How much padding for an arming doublet?

“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 padded garment. Photo Roland Warzecha

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.

The garment of Charles VI


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.

Garment for a future scale mail

Hi everyone
today we show off our latest project. This thick garment will serve as base for a scale mail armor.

the lucky owner posing with his new outfit

the lucky owner posing with his new outfit

It looks a bit like a gambeson with an altered pattern. And I admit it`s a bit speculative because we have no archaeological finds for garments on which the scales were sewn. All we have are several murals from Bulgaria and the Balkan region.

The armor our friend Stefan is planning on recreating is from the period of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom – between 12-14 th. centuries. The garment you see is made of linen and thick wool. It`s not as thick as a gambeson, but it`s strong enough to carry the weight of the scales and thick enough to minimize the damage from a full strength sword blow. The pattern is based on pictorial sources from the bulgarian church Boyana(13. cent.) as well as murals from the serbian church in Nerezi and the greek church in Kastoria.

This is Stefan`s second scale armor project. His first work was a great success – he reconstructed a lamellar armor from the same period and location and had more then one chance to test the mobility, weight and protection qualities of his work. We are all proud to say the results were excellent. It provides very good protection while keeping you mobile and not weighting too much. Needless to say, we will be monitoring his work with great interest and keep you posted on his progress. 🙂

73462_10150118882769768_7045808_nA photo from our latest battle, with our friends from Chigot – medieval reenactments. Notice the lamellar armor on the left 😛

Russian Style Gambeson

A gambeson for varangian/rus reconstruction for XIIIth century.
Materials are linen/cotton padding and it is machine stitched.

Maciejowski Gambeson – mid XIIIth century.

The maciejowski bible is literally the bible of XIIIth century reconstructions. It has everything.
Here we present a gambeson based on the images there.

This gambeson is a part of an ongoing full reconstruction of a XIIIth century knight/sergeant.

Materials are linen and cotton padding.
It is partly machine stitched and partly hand-stitched.



And the photos:

Padded Arming Doublet 15th Century

This doublet is made from linen and cotton padding.
It is entirely machine-sewed.
I based it on this illustration in the manuscript of Hans Talhoffer:
The pattern I used was loosely based on the doublet of Pandolfo Malatesta

Overall both me and the client are very pleased with the result.