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Gambesons are quilted undertunics.

Gambesons were to help diffuse the force of a blow, but their actual number one function was to prevent armor pinching, which can be pretty nasty.  I got several stitches once when the corner-joint on my pauldron pinched my shoulder blade. In fact, you will be able to tell where your armor is worst about that after a while because you will get "armor chinks" in your gambeson in the trouble spots.

 Historically, gambesons came in several styles; side lacers, front snappers, pullovers, and they all had sleeves that were only tied or sewn at the top shoulder in order to let the armpits ventilate and for ease of mobility. 

Fabric ideas

I have made several gambesons for heavy weapons fighting in several
organizations and I use an item called a "mover's blanket".  It meets all the specifications of a historical gambeson, in terms of protective filling and it makes labor much less intensive since it comes prequilted.  One mover's blanket makes a gambeson with plenty of left over fabric for coifs and other things. 


Just convert one of the easy tunic shaped patterns from simplicity, and use a prequilted movers blanket, and gambesons become very easy to make. 

I use simplicity patterns for chef smocks and convert them, you know, the front buttoning ones.  I create the sleeves separately and stitch them at the top of the armscye (point of shoulder).

And as for patterns, Medieval Miscellania has a good one, with several views (that might be the period patterns one), but I find their patterns unnecessarily complex, even for very historically accurate patterns.  Even as a professional costumer, I really don't bother with their patterns unless I HAVE to.  Plus they are now about $26.00 US and that is pretty steep for a pattern.




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This page was last updated 04/22/08