“But why can't I have black?”


“which arming doublet colour and fabric is most historical?”

The arming doublets in Rene’s Book of the Tournament are red.    The arming doublet in the portrait of Don Inigo Lopez de Mendoza is red. So clearly red is a documentably historical colour for an arming doublet.

Covering the body and armour with 'reed taritryn' is advised in the Hyll teatise so if the wearer is wounded, 'his adversarie shal not lightly espye his blode'. (Traytese of the Poyntes of Worship in Armes by Johan Hyll, Armorer Sergeant in the Kinge's Armory, 1434 (Bodleian Library, Oxford, Ashmole. MS 856, art. 22, pp.376-83). Hyll goes on to mention that the hosen should be red as well, for the same reasons. Although Hyll’s work is a specific purpose legal document it may not be too much of a leap of faith to assume that the same sort of thinking could apply to arming clothing in any scenario.

On the other hand, the arming doublet in the Hastings Mss. is natural colour, so that is a documentably historical colour option as well.

I’ve documented blue, grey, gold, red and natural. Unfortunately, I cannot find a single visual or written reference for black, so until I do, I've opted not to offer it.

The 1463 Howard accounts talk about ”Fusten..ffor to make doblettys off ffence.” Costume historians generally agree a ”dobletty off ffence” is some sort of military garment, probably a garment to wear under armour. The Hastings mss calls for a “dowbelet of ffustean”. I have other references to arming garments made of fustian, so there is evidence for fustian in the record.
Here’s where the decision about fabric gets murky. Import and guild records indicate that fustian was a mixed fibre fabric made of a linen warp and cotton weft. Import and guild records also indicate that by the 14th C., mixed fibre cloths were a major Italian export item. Most of the textile historians I’ve talked to think medieval fustian was a twill weave with a brushed finish. Trouble is, I can’t find linen warp/cotton weft fabric in a twill weave with a brushed finish. What I can find is:

  • [Modern] Fustian: Tabby weave, linen warp, cotton weft, natural colour
  • Linen canvas: Tabby weave, linen warp, linen weft, natural colour
  • Brushed cotton: Broken tabby weave, cotton warp, cotton weft, red colour

Based on the above info it looks like I can some but not all- the right fibre content and the “wrong” weave and colour or the right weave, colour and finish but the wrong warp fibre.

Since right now I can’t find a red, twill woven, linen warp, cotton weft fabric with a brushed finish, I’m offering the best alternatives I can while I keep looking for something closer. I’m even considering having it woven to specs, but if I do that will be a long time in the future so I wouldn’t wait for it.

Given this info, we leave it to each purchaser to decide for him or herself which colour and fabric is “most historical”.

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