Male Clothing III – The ‘Civilian’ Doublet

Dada a extensão deste artigo, achei por bem publicar as versões inglesa e portuguesa em separado. Para a versão portuguesa, cliquem aqui.

Once undergarments had been dealt with, it was time for the 15th century man to put on his second layer of clothes: the hose (for the legs) and the doublet (for the torso), which is what will concern us today. I would highly recommend Susan Reed’s “15th Century Men’s Doublets: An Overview”, which has much (and then some) of the information I’m going to share – except, of course, an information concerning specifically Portuguese customs.

Origins & Evolution

The garment that would come to be known as the doublet (gibão, or porponto or jubão in Portuguese [1]) dates back to the middle of the 14th century, the result of an  European tendency towards increasingly tighter, form-fitting clothing, as opposed to the relatively loose garments worn until then. The doublet, which replaced the tunic (saia, in Portuguese), was probably a derivation of the well-tailored [2] cotehardie of the aristocrat and the wealthy. It “corresponded, loosely speaking, to the modern shirt” [3], and was frequently worn under an outer garment [4].

Doublet 1.png
Left: detail of the manuscript Queste del Saint Graal (ca. 1380-1385), showing a short-sleeved cotehardie ; Centre: short cotehardie or prototypal doublet, detail of the Schachzabelbuch (ca. 1420); Right:  Hans Talhofer, wearing a simple doublet, from the manuscript Alte Armatur und Ringkunst (ca. 1459).

Although its basic structure was essentially the same throughout Europe, the doublet presented variations from region to region and from use to use (depending on whether it was meant for daily wear, a festive occasion, etc.) – longer or shorter, with tall collars or altogether devoid of them, with four-piece or eight-piece construction, with bodies and sleeves of different styles or colors. From its initial format, with the skirt reaching the thigh, the doublet’s hem rose slowly towards the body. By the end of the 15th century, the

Detail from The Execution of the Innocent Count, by Dieric Bouts, the Elder (ca. 1460).

doublet was so short that the skirt became almost vestigial. It was a structural garment – hose were tied to the doublet using points, and the entire ensemble depended on it [5] – see the image to the left, with the points yet to be tied to the doublet’s skirt. These points were, in fact, the most common way of closing the doublet –  the existence of buttoned doublets notwithstanding (Italian farsetos, for example, were often buttoned [6]).


Detail in a manuscript of the Miroir Historial of Vicent de Beauvais (ca. 1400-1500).

Regarding materials, the doublet could be made of virtually all extant fabrics of the Middle Ages, adjusted to the user’s social stratum, to the specific function of the piece and, of course, to the climatic conditions of the region. For the lower classes, wool and fustons would be the most used fabrics, while the wealthier classes could make use of silks and other rich fabrics. Though not all doublets were lined, simple linings could be made of linen, and more expensive ones made out of silk.

The Doublet in Portugal

Given our costumary lack of sources, it is difficult to pinpoint the existence of specific trends in 1470-1480s Portugal. Nuggets of information such as the “half-sleeves” mentioned in the Cancioneiro Geral  [7] would hardly be representative of customary, widespread uses. Finding out what doublet looked like in Portugal in 1470 would require the usual exercise in comparison between foreign sources and the few sources at our disposal – in this case, some written records and few artefacts.

Written sources give us some good, though sparse, details. Thanks to a poem by Fernão da Silveira in the Cancioneiro Geral, we know that the doublet “(…) may be of any cloth whatever, / And loose over the belly. / Around the chest it should be snug, / that his owner swallows ufano”[8] – that is to say, loose in the belly and “pigeon-chested”, as per Susan Reed’s description. The sleeves are usually tight, “mangas de luyva” (“glove-like sleeves”) as King John I nicknamed them [9]. There are plenty of references to fabrics or styles of specific pieces. But to complement this characterisation we need to turn to visual sources.

The Saint Vincent Panels are once again a precious sources, and they reveal a wealth of details – though no doublet in full, sadly. The most salient of these details is the collar, characteristically high in many of the figures – undoubted influence of Burgundian influence in 15th century Portuguese fashion. In the same way, several of the figures allow us to glimpse “doublets with a V-opening to the waist, laced across with strings” [10]. This influence wasn’t felt as strongly on the sleeves, since they are all relatively simple – snug along the entire length of the arm, without the “mahoîtres” [11] so often seen in Burgundian art.

Doublet 3.png
Left: Men at arms in the Panel of the Archbishop. Centre: King Afonso V’s doublet sleeve in the Panel of the Prince. Right: Prince Henry the Navigator, wearing a doublet and a surcoat.

The Pastrana Tapestries confirm this, in the few warriors whose limbs or necks are not covered by armour: the high collar, the tight sleeves – although it is possible, but indeterminable, that the brigandines’ shoulders are hiding mahoîtred sleeves.

Gibões 4.png
Left: Trumpeter in the tapestry  na tapeçaria Desembarque em Arzila. Centre: crossbowman tapeçaria Assalto a Arzila. Direita: Trombeteiros na tapeçaria O Cerco de Arzila.

One other piece that also attests to this trend is the (regrettably little known) Fresco of the Good and the Bad Judge, in Monsaraz, painted roughly around the same time as the two previous items. Here, too, we can see the same collars and sleeves, and in the figure that holds the staff in front of the Good Judge we can see the opening of the doublet, similar in every way to Prince Henry’s doublet in the Panel of the Knights. 

Gibãos Fresco Bom Mau Juiz.png
The Good Judge, detail of the Fresco of the Good and the Bad Judge (second half of the 15th century).

This allows us to have a good idea of what the doublet looked like in 1470’s Portugal, at least as far as the middle and upper classes are concerned (although doublets for the lower classes shouldn’t have differed much in construction, only in quality and materials): high collar , tight sleeves, slightly open chest.

As for  fabrics, we know of some sumptuary distinctions according to social class or purpose of the garment. Joana Sequeira [12], for example, provides us with important data that suggests the predominance of buréis and fustões (fustians) among the lower classes [13]. For the wealthy, good wool, velvet, brocades and silks abound. However, these fine fabrics were replaced by burel and other coarse fabrics in case of mourning, irrespective of the social status of their wearer [14].

One last note regarding colours. According to Oliveira Marques, the most fashionable colours at the time seem to have been reds and greens [15], not surprising considering the demand for red fabrics at the time [16]. To these two I would add blacks and dark brows, two very common shades (particularly among the lower and midle classes) in the Panels and the Fresco. Of course, much like the rest of Europe, this doesn’t mean that other colours weren’t used – yellows and blues, for example, very common in contemporary iconography, as well as a myriad of other shades.

The Doublet in Reenactment

As an essential and structural piece of any 15th century man’s ensemble, the doublet has to be faultless – once again: “a properly constructed doublet makes all the difference in achieving the right shape for a man’s ensemble” [17]. From the silhouette to materials, there is no possible way to cut costs in making it – except, of course, sewing it ourselves, using one of many guides available online. For that reason, “ready-to-wear” doublets should be avoided at all costs, unless by some miracle the materials and construction are correct and the piece matches your size exactly.


[1] Oliveira Marques, A. (1971), p. 59.

[2] “Men also wore the cotehardie, of which the masculine version was a tight-fitting tunic buttoned down center front, having also the same long sleeves with buttons” in Wilcox, R. (2008). The Mode in Costume: A Historical Survey with 202 Plates, p. 48.

[3] Oliveira Marques, A., op. cit., p. 60.

[4] “Hip length or occasionally waist-length, it was worn over the shirt and drawers, and until the end of the 15th century, usually worn under another layer of clothing such as an overtunic, houppeland, gown, or mantle” in Reed, S. (2004). In spite of this, there is a vast amount of depictions of doublets worn on their own.

[5] “A close-fitting garment with a low-standing collar […] Iits most effective feature was the delineation of the torso” in Herald, J. (1981). Renaissance Dress in Italy, 1400-1500, p. 53.

[6] Oliveira Marques, A., op. cit., p. 61.

[7] This is the case of two Italian doublets (farsetos) that have arrived today: the funerary doublets of Pandolfo III Malatesta (1427) and Don Diego I Canaviglia (1481). Regarding the formar, see an interesting article on the website of the Companie of Saynt George : . In the Saint Vincent Panels there are at least two buttoned doublets, one in the Panel of the Prince – worn by the child -, and the other in the Panel of the Knights, worn by the nobleman immediately behind Prince Henry.

[8] “O gybam de qualquer pano/na barriga bem folgado,/dos peytos tam agastado,/que seu dono traga ufano”, as per the original text. In Oliveira Marques, A. (1973), p. 59.

[9] Oliveira Marques, A., op. cit., p. 61.

[10] Oliveira Marques, A., op. cit., p. 60.

[11] “When the sleeve was raised high above the shoulder it was said to be MAHOITERED, viz. stuffed with wadding (French maheutre or mahoitre, a wadded sleeve)”, em Norris, H. (2013). Tudor Costume and Fashion. Massachussets: Courier Corporation, p. 486. Though the author is referring to mid-16th century doublets, the principle had remained much the same since the late 14th century.

[12] Joana Sequeira is a Portuguese researcher, with a PhD in History from the University of Porto.

[13] “Burel [russet] was one of the most common and widespread fabrics in medieval Portugal. Low in both quality and price, it was affordable to all sections of the population, although it was mainly associated with the lower social strata” (“O burel era um dos panos mais vulgares e de consumo corrente no Portugal medieval. De qualidade e preços baixos, era acessível a toda as camadas da população, mas o seu uso associava-se sobretudo aos estratos sociais inferiores” [my translation]), in Sequeira, J. (2014), pp. 201-202.

[14] “(…) for mourning were worn clothes made of burel, estamenha ou almáfega, coarse and poor cloths that contrasted with the luxurious silks or brocades, often with vibrant colours. (…) The use of coarse cloths was associated with the penitence of the body, and the absence of colour in mourning clothes meant the abandonment of  luxury, since the pigments to dye the clothes were quite expensive. Clothing thus became synonymous with pain, penitence and humility ” (“(…) durante o luto eram utilizados trajes de burel, estamenha ou almáfega, tecidos grosseiros e pobres que contrastavam com as luxuosas sedas ou os brocados, muitas vezes de cores vibrantes. (…) O uso de tecidos grosseiros ficaria associado à penitência do corpo, e a ausência de cor nos trajes de luto ao abandono do luxo, uma vez que os pigmentos para tingir a roupa eram bastante caros. A roupa tornava-se, desta forma, sinónimo de dor, penitência e humildade” [my translation]), in Lopes, A. (2017). O Luto em Portugal: da Corte à Gente Comum (séculos XV-XVI). Medievalista, 22. Retrieved from . DOI : 10.4000/medievalista.1360.

[15] Oliveira Marques, A., op. cit., p. 94.

[16] See Oliveira Marques, A., op. cit., p. 92, regarding escarlata (scarlet wool) and other fine fabrics.

[17] Reed, S. (2004).



Harlaut, M. (2010). Company of Saynt George – Clothing Guide (Men)

Herald, J., and Ribeiro, A. (Ed.) (1981). Renaissance Dress in Italy, 1400-1500. New Jersey: Humanities Press

Mourão, C. (1996). O Bom e o Mau Juiz – Fresco dos Antigos Paços da Audiência de Monsaraz. A Cidade de Évora – Boletim de Cultura da Câmara Municipal, 2(II), pp. 291-321.

Oliveira Marques, A. (1971). Daily Life in Portugal in the Late Middle Ages. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press

Planche, J. (2013). An Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Costume. Chelmsford: Courier Corporation

Sequeira, J. (2014). O Pano da Terra: Produção têxtil em Portugal nos finais da Idade Média. Porto: U. Porto Edições.

Wilcox, R. (2008). The Mode in Costume : A history of men’s and women’s clothe and accessories from Egypt 3000 B.C. to the present. Chelmsford: Courier Corporation.


(ca. 1450-1500). Fresco of the Good and the Bad Judge [fresco]. Monsaraz: Museu do Fresco

(ca. 1475). Siege of Asilah [wool and silk]. Tapestry. Pastrana: Parish Tapestry Museum. Retrieved from

(ca. 1475). Disembarkation in Asilah [wool and silk]. Tapestry. Pastrana: Parish Tapestry Museum. Retrieved from

(ca. 1475). Assault on Asilah [wool and silk]. Tapestry. Pastrana: Parish Tapestry Museum. Retrieved from

Alte Armatur und Ringkunst (1459). Copenhagen: Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Thott 290 2º.

Miroir Historial (ca. 1470). Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, Fr. 50.

Queste del Saint Graal (ca. 1380-1385). Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, Fr. 343

Schachzabelbuch (ca. 1420). Zurich: Zentralbibliothek, Ms. Rh. hist. 33b

Bouts, D. (ca. 160). The Execution of the Innocent Count [oil and tempera on wood]. Brussels: Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts

Gonçalves, N. (ca. 1470). Saint Vincent Panels [oil and tempera on wood]. Lisbon: National Museum of Ancient Art. Retrieved froméis_de_São_Vicente_de_Fora#/media/File:Lagos40_kopie.jpg


Lopes, A. (2017). O Luto em Portugal: da Corte à Gente Comum (séculos XV-XVI). Medievalista, 22. Retrieved from . DOI : 10.4000/medievalista.1360.

Reed, S. (2004). 15th Century Men’s Doublets: An Overview. Retrieved from





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