Early Fifteenth Century Costuming: General Guidelines for “Catherine de Valois: A Play in Three Acts”

 

Isabeau of Bavaria

Queen Isabeau of Bavaria in her royal houppeland.

As a historian, history is my passion.  I love few things better than seeing a period-correct drama where the costumes are accurately rendered.  But what do you do if your budget is small or you are playing scenes from “Catherine de Valois: A Play in Three Acts” or Shakespeare’s “Henry V?” What if you don’t have years of expertise researching medieval gowns?

The following is a general guide for productions of “Catherine de Valois: A Play in Three Acts” and for general re-enactment of  early 15th century characters/personae:

WOMEN:  A cotehardie.  Over her cotehardie she wears either a side-less surcoat or a floor length houppelande. In adults, hair is typically kept up and under a veil or period headpiece.  Wimples are sometimes worn under the chin.

MEN:  Knee length doublets over a white shirt. Over this men also sometimes wore houppelandes cover the upper body.  Hose covers lower body in all cases.  Indoors men wear simple leather shoes or ankle-length boots. Men wear hats.  Outdoors men wear knee length boots.

Additional examples of cotehardies,  houppelands, and hairstyles can be found across my many pinterest boards.

cotehardie-with-sideless-surcoat

Cotehardie with sideless surcoat.  Note that cotehardies may be either back laced (as in this example) or side-laced.

Special costuming for “Catherine de Valois: A Play in Three Acts”and for general reenactment of early 15th century characters/personae

PROLOGUE/EPILOGUE: Margaret wears a wedding veil on her head which is secured by a wreath of flowers.

Act I, Scene VII: Queen Isabeau is richly dressed in a velvet houppelande.  Catherine wears a white cotehardie.  Fleur-de-lys adorn Catherine’s royal blue velvet side-less surcoat.  Mother and daughter are dressed to impress as they wait to meet King Henry of England.

Act I, Scene VIII: Catherine wears a Christmas green houppelande.  In her hair she wears a circlet of holly and berries.  Queen Isabeau wears exactly the same dress as she wears in act one, scene two.

Act II, Scene II: The duke’s clothes are noble, but showing some wear.

Act II, Scene III: Catherine wears a loose houppelande to cover her slightly pregnant belly.

Act III, Scenes I, II: Catherine wears a bright white gown, veil, and wimple in accord with medieval mourning customs.

Act III, Scene III: Catherine wears the white cotehardie and blue side-less surcoat that she wore in

Act I, Scene VII. On her head is the crown given to her at her coronation as queen of England.

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