambeson, Ackerton, Hackbutt and Resulting Silhouettes

(Part of the ADP: Armour Decision Points Series)

A speed guide to thinking about popular cloth garments for wearing with armour, their purpose and aims historical and current

 20 period and modern names for 5 different period garments, with no clear partitioning for which name refers to which garment? Arghhhhh!

Five Different Garments

1) The padded garment worn under armour 2) The padded garment worn as armour alone 3) The padded garment worn over armour 4) The padded garment worn in civilian contexts 5) The garment worn as a top layer for heraldic identification

Understanding Silhouette

The simplest concept is that over time hemlines of the cloth garments rose, and once they could rise no further the next trend was to emphasize a stylized round stomach. 

Understanding purpose

The next concept to fill in is the purpose of each garment.

With our roughly 1250 era person wears a garment underneath the mail. This has been speculated as being both heavily and lightly padded. There is a further option for a padded garment over the mail. This has once more been done as a heavily padded, lightly padded, and an unpadded garment for heraldic display only.

Our 1350 transitional friend uses advances in tailoring and metalwork to get a tighter silhouette, and fashion brings the hem higher. Mail is still the base in the majority of cases but it was supplemented by plate. Cloth was used for the garment under the mail - likely lightly padded. It would be covered by mail, and then points attached to it would be used to secure the new plate armour and the knees and elbows. The midriff and thighs would be protected by cloth garments with plate defences riveted directly to the cloth such as the Wisby coat of plates. 

Towards 1450 and his era, plate begins be a primary defence, with mail as an optional supplement. The silhouette brings the hemline to the lower abdomen. The cloth garment can be a foundation garment to which the plate defences are attached; it can be strongly padded garment that goes over mail to simulate the job of plate at a lower price, or advances in tailoring and metal craft means they can be combined for the Corazina/Brigandine.

1550 bring in the trend towards the stylised stomach area, while cloth-wise everything option is used somewhere. Light padded garment were used as foundation garments for the exquisite full and half plates of the era. Corazina/Brigandines keep improving for the cloth-metal hybrid protection, and heavily padded cloth over armours still hold on to the bulk, inexpensive end of the market.

Aims Historic:

Not to die. Which was greatly helped by moving well, not overheating, and lowering vulnerability to pierce, crush, or cut. Padded Undergarments helped the upper layers, especially against the upper layers damaging. Upper Garments took the force away before the other armour bore the brunt. Cloth as armour was relatively inexpensive and available. 

Aims Current:

All of the aims historic, with some modifications made to acknowledge the non-lethal nature of re-enactment usage: Weapons may not be sharp, or may not be used with great force. Modifications may also be made acknowledging regional temperature variations away from those of Europe.  


Commonly Used :Cotton, Linen, Fustian. Rarely - Hemp, Leather, Silk. Padded/ stuffing options: cotton, wool, hemp, linen, bamboo.

Tie Methodologies

For each of the main types you can use
a) buttons - solid buttons provide a painful item to be driven into your body during combat. Fabric buttons hurt less when struck, but are complicated to make.
b) fingerlooped cords - are light, period practice, simple but slightly time consuming to make, are strong and are washable.
c) leather straps and buckles - are easiest to manipulate by tired andrenaline shaking hands. They are expensive and will rot under the sweat produced, and buckles hurt when driven into the body by a shot.
d) leather laces.

My Experiences

I started with a fabric garment underneath and coat of plates. I found this acceptable, but hot and restrictive on the arms. I next moved to a shirt with padded forearms and elbows and plated kidneys, and a heavily padded cloth short sleeved garment. This was excellent for everything except heat. My current solution is a heat shedding modern garment ("skins"/"under armour") at the very bottom, then a cotton vest with 1.2mm armour plates riveted to that. The next layer is a cotton fabric garment stuffed with bamboo wadding. The vest and the sleeve are detachable, allowing massive heat venting and extreme range of movement. 

What is best for Who?

This would be a whole other article.

The Dream Rig

I love my current rig as described above for hot weather, I would like to use a well constructed Corrazzina one day.


I got some wonderful help but will check if they want to be credited for something as helicopter view and not referenced as this :)

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