Just to be clear, there are (currently virtually) no known examples of
breeches, trousers or braies from Europe during the periods of the Middle Ages,
or the "Viking" era. The purpose of this page is to demonstrate what does
exist, and then examine the limited literary and pictorial evidence from the
This was based initially on a long standing
discussion on medieval undergarments that began in August 2000 on the 75 Years
Group at Yahoogroups (A re-enactment discussion list focusing on c1300)
among myself, Joris Liebaart. John Saetrang, Remo Buosi,
Brent Hanner and many others. Special thanks to Lena Strid (June 2004) for
her assistance in finding several of the contemporary illustrations.
Marx-Etzel Trousers Hanover. Found with an Asymmetrical Roman Shoe
(Sketch after photograph)
Thorsbjerg Trousers (Dating varies from 1st century to those who try to
place it up to the 7th) (Sketch after Hald, and several photographs)
Damendorf Trousers (From Damendorf in S. Shleswig) (Sketch after Hald,
Vicktoria Persdottir and several photographs) A broken lozenge twill
Daetgen Mose, Holstein (after Hald)
Greenland Trousers, polar bear skin, from Angmagssalik. (after Hald) - Note
may not be European.
Short Legged "wide stride" pants from
600-1000, also 1200-1400
Cotton Trousers from 14th Cent. Nubia. Worn with a
- From the OED: "Breches. 1
bréc, (brćc), 3 brych, 3-5 brech, 4-6 breche, 4-7 breeche, 6 breache, briech,
bryche, 6-7 breetch, 7 brich, 7- britch, 9 breach, 5- breech. [Com. Teut.: OE.
bréc (bróec), pl. of *bróc fem. = OFris. brók, pl.
brék, (MDu. broec, Du. broek), OHG. bruoh (MHG.
bruoch, mod.Ger. bruch, obs. in 18th c., but still in Switz. pl.
brüch), ON. brók, pl. btype *brôk-s fem. monosyl.
'article of clothing for the loins and thighs'. Often stated to be an adoption
of L. broca (also broca, bracca), or its Gaulish original,
which was app. *brocca, clothing for the legs ('barbara tegmina crurum';
Vergil Ćn. XI. 777); but *brôk-s has all the marks of an original
Teutonic word = Aryan *bhrâg-s. The Celtic brocca is considered by
Dr. Whitley Stokes to be phonetically descended from an earlier *brog-na,
a derivative of the same root bhrog-, and so cognate with the Teutonic.]"
Aspidochelone (12th Century)
DeBrailles Hours. England (1240)
The Maciejowski Bible, c1250 (f.12)
England, mid. 13th century
Kinsarvik church, Hardanger,
Somme Le Roi -
British Library Additional MS 28162
Cirurgyia (1300-1310) - British Library Sloan MS 1977
British Library Arundel MS 83 (ii)
Fresfjord church, northwestern Norway,
Hours of Jeanne d'Evreaux. France (c1328)
The Love Breviary. Catalonia (First half of 14 Century)
Unidentified Source, probably after 1400
Unidentified Church Panel
In the early 1500s, a German soldier named Paul Dolnstein,
then in Sweden, made these pictures, showing more distinct trousers.
Re-enactors have presented some suggested designs
for reproducing the breeches above. It is likely that none of these
is actually accurate, but then again they are all equally valid since we really
don't know for sure.
- British Library. Ms Sloane 1977 F.7. Cirurgyia (Medieval Miscellany) by
Roger Frugardi of Parma, London.
- British Library. Ms. Additional 28162. Somme le Roi, London.
- British Library. Ms. Additional 49999. De Brailes Hours.
- Cockerell, Sydney Carlyle, Sir, M. R. James, Charles John Ffoulkes, and
Club Corp Author: Roxburghe. A Book of Old Testament Illustrations of the
Middle of the Thirteenth Century: Sent by Cardinal Bernard Maciejowski to
Shah Abbas the Great, King of Persia, Now in the Pierpont Morgan Library at
New York. Cambridge Cambridgeshire: Printed by W. Lewis at the University
Press for the Roxburghe Club, 1927.
- Crowfoot, Elizabeth Grace. "The Clothing of a Fourteenth-Century Nubian
Bishop." In Studies in Textile History: In Memory of Harold B. Burnham,
ed. Harold B. Burnham and Veronika Gervers, 43-51. Toronto: Royal Ontario
- Dolnstein, Paul. [Illustrations] email from Ludvig Gustafsson <email@example.com>
24 May 2005.
- Dode, Z. V. Srednevekovyi Kostium Narodov Severnogo Kavkaza: Ocherki
Istorii Kul’Tura Narodov Vostoka;. Moskva: Izdatel’skaia firma "Vostochnaia
literatura" RAN, 2001.
- Giddings, Vanessa. Men's 14th Century Clothing. 2003. Available
- Goddard, Andy. Braies. 1997. Available from http://www.bumply.com/Medieval/braies.htm.
- Hald, Margrethe. Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials: A
Comparative Study of Costume and Iron Age Textiles Publications of the
National Museum. Archaeological-Historical Series ;; V. 21; Variation:
Nationalmuseets Skrifter.; Arkćologisk-Historisk Rćkke ;; 21. Copenhagen:
National Museum of Denmark, 1980.
- Http://Www.Randyasplund.Com/Browse/Medieval/Chausse1.Html (Was
Www.Provide.Net/~Randyaf/Make.Chausses.Braies.Html). Accessed. Available from
http://www.randyasplund.com/browse/medieval/chausse1.html (was www.provide.net/~randyaf/Make.Chausses.Braies.html).
- Kongshirden 1308. Hoser. 23 June 2003 n.d. Available from
- Maison Sainte Claire. Men's Braies - Long. n.d. Accessed. Available
- Markland. Braies and Trousers. n.d. Available from http://www.markland.org/braies.php.
- Oxford University Press. The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd /
prepared by J.A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner. ed., ed. J. A. Simpson and E. S.
C. Weiner. Oxford New York: Clarendon Press ; Oxford University Press, 1989.
- Saetrang, John. Paintings of Fresfjord Church, Northwestern Norway.
- Saetrang, John. Paintings of Kinsarvik Church, Hardanger, Norway.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters. Ms Acc.54.1.2. Les Heures
de Jeanne d'Evreux, New York.
- Thursfield, Sarah. The Medieval Tailor's Assistant: Making Common
Garments, 1200-1500. 1st Amer. ed. New York: Costume & Fashion Press,
- University Library. Ms Ii 4.26.F.54.V. The Aspidochelone, Cambridge.
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This page was last modified 11 January 2006
Some Clothing of the Middle Ages - Breches/Braies/Trousers,
by I. Marc Carlson, © 2004, 2005
This code is given for the free exchange of information, provided the Author's
Name is included in all future revisions, and no money change hands.