Hose, stockings, netherstockings, upperstockings and gamasshes: What is in a name?
From the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign, the term hose was generally used for women's stockings. Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd (p.207) quotes that: only gradually, by the 1600's, did hose get used to describe men's stockings. Men's stockings were often referred to as netherstocks.
Women's stockings, or hose were generally to the knee or just above the knee and were footed, as seen in Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd and A History of Hand Knitting and Textiles and Clothing. They were made of cloth cut on the bias to give stretch, to make them fitted and usually to show off the man's leg! This is mentioned in both Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd and A History of Hand Knitting and Textiles and Clothing.
Netherstocks were the stocking, usually longer than knee length, worn by men. They were pulled up over the end of the trunkhose, sometimes tired to the trunks and secured by a garter.
In Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, gamasshes, or upperstockings, is conjectured to be the name given to footless tights that came into fashion in the late 1590's. These were mostly made of silk (not known if knitted or bias cut cloth) with a pile, possibly to keep the legs warm in winter. (p 210)
In most of my references, there is mention of the stockings being secured by garters to stop them falling.
A Little History on Men's Changing 'Hose'.
In pre-Elizabethan/ Renaissance times, men's longer hose tied to doublet as seen in Pattern of Fashion (p16). A History of Costume shows hose had feet (p200) and fastened either by belt or cord and connected to doublet by 'points'. Initially men's hose had separate legs. Later the crotch was joined and they became widened at seat for non-elastic material, for movement, as seen in History of Costume and Dress in Italian Painting. And, of course, there was the obligatory codpiece. But that is another story....
In this article, I am concentrating on women's Renaissance stockings. If you wish to make men's earlier hose, then try the Braies and Hose website. This gives basic instructions on making them. A History of Costume gives diagrams on making joined hose and how to make measurements and adjustments, for the more experienced costumer.
There are many pictures of earlier men's hose in Dress in Italian Painting including paintings of soldiers with their hose pulled down which shows construction, linings and how they are tied.
History of Renaissance / Elizabethan Women's Stockings
Unfortunately there are very few extant Italian renaissance women's stockings. I could find very little reference to them. Hence, the article is based on Elizabethan stockings. So this section is more correctly named: A History of Queen Elizabeth's Stockings.
Until 1577, Henry Herne was Queen Elizabeth I's hosier; Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd states that he made mainly cloth stockings. After this time, there is no mention of him as the Queen's hosier. After this date, her tailor William Jones, was reported in the warrants in Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, to have made linen hose, some with Hollande clothe. This task was then taken over by Robert Morland in 1597 who made 'several paires of doble linen' hose.(206-7).
Ralph Abnett supplied knitted stockings from 1590-1597. (p.206-7). Robert Morland was also mentioned, in the Michaelmas warrant 1600, in Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, as having supplied gamasshes and silk hoses. (p.210)
A bit about Knitted Stockings.
So the story goes, the first knitted stockings were given to Queen Elizabeth I, by her silkwoman Mistress Alice Montague, in 1560 (A History of Hand Knitting) or 1561 (Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd p.208). However, according to A History of Hand Knitting, this was reported in a document published some 50 years later. In 1562, Eleanor of Toledo was buried in her famous crimson? knitted silk stockings. So from this we know they were in Italy at this time.
It is reported in Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd that, in 1589, a stocking frame machine for knitting rough woollen stockings was invented by Rev William Lee. Apparently Elizabeth I did not grant a warrant nor a patent, citing that it would cause unemployment amongst her people.
The Summe of it's Partes - Nomenclature
In the case of Queen Elizabeth I, as mentioned in Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, stockings were originally made from linen, silk, wool, sarcenet, flannel. Though Elizabeth I had strict sumptuary laws regarding importing of materials, there is also mention of imported spanish silk to make her stockings.
Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd even mentions hose of cotton and faustian made for Queen Elizabeth's fool, Jack. (p.206)
There is also mention of linings and 'doble linen'. It is conjectured, in Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, that this may have meant linen stockings lined with linen, or alternatively, this could mean how the linen was woven. Other linings mentioned were sarcenet, camerick (Textiles and Clothing) and kersey (Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd p. 207). The tops were often lined with taffetta; it is supposed that the whole stocking may have been lined?
Dress in Italian Painting shows a lining only halfway down on the longer mens hose (p. 26) in Piero della Francesca's 'Carryring of the sacred wood".
Textiles and Clothing states that the preferred material, from extant stockings found, in the 16th century was worsted four-shed twill (p.187)
Making them pretty - What colours and decorations were used?
'Sondry colours' is a description often used, in Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, when quoting warrants and descriptions from Queen Elizabeth's Warrant of Robes. Colours mentioned for the stockings themselves include: carnation, ashecolour, yellow, red, blew, tawny, orange, grene, strawe, white, carnation, russet, black, crimson, including the really interesting Elizabethan colours like Dying Spaniard and Resusicitated Corpse, a favourite of mine. (A History of Hand Knitting, p.70). A History of Hand Knitting also makes mention of a 1607 Dyers manual listing at least 50 different shades available.
Trimmings mentioned in Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, in Warrant of the Robes, included: welted (tops) with vellat, tops stitched with Irish stitch, stitched toppes and clockes, stitched with sondry silk colours, lace of silke, venice gold and venice silver embroidery, red fringe, yellow silke worke, red with red silke worke, red with yellow silke worke, grene with sondry colours....
How were they made in period? - A look at extant examples.
Bias cut for form and fit: There are examples of extant stockings and hose, in Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd (above) and Textiles and Clothing. Textiles and Clothing (p. 186) give evidence of bias cut stockings and hose in 14th century extant finds. There is some evidence of diagonally striped leggings (men's) in Illuminations from 11th and 12th centuries suggesting bias cut hose was present even then. The same book also gives evidence of bias cut hose in the 16th and 17th centuries (p.156).
Henry Herne supplied hose of cloth, flannel, linen and sarcenet cut on the bias with seams at the back. (Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, p.207)
Stitching: Linen thread was usually used. (Textiles and Clothing p.153) Types of stitching found on extant samples are: running stitch or back stitch used on the back seam (p.187) for 14th century, and 16th century. Seams were flattened and topstitched 2 -3 mm from the seam (p.156). Back seams have also found to be overlapped 4 - 7 mm, with stitches 3 mm long, at 3-4 mm intervals, with an upright stitch along both edges (p.155)
On makinge my Stockings.
Materials: silk, wool, linen, veldt are documented as being used.
For my first pair, I used a linen-cotton blend. It was cheaper than linen for a 'first draft' pair. Unfortunately I cannot wear wool, though I am toying with trying to line it with linen but it is a lot of work if it will not work. I would love to be able to afford silke cloth stockings! So I think I will be restricted to linen.
When you have cut out your stockings, from the final material, first finish sew across the foot of the stockings, attaching them to the curved front of the leg (Fig 4). Don't forget to finish the edges so they won't fray. This item is likely to be worn and washed often. You don't want it unravelling after your efforts. Then push the seams flat and topstitch over it. This makes the seam flat and also is a decorative element.
Next, sew the back seam, finish edges, flatten seams and topstitch as well (Fig 5). Finally, sew on the foot making sure the centre back heel and front match. (Fig 6).
Personally, I like the look of an embroidered top which folds down over the garter. I have embroidered a guard to use this for the top and lined or 'doble welt'. Fig 7 shows my stockings without the embroidered guards. Fig 8. is an enlargement of the finished welts/tops of the stockings- I used split stitch, stem stitch and chain stitch. The design was based on designs in Queen Elizabeth Unlock'd, using pomegranites and leaves and my SCA device. Fig 9. is the finished articles!!! Finally!!
How to holde yer stockings upon yer legges.
The Renaissance equivalent of the 'elastic to hold up your socks' is the garter to hold up your stockings.
Textiles and Clothing mentions garters being narrow 75-100 mm width lengths woven from worsted yarn, often in four-shed, broken chevron or twill fashion. (p.142). These lengths were often cut into matching garters. Narrow garters of 18-32 mm widths were found in 14th century finds. One of the most detailed entries in Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd for the Warrant of Robes was from 1595 and not unfortunately about stockings but the garters!:
"to Roger Montague ....for cutting in peces and setting together with heringe bone stitche one payre of carnation ingrayne silk garters, the ends with silver lace, hemmed round with perfoumed with vj payre of pendaunte buttons of silver twisted with carnation ingrayne silk" (p. 224)
Another description of some of Queen Elizabeth's garters was from 1594 Michaelmas warrant for John Parr:
"garters of ashecolour silke sipers richilie wrought with lyllies and hollies of gold and silver silke."
There are those of you are much more adept at knitting than I. For details on knitted hose try the Hand Knit Hose website by Donna Flood Kenton. This gives details on how to make a pair of knitted hose.
Appendix: Concerning Sumptuary Laws on Hose
From Elizabethan Sumptuary Laws website.
[Westminster, 6 May 1562, 4 Elizabeth I]
Printed by R. Jugge and J. Cawood (London, 1562): Articles for the execution of the Statutes of Apparel, and for the reformation of the outrageous excess thereof grown of late time within the realm, devised upon the Queen's Majesty's commandment, by advice of her Council, 6 May 1562
........ all hosiers or tailors making hose dwelling within the precincts of the same, and shall bind every of them in the sum of £40 or more as cause shall require, to the Queen's Highness's use, to observe this part of this said proclamation touching hose, without any manner fraud or guile
...... If any hosier shall refuse to enter into such bond, to be immediately committed to ward and to be suffered no more to continue his occupation.
1. Arnold, Janet Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd, Maney, Leeds, 1988, ISBN:0-901286-20-6
1. Caerleon, Megge,Medieval Women's Hose: www.antir.com/meghan/hose.html (revisited:
More about Lady Katerina da Brescia.
OoL, AOA, ost, oroli, ofg, ogo, okn.
Katerina lives in the Barony of Innilgard. She used to be a Privateer, made her fortune, met a handsome, younger man, retired and got married. She now lives the life of a noble, in Fiorenze, and does not have enough time for all of her interests (especially while looking after her two year old child): garb making, calligraphy and illumination, drawing, researching, bobbin lace, glove making, archery.... always finding something else of interest to do (now embroidery and silverpoint)... She is head of the household Casa Viola, is protégé to Mistress Aislinn de Valence, and is currently serving as the Kingdom Arts and Science Minister of Lochac. Katerina has served as Baronial Rapier Marshal in years passed (now retired due to injury), and served as a Baronial and Canton A&S Officer. She is a member of the College of Scribes (Journeyman), the Painters and Limners Guild of Lochac(Verger and Chronicler) and recently joined the Worshipful Company of Broiderers (Apprentice).
(c). K.Carlisle, 2009.