The Herjolfsnes Tunic – Handsewn and Completely Authentic

Today we present to you a completely hand made tunic based on the finds from the medieval settlement of Herjolfsnes in Greenland. It was discovered and excavated by Danish archaeologist Paul Norlund in 1921. Among the ruins of the settlement, he discovered a cemetery with a multitude of well preserved remains, dressed in the fashion of their time of death ranging from late 13th to early 15th century. Most of the garments found there were dated to the 14th century and provide a very interesting perspective on fashion, patterns and textile use and manufacture.

Our medieval tunic has a couple of differences from the original – it lacks the cleavage and the holes on the sides. Otherwise, it’s made exclusively based on the measurements from the archaeological find. We also did our best to copy the stitching methods used on the original and made it all by hand. It was a time consuming project but the results are well worth the time.

When it comes to reconstructing garments, this is as close to the original medieval tunic that one can get. Our patterns are accurate, the texiles and threads – as similar to the originals as possible, and the stitches – same as the archaeological find.


14th century Bulgarian Nobleman’s Tunic

Today we present to you a fabulous late medieval tunic as part of a 14th century Bulgarian nobleman reconstruction.

This is a somewhat universal type of medieval tunic. Garments like that have been worn throughout the Middle Ages all over Europe. This one, however, is based on murals and archaeological finds from Bulgaria and the Balkans.

The tunic model is designed according to 14th century fashion and is based on patterns and tailoring practices as seen in various late medieval clothing examples.

As for the materials, it’s made of fine dark red wool, yellow linen lining and gorgeous Byzantine-style silk. The silk has beautiful woven medallions with griffins, birds and two-headed eagles in traditional Byzantine fashion. We used it to decorate the rims of the garment as well as the neckline, around the biceps on the sleeves and the cuffs. The buttons on the front opening are made of amber, and the ones on the cuffs are yellow agate.

Most of the work on this medieval tunic was made by sewing machine, except for the details and decorations. The silk was hand stitched to the garment as well as the buttons which are reinforced to withstand a lot of wear and tear.

Overall, this is a very fancy medieval tunic made in characteristic Byzantine fashion. Garments like that were widely popular among the courts in all kingdoms on the Balkans, and were a matter of pride and prestige.

To see more of our reconstructions on various garments from different time periods – visit our Medievalisticals page in FB.

14th Century Balkan Style Padded Tunic

Today we present to you a reconstruction of a padded tunic based on
14th century depictions from the Balkans . This garment is meant to provide a basic level of protection for arms, torso and upper thighs. It is designed to be worn with a maille shirt on top, additional protectors for lower arms and legs, as well as a thick stuffed gambeson for the torso.

Fig.1: St. Demetrius from Marko’s Monastery in Skopje – (1346-1376); Construction started under the reign of the Serbian King Vukasin.

The Research

While researching 14th century murals from churches and monasteries on the Balkans, we noticed a specific model of tunic being used in several different ways – as a civilian garment, as a tunic that goes under the armor, and as a tunic that might be worn above a set of armors. In the case of St Demetrius from Marko’s monastery (Figure 1), we believe there is additional armor under the tunic.

However, in figure 2, we see St Demetrius riding into battle with an escort of angels bringing him his arms and armor. Starting from the left to right on the arch – the first one is carrying what seems to be a set of leg protectors; the second one has a hat and an armor made of metal plates; the third one brings him his bow and quiver; the fourth has his sabre and his kettle helm; the fifth – has a kite shield, and the sixth has his gauntlets.

Considering that the rider isn’t wearing any armor, we can assume that the tunic he’s wearing is the garment that serves as a foundation for the armor. This is why we chose this model of garment to serve as a foundation for our Balkan style padded tunic.

Fig. 2: St Demetrius from Marko’s monastery – entrance

There are additional two depictions of soldiers that aren’t saints, who wear the same garment. In one scene it’s the king’s guard or servant, and in the other scene is a guard or soldier preparing for an execution. Both images are from Marko’s Monastery. This lead us to believe that this was a garment worn by common soldiers, and not something specific to St Demetrius or the church rules for depicting saints.

Furthermore, we noticed that a similar outfit is worn by the king’s armsbearer in a scene from Staro Nagorichino (present day Macedonia), which was built by the Serbian King Milutin in 1313.

The Reconstruction

After considering the model and structure of the garment, we went to work. We knew that a padded tunic like that needed to be both comfortable to wear and able to offer a basic level of protection. That’s why we decided to use 8 layers of cotton as a foundation, with an additional layer of thick red wool for the outside. To design the pattern and make it as mobile and as comfortable as possible, we used contemporary clothing designs.

Seeing how well the padded tunic was turning out, the customer decided to add decorations to the garment and after a couple of long days of stamping, we managed to decorate the rims of the padded tunic with beautiful hand-stamped prints in classic Balkan fashion.

The Result

Upon finishing the Balkan style padded tunic, we took it our for a test drive and into the photo center for some higher quality pictures. So far the tunic fits well, it’s quite firm and offers a decent amount of protection.

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Byzantine Riding Boots

This is a reconstruction of a pair of tall riding boots from the 5-7th century found in the ruins of the Byzantine city of Antinopolis in modern day Egypt. Because of the favorable climate there, the city is a treasure trove of historical artifacts most of which have survived in great condition. This allows us to better understand how shoes and garments were made, and what they looked like. This pair of Byzantine riding boots were made in the classical “turnshoe” construction method, which means that they were sewn inside out, and then flipped. This is a very popular way of making shoes, that remained in use for centuries. Because of the inherent flaws in this method, however, the reconstruction we’re presenting here is much different when it comes to soles and sole attachment. 

Byzantine ivory casket from 10-11th century. Similar boot model.

As you can see, this is not a “turnshoe” construction. The method used here is called “clump-shoe” which is a fancy way of saying that the sole is outside. The shoe is sewn inside-out with a thin leather sole, and a narrow strip of leather protruding between the upper and the inside sole. This thin leather strip is where the sole is attached to. This construction method became popular in 14-15th century Europe, and is very good for our modern reconstruction needs. It allows the reenactor to replace the sole of his riding boots when they get worn out, without having to compromise the structural integrity of the boot. 

In this case, the customer wanted them reinforced with additional layers of leather and hobnails for better traction during combat. We don’t usually deal with hobnails, and don’t have the practice of nailing the sole, but we did our best, and are pretty happy with the results. 

The upper leather is 2mm calf leather, the sole is 7mm cow hide, with additional nailed strips of another 7mm. As far as Byzantine riding boots go, these won’t be very comfortable to wear on horseback, because the sole reinforcement will make the use of the stirrups very difficult. However, if you are a swordsman who plans on doing a lot of fencing and fighting on foot, these boots are the best thing you can get.


The Ultimate Medieval Handsewn Gambeson

We are proud to present to you – the best gambeson we’ve made so far!

This is a completely handsewn gambeson, based on late medieval depictions and written sources. It’s composed of six layers of thick coarse linen fabric, lined with soft linen on the inside, and fine green linen on the outside. The project took a long time to complete, but we are proud to say that every stitch on that medieval gambeson is sewn by hand. The garment is meant to be worn underneath a maille armor, covered with a second – padded gambeson on top. It’s very flexible and comfortable while at the same time providing adequate protection for the arms, legs and torso of the wearer. The sleeves have a long slit with several sets of holes that allow variations in fastening. The collar buttons up on the side, so it can be taken down in warmer weather. Overall, this medieval gambeson is the golden standard of what you need to wear under any type of armor if you’re reconstructing European soldiers from the 13-14th centuries. 

Enjoy 🙂

Early Medieval Russian Kaftan

We are proud to present to you our latest work. This is an early medieval Russian kaftan. It’s an overcoat made of thick hand-made wool with linen lining and some wonderful decorations.

This type of fashion was widely spread from Byzantium, through the Balkans and north to the Russian kingdoms and even some parts of the Scandinavian kingdoms. So, if you are into reenacting a nobleman from any of these kingdoms during the early middle ages, this type of garment is your best option. This kaftan in particular is decorated with expensive damask silks similar to those woven and sold on the markets in Constantinople. The textiles we used for decoration are comprised of two types of medallions – with lions and with birds.The torso is decorated with rows of small alternating medallions, while the sleeves and lower rims of the Russian kaftan are adorned with gorgeous big medallions. Almost the entire garment is hand sewn and you can see most of the stitch work on the close-up photos. It was a lot of work, but the results are well worth the trouble. This is an excellent example of how an early medieval Russian kaftan should be made and should look like.

Enjoy! ^_^


Standard Medieval Tall boots

For years I’ve been having requests for standard issue soldier’s tall boots. I say tall boots, because they are taller than the viking age ankle boots, but not as tall as the riding boots popular through western Europe in the 15th century.

This particular model is based on depictions and archaeological finds from all over Europe from the 12th to the end of the 14th century. As far as medieval tall boots go, these are a pretty strong pair. They are made of 1,5mm upper leather, with a 7mm thick sole. They are constructed in the clump-shoe method. Meaning, that they have a thin inner sole that holds the shoe together, and a thick outer sole that is easy to replace when worn out.

These boots are different from other pairs I’ve made by the stitching that connects the two pieces of the upper leather – the front (from toe to ankle) and the upper (from ankle to mid-calf). I used thinner but stronger threads to make the stitches more subtle and concealed. Which is how the medieval examples usually are. However, since we are making shoes for reenactors, sometimes their requirements differ from the historical methods. In this case, the customer wanted a pair of really strong and durable medieval boots. That’s why I decided to make a comparison between the two boots before i finish them and send them to the happy customer.

                                                             Inside VS Outside stitches
a comparison between the stitching methods for medieval boots

Inside stitches are made under the vamp (face) of the leather and when done right, should remain concealed. However, when dealing with turnshoes, this can be harder due to the pressure and force that needs to be applied when flipping them inside out. So even if they look perfect while making them, they can still turn out defective when flipped inside out. This is due to the leather’s elasticity, and can be prevented only by using thicker leather and tighter stitching. This is also the universal medieval way of making shoes or at least – making the upper parts for shoes.

Overall inside stitches are the most authentic way to connect the different pieces of the shoe’s upper part, and can be pretty strong and durable when done right. When executed poorly, they can leave gaps between the different parts of the shoe, and look badly.

The outside stitch is not common for medieval boots or any type of historical shoes from that age. Or at least, i’ve never seen any archaeological examples with outside connecting stitches. Although it’s easy to make and it looks medievalish, it’s not really strong and durable due to the fact that the threads are exposed to the elements. Which makes them susceptible to wear and tear. Worst case scenario, your medieval boots get wet, then the sun dries the threads out making them brittle. That’s why this type of stitch is good for leather products that don’t get exposed to harsh weather conditions.

Overall the outside stitch is not recommended but it can add a level of sturdiness to your medieval boots when combined with the inside stitch. It’s double the work, but also twice the strength.

This is why I wanted to make this comparison. Although the inside stitch looks better, cleaner, and is more authentic, ultimately it’s up to the reenactor and his standards to decide how he wants his kit done. If you want to be strict about your medieval boots, i recommend the authentic method. If you want a sturdy pair of boots suitable for trekking through rough terrain or arena fighting like bohurt, then i suggest you check out the re-enforced boots. In the end, it’s up to you.

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Enjoy ^_^

Viking Age Kaftan

Disclaimer: I have to be honest about this project – I don’t feel like I’ve covered all the basis for this reconstruction. I found very insufficient info on viking age kaftans, and although there are some extant originals, they are all very different and specific to the region they come from. 

Kaftans come in various lengths. They can be made with both rich and simple materials. They can be symmetrical and button up on the center of the torso, or they can overlap and button up on the sides. They can have additional decorations or be completely unadorned. One thing is universal – the buttons on all examples are decorated with laces or strips of fabric stitched on to the face of the garment. For references – check out the Moschevaya balka kaftan.

Looking through people’s reconstructions, I found a lot of online shops reconstructing the Birka and Gnezdovo kaftan finds. Sadly, I couldn’t find any photos of the actual archaeological finds.

So, what we have here is not an Exact replica, more an approximation of what an average kaftan from the 10th century might look like. This model is adequate for reenacting 8-10th century middle class persona from the European north, east and south. That includes the Scandinavian kingdoms, Kievan rus, Byzantium and the Balkan kingdoms up until the 11th century. It’s made of gorgeous dark red wool, with linen lining, and fancy chest decorations. Most of the work on the kaftan is done by machine with the exception of the chest decorations. The applications, laces and buttons are all sewn by hand.

As a point of national pride, I added the images of the Bulgarian Khan Omurtag from the Madrid version of John Skylitzes’ chronicle. The manuscript is from the 12th century but it depicts events from the 9-11th century. He is depicted wearing a similar type of viking age kaftan with chest, neck and bicep decorations. My reconstruction is not the same as the Khan’s, it’s just a reference to show that similar clothes were worn on the Balkans as well.
Enjoy! 🙂

How to Dress Like a Medieval Serbian Nobleman

Hi guys,
I am proud to present to you my latest garment. It’s a reconstruction of a medieval nobleman’s tunic from 14th century Serbia. The outfit is based on the clothes of the young king Urosh – an image from St. Demetrius church in the Patriarchy of Pec -(1345).

We didn’t recreate the outfit exactly, we just used the general model to extrapolate a different version of the garment. We made it a little shorter, and with less decorations. After all, we wanted a nobleman and not the king himself. So, I think it’s a good interpretation of what a lesser class noble would have looked like.

For the outer layer we used high-quality royal blue textile with woven lilies. The inside layer is fine light blue cotton. I’m particularly proud of how the buttons and the neckline turned out, they are very comfortable and clean in terms of stitching. Another thing I love about this tunic are the sleeves. Those vents on the front make the garment look a lot more impressive, and they make it comfortable to wear in both warm and cold weather. So, it’s definitely something that one should have if they want to reenact 14th century Balkan royalty.


Medieval Tall Riding Boots

Hi guys, I recently finished a second pair of medieval tall boots, so I decided that it’s finally time for a short article about it. There’s not a lot to say really. Those type of boots appeared at the end of 14th century and remained in style well over the 15th century. Initially they were used for hunting and travelling. With the passing of time however, they became a symbol of wealth and royalty, which made them popular among the general population in all of Europe. By the mid 15th century they had become a part of the nobleman’s outfit which lead to better models and more decorations. Here you can see two models that I made – a practical brown pair for hunting and travelling, and a fashionable red one for riding, hunting and impressing ladies.