by Mistress Rosemounde of Mercia
There is a conflict among costumers about
exactly what the peliçon, or pelice, looked like. One school of
thought holds that it was a loose overdress, and the other claims that it is a
voluminous circular cloak. Before discussing these in more detail, it will be
useful to look at the word peliçon and its roots.
Norris, in Costume & Fashion, vol. II, states that pelice
means "fur" in Norman French. This may be true, but I have been
unable to verify this. In modern French, pelle means "fur"
and pelisse is "a fur lined cloak." This derives from the
Latin pellis, "a hide, skin, or pelt." Modern German defines pelz
as a "pelt, skin or fur." Since Norman French was a derivation of
Latin and germanic languages, these words obviously refer to fur.
literature occasionally contains the terms pelice and peliçon,
but the exact garment they refer to is not clear. Just as the use of the term bliaut
in 12th century literature seems to refer to any garment of the period that
was made of silk, pelice and peliçon seem to refer to any
woman's garment that was lined in fur. Costume terms were far more general in
the middle ages and Renaissance than they are today. For instance, the word kirtle
was almost any type of woman's undergarment. It could be an underdress, an
underskirt, or a petticoat. I believe the same is true of the pelice.
If it is a woman's overgarment, and it is lined in fur, it is properly called
a pelice or peliçon. I disagree with those sources that hold
that it was a specific cut, and that it was "usually" lined in fur.
To be a pelice, it must be lined in fur. That is what the word means.
debate over the proper pattern breaks down into two camps. Since these are
found in some of the most common sources for SCA costumers, I will go over
them in some detail. The first is found in Costume & Fashion, vol.
II, by Herbert Norris. On pages 97 and 98 he describes the peliçon as
a knee to calf length overrobe with full, shorter than full-length sleeves,
"generally" lined in fur. There are two very nice drawings, one c.
1200 and one a little later. Because Norris has no footnotes or bibliography,
we have no idea where he came up with these. However, fur lined garments on
women and men appear in portraiture (such as it was) and manuscripts about
this time. Patterns for Theatrical Costumes by Katherine Strand
Holkeboer has a very nice pattern for this garment on page 88. She also has a
similar one with "manche" type sleeves dated as mid-14th century on
page 124. Holkeboer has a bibliography which is made up entirely of secondary
sources, and she lists the Norris books, so one can only assume that followed
his lead in this. Again, period representations show many fur lined garments
that appear to be accurately represented by these patterns.
second garment described as a peliçon is found in The Evolution of
Fashion by Margot Hamilton Hill and Peter Bucknell. They show a full
circular (or oval) cloak with holes for the head and arms, but no front
opening. It has two huge pleats in the front and is worn with a fur lined
hood. It is described as a "full mantle" that was
"usually" lined in fur, and it is dated at c. 1300. Frankly,
this pattern has little to recommend it (as is unfortunately the case with
many of their patterns). It is a very poor interpretation of a tomb brass.
This same tomb brass, that of Joan de Northwode, c. 1330, is also
described in Medieval Costume in England and France by Mary G. Houston.
Houston describes this as a circular fur lined cloak with head and arm slits,
with a short fur lined cape worn over it. Her pattern is similar to the
Hamilton Hill pattern, but a little less complex, and it can be found on pages
82, 83 and 98.
lined cloaks of all types were very common in the medieval periods as well.
Numerous representations are found in all types of artwork. Most are cut on the
half circle, and many have a short fur cape over them. This can be turned up to
form a hood, and is decorative when worn down. Many other garments, such as
surcoats, tabards, houppelandes, liripipe sleeves, and all types of coats were
sometimes lined in fur. Although life in the SCA in Meridies rarely presents us
with the opportunity to wear a garment that is this warm, you may wish to have
one for those occasions when the temperature drops below freezing.
made a peliçon that is c. 1350, and cut similar to the Holkeboer
pattern. It also has a fur lined hood. It is made of heavy blue wool and is
lined completely in white rabbit fur. It required almost fifty pelts, and I am
not a large woman. You may wish to substitute a good quality fake fur, if you
don't have the patience for that much hand sewing. Sometimes used clothing
stores have old fur coats that can be used to line a garment with minimal
alterations. Whatever you decide to use, get a book or pamphlet on sewing with
fur/fake fur and follow it. These are not like other fabrics and require special
cutting and sewing techniques. Certain furs, like rabbit, should be hand sewn
together with a blanket stitch. This binds the edge over, which helps the pelts
support each others' weight, and also keeps the stitching holes from forming a
perforation line that will tear.
is bulky. It will add several inches to your diameter. This is something you
must remember when cutting out the pattern. Also, the fur lining should be cut
somewhat smaller than the outer garment because the thickness will make it
bigger. This is tricky. I recommend practicing by making some fur lined pouches
out of scraps, until you feel comfortable with it. Even so, each pattern is a
little different. Remember also that you cannot press fur like you do regular
fabrics--heat can damage real fur and will melt fake fur.
is heavy. This means that you must use a substantial fabric like wool or
upholstery fabric as an outer fabric. If you use a lighter weight fabric, your
garment will stretch out of shape. Stretching is something you must always keep
in mind. I cut a standard neckline for my pelice, and after two wearings
it had stretched so much that it fell off my shoulders. I had to add a heavy
yoke (I used velvet) at the top to compensate. Reinforce necklines, sleeve
edges, and hems with something heavy that won't stretch--interfacing with canvas
for instance. You will also need to tack the lining to the garment at regular
intervals throughout the garment to help support the weight.