Garments & Armor in The Canterbury Tales
Chaucer and Clothing: Clerical and Academic Costume in the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

Chaucer and Costume: The Secular Pilgrims in the General Prologue

Chaucer's Pilgrims: An Historical Guide to the Pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales

Daily Life in Chaucer's England

The Canterbury Tales (Penguin Classics)

The Canterbury Tales: Middle English edition (Penguin Classics)

The Canterbury Pilgrims on the Road

The Complete Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: Retold for ages 9-12

The Ellesmere Chaucer: Essays in Interpretation

The Ellesmere Manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (Treasures from the Huntington Library)

One of the quandaries one encounters in discussing medieval costume is the naming of garments – it is difficult to determine what a specific sort of garment was called (as we do not exactly have a Sears Roebuck catalog with photos and descriptions of each sort of garment, and how it would have been worn).

Re-enactors use terms like “houppelande,” “pourpoint,” “cotehardie,” and “hennin,” which may have been used rarely, if at all, to describe these garments in period – a houppelande may have, to most Englishmen of the time, been known simply as a “robe” or a “gown,” a “cotehardie” as a “cote,” “chausses” as “hose,” et cetera.

Here, then, is an attempt to catalog Chaucer’s names for different sorts of garments, accessories, and elements of armor, as he has described them in The Canterbury Tales. If the general meaning of the item in question is unclear, I have attempted to describe it in terms that most people who study late medieval clothing will understand.

For further exploration of this subject matter, see Chaucer and Costume: The Secular Pilgrims in the General Prologue, and Chaucer and Clothing: Clerical and Academic Costume in the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.


Undergarments

BREECHES (men's undergarment, which we sometimes refer to as "braies"; may also refer to the buttocks; see also this linkspage)
  • Thou woldest make me kisse thyn olde breech, / And swere it were a relyk of a seint, / Though it were with thy fundement depeint. (The Pardoner's Tale, 662-664)
  • He dide next his white leere / Of clooth of lake, fyn and cleere, / A breech, and eek a sherte (The Tale of Sir Thopas, 167-169)
  • "Sire Nonnes Preest," oure Hooste seide anoon, / "I-blessed be thy breche, and every stoon!" (The Nun's Priest's Epilogue, 681-682)
SHIRT (man's undergarment; see also this linkspage)
  • Love hath his firy dart so brennyngly / Ystiked thurgh my trewe careful herte, / That shapen was my deeth erst than my sherte. (The Knight's Tale, 706-708)
  • I holde hym riche, al hadde he nat a sherte. (The Wife of Bath's Tale, 1192)
  • Whan she hym saugh up sittynge in his sherte (The Merchant's Tale, 640)
  • And in a purs of sylk, heng on his sherte (The Merchant's Tale, 671)
  • Though he namoore hadde than his sherte. (The Merchant's Tale, 773)
  • He dide next his white leere / Of clooth of lake, fyn and cleere, / A breech, and eek a sherte (The Tale of Sir Thopas, 167-169)
  • She hath hym sent a sherte fressh and gay. / Allas, this sherte, allas, and weylaway! (The Monk's Tale, 234-235)
  • But on his bak this sherte he wered al naked (The Monk's Tale, 242)
  • By God! I hadde levere than my sherte / That ye hadde rad his legende, as have I. (The Nun's Priest's Tale, 354-355)
SMOCK (a woman's undergarment; other terms we use to describe this would be a "shift" or "chemise"; see also this linkspage)
  • Whit was hir smok, and broyden al bifoore / And eek bihynde, on hir coler aboute, / Of col-blak silk, withinne and eek withoute. (The Miller's Tale, 130-132)
  • He seyde, "a womman cast hir shame away / Whan she cast of hir smok" (The Wife of Bath's Prologue, 788-789)
  • I wolde I hadde thy smok and every clooth! (The Friar's Tale, 369)
  • But yet I hope it be nat your entente / That I smoklees out of your paleys wente. (The Clerk's Tale, 874-875)
  • As voucheth sauf to yeve me to my meede / But swich a smok as I was wont to were (The Clerk's Tale, 885-886)
  • "The smok," quod he, "that thou hast on thy bak, / Lat it be stille, and bere it forth with thee." (The Clerk's Tale, 890-891)
  • Biforn the folk hirselven strepeth she, / And in hir smok, with heed and foot al bare, / Toward hir fader hous forth is she fare. (The Clerk's Tale, 894-896)
  • Gan pullen up the smok, and in he throng (The Merchant's Tale, 1141)
  • And that thy smok hadde leyn upon his brest. (The Merchant's Tale, 1183)

Outerwear

CLOAK (see also this linkspage)
  • Ful fetys was hir cloke, as I was war (General Prologue, description of the Prioress, 157)
  • The smylere with the knyf under the cloke (The Knight's Tale, 1141)
  • What that he was, til that I understood / How that his cloke was sowed to his good; / For which, whan I hadde longe avysed me, / I demed hym som chanoun for to be. (The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue, 17-20)
COTE/COAT (I say "cote," because I think this is what we generally refer to as a cotehardie)
  • And he was clad in cote and hood of grene. (General Prologue, description of the Yeoman, 103)
  • He rood but hoomly in a medlee cote (General Prologue, description of the Seargeant of the Law, 330)
  • A whit cote and a blew hood wered he. (General Prologue, description of the Miller, 566)
  • His lord wel koude he plesen subtilly, / To yeve and lene hym of his owene good, / And have a thank, and yet a cote and hood. (General Prologue, description of the Reeve, 612-614)
  • Agayns his doghter hastily goth he, / For he by noyse of folk knew hir comynge, / And with hir olde coote, as it myghte be, / He covered hir, ful sorwefully wepynge, / But on hir body myghte he it nat brynge. / For rude was the clooth, and moore of age / By dayes fele than at hir mariage. (The Clerk's Tale, 911-917)
COURTEPY
  • Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy; / For he hadde geten hym yet no benefice, / Ne was so worldly for to have office. (General Prologue, description of the Clerk, 292-294)
  • He hadde upon a courtepy of grene (The Friar's Tale, 118)
GOWN (note that it seems to be used moslty to describe a garment worn by men, sometimes by women)
  • Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde. (General Prologue, description of the Squire, 93)
  • In a gowne of faldyng to the knee. (General Prologue, description of the Shipman, 393)
  • "My lord," quod he, "be ye nat yvele apayd, / I koude telle, for a gowne-clooth, / To yow, sire frere, so ye be nat wrooth, / How that this fart sholde evene deled be / Among youre covent, if it lyked me." / "Tel," quod the lord, "and thou shalt have anon / A gowne-clooth, by God and by Seint John!" (The Summoner's Tale, 582-588)
  • And Jankyn hath ywonne a newe gowne. (The Summoner's Tale, 629)
  • … ther is also costlewe furrynge in hir gownes, so muche pownsonynge of chisels to maken holes, so muche daggynge of sheres; forthwith the superfluitee in lengthe of the forseide gowens, trailynge in the dong and in the mire, on horse and eek on foote, as wel of man as of womman, that al thilke trailyng is verraily as in effect wasted, consumed, thredbare, and roten with donge, rather than it is yeven to the povre, to greet damage of the forseyde povre folk. (The Parson's Tale, §27)
GYTE (skirt? woman's dress? from Old French guite, 'gown, dress'; MED just says that it's "a kind of gown or mantle.")
  • And she cam after in a gyte of reed (The Reeve's Tale, 100)
  • And wered upon my gaye scarlet gytes. (The Wife of Bath's Prologue, 565)
HANSELINES (a short jacket)
  • Upon that oother side, to speken of the horrible disordiant scantnesse of clothyng, as been thise kutted sloppes, or haynselyns, that thurgh hire shortnesse ne covere nat the shameful membres of man, to wikked entente. (The Parson's Tale, §27)
KIRTLE (a man's tunic; from Latin curtus 'short')
  • Al in a kirtel of a lyght waget; / Ful faire and thikke been the poyntes set. (The Miller's Tale, 213-214)
  • To goon a begged in my kirtle bare! (The Franklin's Tale, 872)
MANTLE
  • And have a mantel roialliche ybore. (General Prologue, description of the Haberdasher, Carpenter, Arras-Maker, Dyer, and Weaver, 380)
MOTLEY (multicolored; a multicolored garment, not necessarily particolor)
  • A MARCHANT was ther with a forked berd, / In mottelee, and hye on horse he sat (General Prologue, description of the Merchant, 272-273)
ROBE
  • His robe was of syklatoun / That coste many a jane. (The Tale of Sir Thopas, 44-45)
  • Under hir robe of gold, that sat ful faire (The Second Nun's Tale, 132)
SLOPS (a loose outer garment)
  • Upon that oother side, to speken of the horrible disordiant scantnesse of clothyng, as been thise kutted sloppes, or haynselyns, that thurgh hire shortnesse ne covere nat the shameful membres of man, to wikked entente. (The Parson's Tale, §27)
SURCOAT
  • A long surcote of pers upon he hade (General Prologue, description of the Reeve, 619)

Headwear

CAP
  • Hym thoughte he rood al of the newe jet; / Dischevelee, save his cappe, he rood al bare. / Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare. / A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe. (General Prologue, description of the Pardoner, 684-687)
CAUL (a headdress, possibly a hair-net)
  • Lat se which is the proudeste of hem alle, / That wereth on a coverchief or a calle (The Wife of Bath's Tale, 1023-1024)
COVERCHIEF (a woman's headdress -- perhaps a veil or kerchief)
  • Hir coverchiefs ful fyne weren of ground; / I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound / That on a Sonday weren upon hir heed. (General Prologue, description of the Wife of Bath, 455-457)
  • With that hir coverchief on hir heed she breyde, / And over hise litel eyen she it leyde, / And in hir arm she lulleth it ful faste, / And into hevene hir eyen up she caste. (The Man of Law's Tale, 837-840)
  • As wyves mooten, for it is usage / And with my coverchief covered my visage (The Wife of Bath's Prologue, 595-596)
  • Lat se which is the proudeste of hem alle, / That wereth on a coverchief or a calle (The Wife of Bath's Tale, 1023-1024)
CROWN/CORONET
  • Eek on his heed a coroune of laurer grene (The Knight's Tale, 2017)
  • A corone on hir heed they han ydressed (The Clerk's Tale, 381)
DIADEM
  • With diademe, ful heighe in his paleys (The Squire's Tale, 60)
FILLET
  • Hir filet brood of silk, and set ful hye. (The Miller's Tale, 135)
HAT
  • Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bever hat (General Prologue, description of the Merchant, 274)
  • Ywympled wel, and on hir heed an hat / As brood as is a bokeler or a targe (General Prologue, description of the Wife of Bath, 472-473)
  • An hat he werede upon hise heris brighte. (The Knight's Tale, Part Two, 530)
  • He nolde avalen neither hood ne hat (The Miller's Tale, 14)
  • An hat upon his heed with frenges blake. (The Friar's Tale, 119)
  • And fro the bench he droof awey the cat, / And leyde adoun his potente and his hat (The Summoner's Tale, 111-112)
  • His hat heeng at his bak doun by a laas, / For he hadde riden moore than trot or paas (The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue, 21-22)
HOOD (see also this linkspage)

  • And he was clad in cote and hood of grene. (General Prologue, description of the Yeoman, 103)
  • And, for to festne his hood under his chyn, / He hadde of gold ywroght a curious pyn; / A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was. (General Prologue, description of the Monk, 195-197)
  • A whit cote and a blew hood wered he. (General Prologue, description of the Miller, 566)
  • His lord wel koude he plesen subtilly, / To yeve and lene hym of his owene good, / And have a thank, and yet a cote and hood. (General Prologue, description of the Reeve, 612-614)
  • But hood, for jolitee, wered he noon, / For it was trussed up in his walet. (General Prologue, description of the Pardoner, 682-683)
  • He nolde avalen neither hood ne hat (The Miller's Tale, 14)
  • A ha! felawes, beth ware of swich a jape. / The monk putte in the mannes hood an ape, / And in his wyves eek, by Seint Austyn (The Shipman's Tale, 439-441)
  • He nolde slepen in noon hous, / But liggen in his hoode (The Tale of Sir Thopas, 220-221)
  • What that he was, til that I understood / How that his cloke was sowed to his good; / For which, whan I hadde longe avysed me, / I demed hym som chanoun for to be. (The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue, 17-20)
  • A clote-leef he hadde under his hood / For swoot, and for to keep his heed from heete. (The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue, 24-25)
  • For, by my feith, I nolde, for myn hood (The Canon's Yeoman's Tale, 781)
NIGHT-CAP
  • Whan she hym saugh up sittynge in his sherte, / In his nyght-cappe, and with his nekke lene (The Merchant's Tale, 640-641)
VOLUPER (a cloth head-covering, possibly a coif; probably from the Old French word voluper, 'to envelop'; note that both examples are described as white)
  • The tapes of hir white voluper / Were of the same suyte of his coler (The Miller's Tale, 133-134)
  • And whan she gan this white espye, / She wende the clerk hadde wered a volupeer (The Reeve's Tale, 448-449)
WIMPLE
  • Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was (General Prologue, description of the Prioress, 151)
  • Ywympled wel, and on hir heed an hat (General Prologue, description of the Wife of Bath, 472)

Accessories for the Waist

BELT (see also this linkspage)
  • A sheef of pecok arwes, bright and kene / Under his belt he bar ful thriftily (General Prologue, description of the Yeoman, 104-105)
  • Ay by his belt he baar a long panade, / And of a swerd ful trenchant was the blade. (The Reeve's Tale, 75-76)
CEINT (note that both are described as being made of silk, with bars; for an example of a tablet-woven silk girdle with bar mounts, see Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: Dress Accessories, c.1150-c.1450, figure 30.)
  • Girt with a ceint of silk, with barres smale (General Prologue, description of the Seargeant of the Law, 331)
  • A ceynt she werede, barred al of silk (The Miller's Tale, 127)
GIRDLE (a belt -- not a laced-up/supportive garment! -- see also this linkspage)
  • An anlaas and a gipser al of silk / Heeng at his girdel, whit as morne milk. (General Prologue, description of the Franklin, 359-360)
  • But al with silver; wroght ful clene and weel, / Hire girdles and hir pouches everydeel. (General Prologue, description of the Haberdasher, Carpenter, Arras-Maker, Dyer, and Weaver, 369-370)
  • And by hir girdel heeng a purs of lether (The Miller's Tale, 142)
  • He drank, and wel his girdel underpighte. (The Man of Law's Tale, 789)
  • His heer, his berd, was lyk saffroun, / That to his girdel raughte adoun (The Tale of Sir Thopas, 40-41)

Accessories for Carrying Goods (bags, satchels, etc.)

GIPSER (a fine purse)
  • An anlaas and a gipser al of silk / Heeng at his girdel, whit as morne milk. (General Prologue, description of the Franklin, 359-360)
MALE (The Pardoner and Canon each have one, though the Canon's is described as "two-fold"; may be a sort of purse or wallet)
  • For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer (General Prologue, description of the Pardoner, 696)
  • This gooth aright; unbokeled is the male, / Lat se now who shal telle another tale (The Miller's Prologue, 7-8)
  • Unbokele, and shewe us what is in thy male (The Pardoner's Prologue, 26)
  • I have relikes and pardoun in my male (The Pardoner's Tale, 634)
  • A male tweyfoold on his croper lay (The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue, 13)
POKE (a bag or sack; from Old French poque)
  • Or in a poke nobles alle untold (The Miller's Tale, 672)
  • They walwe as doon two pigges in a poke (The Reeve's Tale, 424)
POUCH (see also this linkspage)
  • But al with silver; wroght ful clene and weel, / Hire girdles and hir pouches everydeel. (General Prologue, description of the Haberdasher, Carpenter, Arras-Maker, Dyer, and Weaver, 369-370)
  • A joly poppere baar he in his pouche (The Reeve's Tale, 77)
PURSE (see also this linkspage)
  • But if a mannes soule were in his purs; / For in his purs he sholde ypunysshed be. / "Purs is the erchedekenes helle," seyde he. (General Prologue, description of the Pardoner, 658-660)
  • And by hir girdel heeng a purs of lether, / Tasseled with silk, and perled with latoun. (The Miller's Tale, 142-143)
  • And right as Judas hadde purses smale (The Friar's Tale, 86)
  • And in a purs of sylk, heng on his sherte / He hath it put, and leyde it at his herte. (The Merchant's Tale, 671-672)
  • In secree wise his purs and eek his bille (The Merchant's Tale, 725)
  • This purs hath she inwith hir bosom hyd (The Merchant's Tale, 732)
  • Upon hir thombe, or in hir purs it bere (The Squire's Tale, 148)
  • Ye, for a grote! unbokele anon thy purs. (The Pardoner's Tale, 659)
  • Of silver in thy purs shaltow nat faille. (The Shipman's Tale, 248)
  • But empte his purs, and make his wittes thynne. (The Canon's Yeoman's Tale, 188)
  • And make it as good silver and as fyn / As ther is any in youre purs or myn (The Canon's Yeoman's Tale, 575-576)
SCRIP (a bag or satchel)
  • With scrippe and tipped staf, ytukked hye (The Summoner's Tale, 73)
  • And eek his scrippe, and sette hym softe adoun. (The Summoner's Tale, 113)
WALLET (more of a knapsack than what we think of "wallets" as being today)
  • But hood, for jolitee, wered he noon, / For it was trussed up in his walet. (General Prologue, description of the Pardoner, 682-683)
  • His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe / Bretful of pardoun come from Rome al hoot. (General Prologue, description of the Pardoner, 688-689)

Jewelry

BROOCH
  • Of smal coral aboute hir arm she bar / A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene, / An theron heng a brooch of gold ful sheene, / On which ther was first write a crowned A, / And after Amor vincit omnia. (General Prologue, description of the Prioress, 158-162)
  • A brooch she baar upon hir lowe coler, / As brood as is the boos of a bokeler. (The Miller's Tale, 157-158)
  • Brooches and rynges, for Grisildis sake (The Clerk's Tale, 255)
  • Or elles silver broches, spoones, rynges (The Pardoner's Tale, 622)
OUCH (an ornament, sometimes a brooch or clasp; from Old French nousche 'a buckle, a clasp')
  • Eriphilem, that for an ouche of gold (The Wife of Bath's Prologue, 749)
  • And sette hir ful of nowches grete and smale. (The Clerk's Tale, 382)
PIN (see also this linkspage)
  • And, for to festne his hood under his chyn, / He hadde of gold ywroght a curious pyn; / A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was. (General Prologue, description of the Monk, 195-197)
  • And pynnes, for to yeven yonge wyves. (General Prologue: The Friar, 233)
RING (see also this linkspage)
  • To folk that han ywedded hem with rynges (The Man of Law's Tale, 712)
  • "A fair womman, but she be chaast also, / Is lyk a goldryng in a sowes nose." (The Wife of Bath's Prologue, 790-791)
  • Brooches and rynges, for Grisildis sake (The Clerk's Tale, 255)
  • This markys hath hir spoused with a ryng / Broght for the same cause (The Clerk's Tale, 386-387)
  • And eek my weddyng ryng for everemore. (The Clerk's Tale, 868)
  • The vertu of the ryng, if ye wol heere, / Is this, that if hir lust it for to were / Upon hir thombe, or in hir purs it bere, / Ther is no fowel that fleeth under the hevene / That she ne shal wel understonde his stevene, / And knowe his menyng openly and pleyn, / And answere hym in his langage ageyn. / And every gras that groweth upon roote, / She shal eek knowe, and whom it wol do boote, / Al be hise woundes never so depe and wyde. (The Squire's Tale, 146-155)
  • Tho speeke they of Canacees ryng, / And seyden alle, that swich a wonder thyng / Of craft of rynges herde they nevere noon (The Squire's Tale, 242-244)
  • Or elles silver broches, spoones, rynges (The Pardoner's Tale, 622)

Footwear

BOOTS
  • His bootes souple, his hors in greet estaat. (General Prologue, description of the Monk, 203)
  • His bootes clasped faire and fetisly. (General Prologue, description of the Merchant, 275)
GALOCHE (a wooden-soled shoe, or a patten/overshoe; see also this linkspage)
  • Ne were worhty unbokelen his galoche (The Squire's Tale, 555)

HOSE (see also this linkspage)
  • Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed, / Ful streite yteyd (General Prologue, description of the Wife of Bath, 468-469)
  • In hoses rede he wente fetisly. (The Miller's Tale, 211)
  • A Sheffeld thwitel baar he in his hose. (The Reeve's Tale, 79)
  • And she cam after in a gyte of reed; / And Symkyn hadde hosen of the same. (The Reeve's Tale, 100-101)
  • Of Brugges were his hosen broun (The Tale of Sir Thopas, 43)
  • Now may I were an hose upon myn heed (The Canon's Yeoman's Tale, 173)
  • Allas! somme of hem shewen the boce or hir shap, and the horrible swollen membres, that semeth lik the maladie of hirnia, in the wrappynge of hir hoses; and eek the buttokes of hem faren as it were the hyndre part of a she-ape in the fulle of the moone. And mooreover, the wrecched swollen membres that they shewe thurgh disgisynge, in departynge of hire hoses in whit and reed, semeth that half hir shameful privee membres weren flayne. And if so be that they departen hire hoses in othere colours, as is whit and blak, or whit and blew, or blak and reed, and so forth, thanne semeth it, as by variaunce of colour, that half the partie of hire privee membres were corrupt by the fir of Seint Antony, or by cancre, or by oother swich meschaunce. (The Parson's Tale, §27)
SHOE
  • For thogh a wydwe hadde noght a sho (General Prologue, description of the Friar, 255)
  • Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed / Ful streite yteyd, and shoes ful moyste and newe. (General Prologue, description of the Wife of Bath, 458)
  • Hir shoes were laced on hir legges hye. (The Miller's Tale, 159)
  • With Poules wyndow corven on his shoos (The Miller's Tale, 210)
  • Whan that his shoo ful bitterly hym wrong! (The Wife of Bath's Prologue, 498)
  • The clerk, whan he is oold and may noght do / Of Venus werkes worth his olde sho (The Wife of Bath's Prologue, 713-714)
  • Hise shoon of Cordewane. (The Tale of Sir Thopas, 42)

Other Accessories

BARMCLOTH (an apron; from Old English bearm, 'lap'; see also this linkspage)
  • A barmclooth as whit as morne milk / Upon her lendes, ful of many a goore. (The Miller's Tale, 128-129)
GLOVES (see also this linkspage)
  • Upon his hondes hadde he gloves white (The Knight's Tale, 2016)
MITTENS (see also this linkspage)
  • Heere is a miteyn eek, that ye may se. / He that his hand wol putte in this mitayn, / He shal have multipliyng of his grayn / What he hath sowen, be it whete or otes, / So that he offre pens, or elles grotes. (The Pardoner's Prologue, ll. 86-90)
TIPPET (presumed to be the long tail of a hood)
  • His typet was ay farsed ful of knyves / And pynnes, for to yeven yonge wyves. (General Prologue: The Friar, 232-233)
  • With his typet wound aboute his heed (The Reeve's Tale, 99)

Devotional Items

Apparailled as a paynym in pilgrymes wise.
He bar a burdoun ybounde with a brood liste
In a withwynde wise ywounden aboute.
A bolle and a bagge he bar by his syde.
An hundred of ampulles on his hat seten,
Signes of Synay and shelles of Galice,
And many a crouch on his cloke, and keyes of Rome,
And the vernicle bifore, for men sholde knowe
And se bi hise signes whom he sought hadde.
This folk frayned hym first fro whennes he come.
‘Fram Synay,’ he seide, ‘and fram [the] Sepulcre.
In Bethlem and in Babiloyne, I have ben in bothe,
In Armonye, in Alisaundre, in manye othere places.
Ye may se by my signes that sitten on myn hatte
That I have walked ful wide in weet and in drye
And sought goode Seintes for my soule helthe.’

Piers Plowman, Passus 5, lines 517-531

Thanks again to Alianora for additional information about the items in this category.

CHRISTOPHER (A medal or badge depicting St. Christopher, the patron saint of travellers. See Kunera’s photos of St. Christopher badges; modern examples made for reenactors can be found at Billy and Charlie or Steve Millingham Pewter Replicas.)
  • A Cristopher on his brest of silver sheene. (General Prologue, description of the Yeoman, 115)
PAIR OF BEADS (This is what we often refer to as a “rosary” or a “paternoster.”)
  • Of smal coral aboute hir arm she bar / A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene, / An theron heng a brooch of gold ful sheene, / On which ther was first write a crowned A, / And after Amor vincit omnia. (General Prologue, description of the Prioress, 158-162)
VERNICLE (An image of Jesus’ face on a piece of cloth, relating to the story of St. Veronica. A vernicle is mentioned in Piers Plowman, written in England around the same time as the Canterbury Tales; see box at right. They are associated with a pilgrimage to Rome; in a line prior to the one cited below, Chaucer writes that the Pardoner is “streight was comen fro the court of Rome” [673], and that “His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe / Bretful of pardoun come from Rome al hoot” [678-679]. Modern examples made for reenactors can be found at Historic Enterprises, though a glance at the Pardoner in the Ellesmere Chaucer should be sufficient for demonstrating how to make and wear such a thing.)
  • A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe. (General Prologue, description of the Pardoner, 687)

Clerical Garments/Vestments

COPE (a long mantle made from a semicircular piece of cloth; one of the more notable English examples is the Syon Cope, made in the early 14th century.)
  • For there he was nat lyk a cloysterer / With a thredbare cope, as is a povre scoler, / But he was lyk a maister or a pope; / Of double worstede was his semycope, / That rounded as a belle out of the presse. (General Prologue, description of the Friar, 261-265)
  • Allas, why werestow so wyd a cope? (The Monk's Prologue, 61)
  • And therupon he hadde a gay surplys / As whit as is the blosme upon the rys. (The Miller's Tale, 215-216)
  • A man that clothed was in clothes blake, / And undernethe he hadde a whyt surplys. (The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue, 4-5)

Armor

AKETON (padded jacket worn under the armor; we usually refer to this as a “gambeson”)
  • And next his sherte an aketoun, / And over that an haubergeoun. (The Tale of Sir Thopas, 170-171)
COTE-ARMOR (either a coat of armor, or a heraldic surcoat)
  • In stede of cote-armure, over his harnays / With nayles yelewe and brighte as any gold / He hadde a beres skyn, col-blak, for old (The Knight's Tale, 1282-1284)
  • His cote-armure was of clooth of Tars, / Couched with perles white and rounde and grete. (The Knight's Tale, 1302-1303)
  • Gold-hewen helmes, hauberkes, cote-armures (The Knight's Tale, 1642)
  • And over that his cote-armour / As whit as is a lilye flour, / In which he wol debate. (The Tale of Sir Thopas, 176-178)
HABERGEON (a jacket of mail, sometimes sleeveless; from Old French haubergeon, diminutive of hauberc)
  • Of fustian he wered a gypon / Al bismotered with his habergeoun (General Prologue, description of the Knight, 75-76)
  • Som wol ben armed in an haubergeoun (The Knight's Tale, 1261)
  • And over that an haubergeoun, / For percynge of his herte. (The Tale of Sir Thopas, 171-172)
HARNESS (armor in general)
  • He carieth al this harneys hym biforn (The Knight's Tale, 776)
  • In stede of cote-armure, over his harnays / With nayles yelewe and brighte as any gold / He hadde a beres skyn, col-blak, for old (The Knight's Tale, 1282-1284)
  • Of hors and harneys noyse and claterynge (The Knights' Tale, 1634)
  • Ther maystow seen devisynge of harneys (The Knight's Tale, 1638)
  • Tho was he korven out of his harneys (The Knight's Tale, 1838)
  • Of brend gold was the caas, and eek the harneys (The Knight's Tale, 2038)
HAUBERK (a coat of armor, usually of chain mail; from Frankish hals 'the neck' and bergan 'to protect')
  • The statue of Mars bigan his hauberk rynge (The Knight's Tale, 1573)
  • Gold-hewen helmes, hauberkes, cote-armures (The Knight's Tale, 1642)
  • And over that a fyn hawberk, / Was al ywroght of Jewes werk, / Ful strong it was of plate. (The Tale of Sir Thopas, 173-175)
HELM
  • Gold-hewen helmes, hauberkes, cote-armures (The Knight's Tale, 1642)
  • Nailynge the speres, and helmes bokelynge (The Knight's Tale, 1645)
  • This fierse Arcite hath of his helm ydon (The Knight's Tale, 1818)
  • His helm of laton bright (The Tale of Sir Thopas, 187)
  • His brighte helm was his wonger (The Tale of Sir Thopas, 222)
JAMBEAU (greave, armor for the lower leg; from Old French jambe 'a leg')
  • Hise jambeux were of quyrboilly (The Tale of Sir Thopas, 185)
JUPON (surcoat or jacket, these seem to be worn over armor; from the French jupe, thought to relate to the Arabic jubbah)
  • Of fustian he wered a gypon / Al bismotered with his habergeoun (General Prologue, description of the Knight, 75-76)
  • In a bristplate, and in a light gypoun (The Knight's Tale, 1262)



Okay, the catalog above is all very well. But what, exactly, does Chaucer mean by the terms he uses?

Well -- if we compare the descriptions of the Pilgrims to what we see in Ellesmere Chaucer (an edition of The Canterbury Tales illustrated ca. 1410, demonstrating, in general, good attention to detail in terms of depicting the clothing which Chaucer described around the last decade of the 14th century), then we get a good idea, at least, of what the illustrators thought he'd meant.

Below are links to some of the illustrations from the manuscript, along with the relevant descriptions of their garments from the Prologue (if any such descriptions are provided).

  • The Knight: But, for to tellen yow of his array, / His hors were goode, but he was nat gay. / Of fustian he wered a gypon / Al bismotered with his habergeoun, / For he was late ycome from his viage, / And wente for to doon his pilgrymage.
  • The Squire: Embrouded was he, as it were a meede, / Al ful of fresshe floures, whyte and reede; / Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day, / He was as fressh as is the monthe of May. / Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde.
  • The Canon's Yeoman: He was clad in cote and hood of grene.
  • The Prioress: Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was […] Ful fetys was hir cloke, as I was war; / Of smal coral aboute hir arm she bar / A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene, / An theron heng a brooch of gold ful sheene, / On which ther was first write a crowned A, / And after Amor vincit omnia.
  • The Second Nun
  • The Nun's Priest
  • The Monk: I seigh his sleves purfiled at the hond / With grys, and that the fyneste of a lond; / And, for to festne his hood under his chyn, / He hadde of gold ywroght a curious pyn; / A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was. […] His bootes souple, his hors in greet estaat.
  • The Friar: His typet was ay farsed ful of knyves / And pynnes, for to yeven yonge wyves. […] With a thredbare cope, as is a povre scoler, / But he was lyk a maister or a pope; / Of double worstede was his semycope, / That rounded as a belle out of the presse.
  • The Merchant: A MARCHANT was ther with a forked berd, / In mottelee, and hye on horse he sat; / Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bever hat, / His bootes clasped faire and fetisly.
  • The Clerk: Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy.
  • The Man of Law: He rood but hoomly in a medlee cote / Girt with a ceint of silk, with barres smale; / Of his array telle I no lenger tale.
  • The Franklin: An anlaas and a gipser al of silk / Heeng at his girdel, whit as morne milk.
  • The Cook: But greet harm was it, as it thoughte me, / That on his shyne a mormal hadde he.
  • The Shipman: He rood upon a rouncy, as he kouthe, / In a gowne of faldyng to the knee. / A daggere hangynge on a laas hadde he / Aboute his nekke, under his arm adoun.
  • The Physician: In sangwyn and in pers he clad was al, / Lyned with taffata and with sendal.
  • The Wife of Bath: Upon an amblere esily she sat, / Ywympled wel, and on hir heed an hat / As brood as is a bokeler or a targe; / A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large, / And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe.
  • The Parson
  • The Miller: A whit cote and a blew hood wered he. / A baggepipe wel koude he blowe and sowne, / And therwithal he broghte us out of towne.
  • The Manciple
  • The Reeve: A long surcote of pers upon he hade, / And by his syde he baar a rusty blade. […] Tukked he was as is a frere aboute, / And evere he rood the hyndreste of oure route.
  • The Summoner: A gerland hadde he set upon his heed / As greet as it were for an ale-stake.
  • The Pardoner: But hood, for jolitee, wered he noon, / For it was trussed up in his walet. / Hym thoughte he rood al of the newe jet; / Dischevelee, save his cappe, he rood al bare. / Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare. / A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe. / His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe / Bretful of pardoun come from Rome al hoot.
  • Chaucer/Narrator