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Garment Names/Clothing Types

The costumes in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy consist of many layers.  With many of basic garment in LOTR it is hard to tell exactly what the title of some layers should be. Sometimes the same garment can have multiple names depending on it's "country of origin". 

To add more confusion, the same "generic" item can have different names in different countries.  Example:  The American Sweater = British Jumper.  We will follow the American usage most times.  Other times we will go for a more traditional usage.  American Jumper becomes sleeveless tunic or sideless surcoat. (It really is.)

The original garments from LOTR may, or may not, have been designed with these terms in mind.  We do not have access to that.  Sooooo, we will pick a term in defining the garments.  Here is some more help.

Index of Garments

Some terms for wraps and cloaks

  • Ruaha
    • Square cloak/wrap, open sides, no hood
      • Peruvian. See it here.
  • Poncho
    • Square warp, hole in the center, normally not open, no hood.
    • Mexican
  • Aba
    • Square garment, closed on sides, no hood.
      • North Africa .  See it here
  • Burnoose
    • Half circle cloak with hood
    • North Africa.  See it here

Glossary of "Period" Costuming Terms

(Thanks to Jean for the list)

  • Angel Sleeves
    • Very long full sleeves that are open at wrist; opening can vary in width, hanging to waist or to floor.  (see Holkeboer, pg. 63, 71 & 77)
  • Armscye
    • Armhole.
  • Bell Sleeve
    •  “Made narrow at the top, set into normal armhole, & flaring at lower edge like a bell…” (Calasibeta, pg. 521)
  • Bliaut/Bliaud/Bliaunt
    • A later form of a t-tunic that is much more fitted to the body shape for both men & women by means of lacing either at back or sides.  The woman’s bliaut has a very distinctive shape in that it is heavily wrinkled or pleated through the torso from bust to hips.  It was originally thought that a “corset” or belly band was what caused that look; but now most historical costumers are of the opinion that the look is the result of the torso of the dress being cut extremely long then gathered up (with the help of the lacing) to form the fine wrinkles or pleats.  (see Holkeboer, pg. 74 through 78)
  • Caftan
    • A full length coat-like garment “… consisting of a long full robe with slit neckline, decorated with embroidery & long, full, bell-shaped sleeves… Egyptian or Near Eastern… coatlike garment with long sleeves, worn by men with sash around waist.” (Calasibeta, pg. 80) 
  • Cap Sleeve
    • “Small extension cut on the front & back of a blouse to cover the shoulder.  Has a seam at the shoulder fastening front & back of garment together, but no armhole seam…” (Calasibeta, pg. 521)
  • Chainse
    • An early relative of the chemise, a fine white linen under-gown worn by women with long tight sleeves, that sometimes showed beneath the over-tunic or bliaut.  (see Holkeboer, pg. #82, referred to as chemise)
  • Chemise/Camise/Smock/Shift
    • Various names for the same garment worn by both men & women.  The original body garment &/or nightgown.  It consisted of a straight, loose-fitting body & could be either sleeveless, have long tight sleeves, or long full sleeves gathered at the wrist.  The neckline varied widely as well.  Most Renaissance dress patterns have a good basic, full-sleeved chemise pattern.
  • Chiton
    • Greek in origin.  “Two large rectangles hung in folds from the shoulders, with back & front pinned together…  The Doric chiton was bloused & belted in a variety of ways…  The Ionic chiton was made of sheerer fabric, sewn together at the sides & sleeves were formed by pinning.”  (Calasibeta, pg. 109) (see Holkeboer, pg. 30 through 33)
  • Corselet
    • Worn sometimes over the bliaut, this was a separate bodice or vest that was form fitting, sleeveless & laced up the back.  It was also often quilted.  (see Holkeboer, pg. 79 & 80, referred to as “corsage”)
  • Cote
    • An over-tunic that could be unfitted or fitted somewhat by lacing.  Was also sometimes referred to as a tunic or (for women) a kirtle.
  • Cotehardie
    • Worn by both men & women.  The first outer garment that was actually tailored to closely fit the human body & the first to have set-in sleeves, rather than sleeves cut as part of the body.  Originally, both men’s & women’s had boat-shaped necklines, men’s later developed a standing collar.  Men’s was shorter (waist to hip lengths), women’s was floor length or longer.  Both had long tight sleeves & buttoned from neckline to hem; women’s sometimes was laced.  Full skirts for the women.  (see Holkeboer, pg. 120 through 123. 130 & 131, referred to as courtepy)
  • Cyclas
    • The early version of the sleeveless gown, again worn by both men & women.  Long & fairly straight, the armhole could be just left open or cut longer & laced or buttoned up.  (see Holkeboer, pg. 94 through 99)
  • Doublet
    • Descended from the men’s cotehardie.  A close-fitting garment similar to a jacket.  Mostly commonly seen in the Italian Renaissance.  (see Holkeboer, pg. 160 through 163)
  • Gambeson
    • A jacket made either from either leather or quilted fabric, that was usually worn under men’s armor to protect the body.  Could also be called a Gipon or Jupon.
    • How to make
  • Houppelande
    • A long, full garment worn by both men & women.  The early version had a high, funnel or stand-up collar; the later version developed into a v-neckline (the women’s would have a modesty panel or “dickey” inserted). It was shaped by a wide belt worn under the bust.  The sleeves varied from fairly tight-fitting, to “bagpipe” sleeves to extremely large angel sleeves that were frequently dagged (cut into fanciful designs on the edges).  (see Holkeboer, pg. 128 & 129, 136 through 141)
  • Jewel Neckline
    • a "high" round neckline, basically the base of the throat - where a string of pearls would rest.
  • Kirtle/Robe
    • A later version of the t-tunic over-gown, also fitted mainly through lacing at sides or back.  The body was smoother than a bliaut.  Necklines varied.  Sleeves tended to be long & fairly tight.  (see Holkeboer, pg. 106, 107, 114, 115, 132, 133, 156 & 157)
  • Sideless Surcoat (or Surcote)
    • The early version of what we now consider a jumper.  A long loose outer-garment with the armhole cut deep, to waist or hip.  The early version was simply cut away under the arm & was often seen to be laced up.  The later version was cut very deep & wide, allowing the gown beneath (& the shape of the woman’s body) to be easily seen.  Usually had a rounded or boat-neckline.  Skirt is extremely full, long & usually trained in the later version.  (see Holkeboer, pg. 114 through 117)
  • Surcoat
    • Worn by both men & women, it could be sleeved or sleeveless.  An over-tunic with a variation of shapes & uses.  The men’s surcoat, was often worn over armor (to keep it cool) & could be slit in front & back for ease in riding a horse.  Also sometimes called the Cyclas
  • T-Tunic
    • This is the garment most people think of as being THE medieval garment.  Derives its name from the shape, body & sleeves are cut in one piece in a basic “t” shape.  Loose-fitting, usually shaped with a belt worn either at waist or hips.  The sleeves were either elbow- or full-length, straight, belled, or angel-type.  They were frequently worn in pairs, with the over-tunic being shorter in both body & sleeve length.  (see Holkeboer, pg. 56 through 71)
  • Tabard
    • A long tunic that consisted of just a front & back panel with the side seams left open all the way to the hem.  It was usually belted closed.  The neckline was normally rounded.
  • Trumpet Sleeve
    • “Sleeve fitted into natural armhole, falling straight to elbow where it flares in the shape of a trumpet.” (Calasibeta, pg. 524)
  • Tunic
    • see T-Tunic.


  • Boucher, François.  20,000 Years of Fashion:  The History of Costume & Personal Adornment.  NY:  Harry N. Abrams, Inc.  1965.

  • Calasibeta, Charlotte, Manbee.  Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion, Second Edition.  NY: Fairchild Publications.  1988.

  • Hill, Margot Hamilton & Peter A. Bucknell.  Evolution of Fashion, The:  Pattern & Cut From 1066 to 1930.  NY:  Drama Book Publishers.  1967.

  • Holkeboer, Katherine Strand.  Patterns for Theatrical Costumes:  Garments, Trims & Accessories from Ancient Egypt to 1915.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice-Hall, Inc.  1984.

  • Tortora, Phyllis & Keith Eubank.  Survey of Historic Costume, A.  NY:  Fairchild Publications.  1989.


Terms for Indian clothing

In the description of the costumes, we talk about Boromir and mention his sleeves are sari fabric. He is not technically wearing anything like a sari, he's wearing a silk kurta. The wire-wrapped thread embroidery on it I think is called Zardozi and typically incorporates semi-precious sparkly pieces or mirrors and stuff.

Here's a quick glossary of Indian clothing which you might be interested in. (Thanks to Jen for this section.)

  • Sari
    • Is used for the unstitched length of cloth usually about 6 yards long that has a decorated edge called a Pallav.  Sometimes these fabric lengths are cut apart for their trims. 
    • When we refer to "sari fabric" we're often referring to the decorations on the edges. 
    • Example, it Boromir's sleeves were not custom embroidered, then there is a very good chance that the sleeves were cut from the decorated side of a sari.
  • Choli
    • Is the name of the blouse (usually a tight one that is any
      length from waist to just under the bust) worn with Saris or lenghas/ghaghras (skirts).
    • When you purchase a good length of sari cloth, you often get enough to form a standard size Choli, including edges embroidered for the sleeves.  These are normally a bit less ornate than the edge of the Sari fabric, but still match.
  • Lehnga or ghaghra
    • full skirt.
  • Kurta
    • tunic worn by either men or women.
    • Technically Boromir could be wearing a silk kurta.  However, we just call it a tunic because it is a more understandable term.
  • Kameez (like a chemise!)
    • long tunic, I think it's really just a more
      feminine or fancy name for kurta.
  • Salwar
    •  Wide trousers often with a fancy border on the hem.
    • Technically, these could describe Gandalf's trousers, down to the embroidery on his grey version.  However, in the books his are referred to as culottes.
  • Churidar
    • Pants that are narrow and tight at the calves and ankles.
  • Pajama
    • more trousers.   (Plainer than Salwar? tends to be used to describe men's white wide-legged pants by my family), it might just be a generic term for pants.
  • Chunni/Dupatta
    • veil, sash, scarf type piece.
  • You tend to call outfits by their combinations: Salwar Kameez, Kurta Pajama, Lehnga Choli, etc.  

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This page was last updated 04/22/08