“How much padding for an arming doublet” is one of the most frequent searches used to find Medievalisticals, and it turns out it is a legitimate question, that requires some thought. How much padding? How much Layers? Is this safe for modern reenactment or living history? Cost?
Luckily for us there are a few surviving examples and a number of references of how people did things back in the days, and, if you ask me, in most of the cases the best thing to do is follow what people did.
So how much?
The answer, like with everything in the middle ages is “It depends”.
In this case it depends if it will be used on it’s own or with some armour on top. Of course period and place are also important, espexially for style, but this is not discussed here.
A disclaimer: Here I’m using gambeson and doublet interchangeably, and am not discussing aketons, jacks, pouprpoints and other such words – it’s not entirely correct, but it will do.
So back on topic – when you’re making a gambeson that will go under the armour or an arming doublet you can make it quite thin. (IMHO, you can get away without one. a thick lined tunic seems just enough.). Judging from pictorial sources, arming doublets specifically are just regular doublets with laces for the different pieces of armour. You’ll find a lot of images of arming doublets in this excellent MyArmoury thread.
And if we judge by depictions of earlier time, say the Mciejowski:
The maille is very form-following and does not have the typical ‘bulky’ look of many a reenactor (the fit of maille is often not good, and this is also a factor). Compare to this, where the gambeson just looks bulky.
So we can speculate that even in this earlier time, the gambeson that goes under your armour is thin. This is true even sometimes when you want to use it on it’s own:
“… The mounted archer must possess a horse worth not less than six francs, and should wear a visorless sallet, a gorget (I’d translate bevor or standard), a brigandine, or a sleeveless mail shirt under a ten layer jack….” –
Ordinance of St. Maximin de Treves, published October of 1473. MyArmoury
Ten layers seem quite thin, but then there are other sources that mention doublets of 24 layers or even 30 ( a burgundian ordinance, which I cannot find, but it is quite popular…). And I would bet on thicker arming garments for use on their own. Both for safety and accuracy.
Thickness is not the only factor – how you manage this thickness and how ‘hard’ it is is also important. For example the Lubeck garment is soft on the top, where a breastplate would lay, but the skirt is ‘rock-hard’, The garment itself is composed of a linen shell and padding made from cotton
The Lubeck Garment also fits this description from the 14-th century:
“That a haketon and a gambeson covered with sendale, or with cloth of silk, shall be stuffed with new cotton cloth, and with cadaz, and with old sendales, and in no other manner. And that white haketons shall be stuffed with old woven cloth, and with cotton, and made of new woven cloth within and without.” – 15 Edward 11. A.D. 1322. Letter-Book E. fol. cxxxiii. (Norman French.) Quoted from MyArmoury .
The arming garment of Charles VI is also made in a similar manner. It is composed of two ‘quilts’ stitched in the aboce described manner that are stitched one to the other.
So, in conclusion:
Make your arming doublet thinner. Make your over the armour gambeson, or the parts that will be ezposed thicker and harder. And in doing so follow the originals. but don’t forget safety.
Since you’ll probably be using it for re-enactment fighting – a bit of thickness would not hurt you. What I would do is use two layers of cotton padding and two layers of linen. Probably I’ll add a third layer on the shoulders/torso if I’m doing it for use without armour. And I’ll use a single layer of padding for under armour garment.
And finally don’t forget fit – a poorly fit armour even if lighter would restrict your movement and will be uncomfrotable. This applies for gambesons too. So plan accordingly.
What about the other part of Europe – byzantium, the balkans etc…
It is quite a complicate topic, and we will devote to it another article, sometime in the near….-ish future.
Edit: So I basically rewrote the article, edited bits here and there and removed the balkan part – it is a long topic and as mentioned in the article, we’ll devote another post to it.