Posted on April 28th, 2011 No comments
You’ve likely seen pictures depicting the body armor worn by knights during medieval times. They wore chain mail and plate metal armor. They also wore padded clothing as protection underneath. They needed all the protection they could get while in battle. However, the very best in body armor was the most expensive available–much like today. (Some things never change.) Outfitting yourself with armor for battle was costly for a knight. Thus, a knight of means had an advantage as he could more fully protect his body prior to battle. This definitely gave the knight the upper hand. Plate armor was constructed of large metal plates. Plate body armor was less flexible than chain mail, however, it guarded against both slashing blows as well as stabbing. It was practically invulnerable to swords altogether. The knight had far greater protection while battling it out. This certainly gave him a psychological edge as well.
Chain mail is designed as hundreds of tiny metal rings hooked together to create a mesh-like covering for the knight. Knights did not refer to it as "chain mail." That term came into use much later. Knights referred to it as "mail." Chain mail was effective, but how effective depended upon the material used to construct it, how tightly woven it was, the thickness of the material and weave, and lastly the method used to hook or weave the metal rings together. Although chain mail was more flexible and provided some effective protection, it could be penetrated by a stabbing blow. Slashing blows were not much of a match, but a stabbing action could certainly penetrate the rings. As a result, many knights of means opted to don both plate armor and chain metal, thus effectively doubling their protection. Plate armor looks heavy, but it was surprisingly light. The reason is that the distribution of weight was spread evenly over one’s body. We’ve all seen the caricatures of knights having to be lifted onto their horses due to their plate armor, but that is a myth. In fact, even the plate armor worn for jousting–which was much heavier than battle armor–would not have required a knight to be lifted onto their horse. Jousting armor was heavier to avoid dying from an injury during a game. But it was not used during battle, when different skill sets were needed, including speed.
Knights wore helmets, which were arguably one of the most important pieces of their ensemble. Knights worse differently designed helmets over the course of history. Depending on the time period, he might be wearing one design or another. For example, in the very early days, a knight’s helmet looked a bit like a cap. It had a piece of chain mail attached to it. But later on, helmets were made of plate armor. The face was protected by a visor, that was somewhat frightening to gaze upon. This may have also served as psychological edge. No knight was completely outfitted without his shield. Their shields were wooden underneath a piece of animal hide and rimmed with a piece of metal. This helped the knight to protect himself from incoming arrows, sword thrusts, and other weapons.
Posted on March 22nd, 2011 No comments
Medieval Knights had to use different weapons for different tasks. If they were engaged in ground combat, they needed one set of tools and if they were on their horses charging toward an opposing knight or enemy, then they would need an entirely different weapon. Each weapon had a specific purpose. Different stages or phases of battle required different weapons. So knights needed an arsenal of weapons. As one example, when knights are engaged in combat on the ground, they typically made use of the poleax. The poleax was so lethal, in fact, that even body armor was not enough protection. The poleax could slice right through the body armor and penetrate flesh. With its wooden handle and heavy metal head, the knight’s mace could fell an enemy knight from his horseback. With its protruding metal edges, a flanged mace would allow the knight to dent or even penetrate an enemy knight’s armor.
The sword was an important piece of equipment. This long metal weapon had a cross-guard for the protection of the knight carrying it. This prevented the knight’s hand from sliding down the blade and cutting himself. The blade on the sword was sharp as a razor. The length of the sword allowed the knight to keep distance between himself and his enemy. However, when in close quarters, the knight employed his dagger for stabbing and thrusting his enemy. When the battle wore into a heat, the knight on the ground could get far more use and efficacy from his dagger than his sword. The lance is a popular weapon and we’ve all seen pictures of the knight on his horse with his lance. This long, wooden weapon sported a very sharp metal point. The lance’s design is based upon the spear. When knights rode on horseback against other knights, they needed their lance. This was a necessary weapon for combat via horseback. As the knight rode directly toward his enemy, he extended his lance in front of him in an effort to knock his enemy from his horse.
The Medieval Knight would be nothing without his sword. Be fully prepared for battle with one of our steel blades! Only at Medieval Costumes and Gifts!
Posted on March 10th, 2011 No comments
During the Middle Ages, the most terrifying weapon an army had was the knight, whose weapons, combat skills and armor made him nearly impossible to stop.
For nearly five centuries, from about the 10th century to the 15th century AD, knights were the epitome of death and destruction – on horseback, a knight could skewer the enemy with a lance, while his heavy armor, either plate or chain mail, protected him from most weapons; on foot, he could battle long and hard with a battle ax, long sword or heavy mace and his shield would protect him from hard blows from his opponent (shields were usually painted with the knight’s coat of arms so that knights could easily identify friend from foe). Any European leader who wanted to be successful on the battlefield needed a cadre of knights.
On a level field, a line of charging knights would easily overwhelm an enemy’s defenses simply through the sheer weight of the assault. For example, the famed English king Richard the Lionheart led the Christian knights to a victory against the Muslim armies at the battle of Arsuf in 1191, relying heavily on the advantages of the armored and well-trained knights of Europe. This defeat was one of the first ever suffered by the great Muslim commander, Saladin, who prior to Richard’s arrival in the Holy Land, had won victory after victory. King Richard I, the Lionheart
King Richard I of England earned his nickname the Lionheart during his crusades in the Holy Land, where he displayed an exceptional strategic mind and amazing bravery on the battlefield. Though he would only rule England from 1190 to 1199, Richard I is still revered today as one of England’s greatest warriors. Richard I’s reputation reached it’s pinnacle during the Third Crusade, when this tall and majestic leader led the campaign against the great armies of Saladin. Richard’s victories included such famous battles as the Battle of Arsuf and the Siege of Acre. Though Richard was never able to seize control of Jerusalem from the Islamic army, he did convince Saladin to sign a treaty that would allow Christian pilgrims to travel safely to the Holy Land. Like many great men, Richard was complex, sometimes appearing deeply sensitive and charismatic while at others displaying a dangerous sense of recklessness. After the Siege of Acre, Richard demonstrated a cruel and inhuman side when he ordered the massacre of Muslim prisoners. Yet for all his swagger, Richard’s success on the battlefield was largely due to the heavy armor and fierce weapons that he and the other Medieval knights used.
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Posted on February 23rd, 2011 No comments
Medieval and Renaissance era plays have always been popular. From Kings and Queens to Lords and Knights, these plays grip the audience and keep them mesmerized throughout the show. Costuming for a medieval play can be tricky. The costume designers just need to focus on class, color and styles.
The Art of the Nobility
Noblemen and women wore the most luxurious clothing of the medieval period. Members of the royal family were the only individuals in society allowed to wear purple or gold silk. Noblewomen were the only individuals in society who could wear veils of silk. There were other financial limitations on who could wear fur, velvet and satin.
Noblewomen wore kirtles, ankle-length tunics usually worn over long shirts or wide gowns. The gowns usually had ornate embroidery around the edges. The more ornate, the wealthier a lady was. Women’s hair was normally kept in a bun and covered with caps or veils.
Noblemen also wore tunics; usually loose fitting and over trousers. The tunics were layered with cloaks of brilliant colors, lined with fur or other ornate fabric. Around the castle, noblemen wore shoes of silk or velvet. Outside of the castle, their shoes were normally made of fine leather.
To emphasize their social class, the men and women of nobility wore brilliant colors and fine fabrics. Much of their attire was beautifully detailed.
Costume designers for the noble class can go all out with extravagance. The colors for their costumes must be brilliant and the detailing exquisite.
Knights Cloaked in Armor and Mail
A knight’s social class registered in between that of the nobility and the common citizens. Their armor distinguished them from the common class, but while not in uniform, they often looked like everyone else.
While not in battle, knights usually wore common tunics and trousers. In an attempt to separate themselves from the rest of the community, they would wear sleeveless jackets called surcoats, often embroidered with their coat-of-arms.
For Knights in shining armor, costume designers can piece together chainmail and different arm, chest and leg guards. Helmets accentuate the knight’s presence on stage.
Peasants of Practical Cloth
Common people wore simple tunics, trousers, shirts, gowns and kirtles. They were not allowed to have brilliantly colored clothing nor intricately detailed clothing. The very basic was reserved for the peasant class. Even the veils worn by women had a cost limit.
Usually medieval plays focus on knights and noblemen and women. Rarely are there many peasants in a production. When they do make an appearance, the costumes are plain and simple.
The Rest are Sometimes the Best
Other popular characters within a medieval play include wizards, witches and other fairytale staples. The mythical creatures of medieval stories often allow for the most creativity amongst costume designers.
Priests and nuns play important roles in medieval productions. The medieval society looked to the church for guidance, knowledge and hope. These characters usually wear simple tunics and nun’s habits.
A medieval production offers a chance for costume designers to show their great talents. The extreme range of social classes allows them to create the most beautiful, intricate costume designs down to the most simple, drab outfit. All parts are important when dictating a Knight in Shining Armor tale with a fair maiden surrounded by queens, kings, princes, peasants and the clergy.
Remember, here at Medieval Costumes & Gifts we welcome and work with ALL Stage and Production services for all your costume needs!
Posted on January 31st, 2011 No comments
You can see similarities to plate armor in the natural world, it very much resembles the exoskeleton you will find on many insects. It is designed to defend your squishy innards against attack. In medieval times there were numerous different kinds of armor all designed for various circumstances. You could have some that would protect you well against projectile attacks such as bow and arrows or crossbows, while there were others that were better for protection against swords and the like.
Plate armor would come in various segments all designed to protect different areas of a human, it was not only about breastplate armor. There were also gauntlets that would defend against attacks to the wrists and hands. The trick was making armor that could hold up against a sword blow but still be mobile enough to allow the knight a fair degree of movement with which to fight. Knights had to have gauntlets that they could make a fist with in order to carry a sword or other weapon.
The danger of having a limb hacked off was always a fear for every knight. This is why the limbs also got attention, with armor designed to cover the arms and legs. Even what appears to be a small cut today could be deadly back then thanks to the chance of infection, let alone if you were to lose a limb. This is why knights gave special attention to these areas because they were the most at risk.
The cuirass is the most popular and well know kind of plate armor, otherwise called the breastplate. The cuirass was more than just protection while in battle. Many knights would still wear their breastplate even when not in a conflict. They were decorated as such that they showed off your heritage and standing while they were also helpful in case you were attacked for any reason. The famous Richard The Lionheart had a lovely piece of breastplate armor. Just wearing a cuirass could make thieves think twice about attacking you, not just because you had protection but because it showed you came from a family with influence.
(This is a steel medieval breastplate that represents that of a strong upper torso, Armor like this can be found at Medieval Costumes & Gifts)