Ælfgar, son of Gildemir asked:
I have been wondering about leggings. What sort of fabric were leggings? Were they specially woven for the purpose, or were they more like scrap fabric cut into strips?
And, were there “luxury leggings” made of finer materials, that the wealthy might wear to show their status?
The answer is that there was a variety of leggings. Depends on the period you’re going for, and what time of year.
There was a strong preference for linen against the skin, and wool to keep warm. I think any loincloths and some stockings would have been linen. On the other hand wool, especially cut on the bias, has a certain elasticity which would be good for conforming to the ever changing dimensions of legs as we move, AND keep one warm- even when wet. This could be a life saver. I would say linen against the skin, and wool when you need to keep warm (shoe lining socks, and buskins). One doesn’t want toes to freeze off- yet wool is less comfortable against the skin.
They had various trousers: shorts, knee length, ankle length and even some with feet (although the Thorsberg trousers were Scandinavian, still there was a lot of crossover, especially 9th c., and there aren’t many surviving garments). In the Bayeux tapestry mostly we see long stockings and short shoes. At least the stockings are higher than tunic hems. Are they tied? buttoned? or one piece- we don’t know.
When I first was in the SCA Saxons wore baggy trousers cross gartered. This has gone out of fashion. Mostly these days we wear windigas- strips wrapped around the leg, which I think would work better if cut on the bias, just because bias cut wool stretches, They are about 4 yards long by about 3-4 inches wide, so not likely to be made from scraps, but at the same time, a lot more “one size fits all”, if I was outfitting a large bunch of carls. You can buy woven ones for $40-60 that look really nice. If I had moth eaten wool (old cloak or tunic to disreputable to wear), I’d cut it into strips- less likely to see the holes when it’s overlapping like that. If woven you can put a pattern in, and there won’t be edges to fray (although felted wool doesn’t). On the other hand, while more waterproof, it also doesn’t stretch quite as well either. If worn over linen hose, they’d be quite comfortable, and clipped and gartered would stay up.
I am not going to argue against stockings either. There is dispute over whether they had knitting yet (I think they did), but they did have nalbinding, which looks knit, so you can get away with it- although not all stitches.
I have never figured out how they would intentionally get leggings to slouch at an angle like they show here (Junius Ms) but figure that this style indicates stockings that have slid down during walking. Clearly these are NOT windingas, more Buskins. Also, as an artist, I think they had something stylistic going on with all their cloth treatment- how would veils DO that? Like superman’s cape always blowing. Take what you can, and remember it’s art- not a photo. It’s possible the monk never saw women’s clothing, but he must have worn stockings!
In the 10th century there was a fashion for tight sleeves with many wrinkles- we figure super long arms gathered up, and at that time the leggings also seemed to have the same wrinkles. There’s a story about a guy after a battle where they were griping about his fashionable pans being hard to remove, and he pointed out they’d come off more easily if they’d take the arrow out first. The story wouldn’t have been funny if there hadn’t been a fashion for tight pants and sleeves at the time. The question becomes- if not knit, how do you keep them up? the answer may be the diagonal garters we see in the New Minister Charter. They don’t seem to go around, but diagonally up- perhaps attached to an inner belt or shirt hem.
I seem to remember recently being surprised to discover the Cross gartering (worn over fairly baggy pants that we used to wear in early SCA years and which has mostly been abandoned- I think because they slipped down so much) actuall does appear in some contemporary images- but I can’t find any at the moment. I can pass along that we found that when cut from strips of suede they do stay up nicely- makes them rather expensive, Ælfwine, my husband, had a set of trim backed with leather. a very nice gift that was! But if you’re from the period where that was in, better to have them actually stay up! The Bayeux Tapestry shows multicolored garters- but they also show horses with multi colored legs as well, so I am hesitant to trust it too far. I wish I could find the period image with cross gartering!
Garters are good (just below the knee) even with windingas. Also the small metal clips (not unlike bandage clips) on the end helps hold them in place without knotting. (available from Raymond’s Quiet Press for less than $5 @) Queen Arnegund (Merovingian) and other graves have shown some pretty fancy garter hardwear, that led at least one interpreter to assume that the skirt must have been short because why make it so fancy if no one’s going to see it? I’ve seen enough lingerie to figure it’s possible. I’ve seen images of a color difference below the knee with garters over them, and imagine those to be an extra layer- perhaps wool or leather- for bad weather. Sort of early period spats.
Luttrell psalter hose w/ garter just below the knee, and button on the thigh to secure the hose further up. I imagine that was attached to some sort of trousers that stayed up with a waistband.
So that was fun, I hope it answers your questions. Anything expensive shows your status, and the richer you are, the more you take quality for granted. So yes, I suppose that they did show their status (as with queen Arnegunde’s hardware) Personally, I think her purple skirt was actually ankle length, and she’d show her garters only to an honoured few! She certainly showed status by a lot of jewelry and expensive fabrics.