Cote and Cotehardie

Among the most common garments from late in the Middle Ages (c. 500–c. 1500) were the cote and its descendant, the cotehardie. Likely a variation of the long Byzantine tunic known as the dalmatica, the cote was a long robe worn by both men and women. The loose-fitting garment was pulled on over the head, and its close-fitting neck and sleeves were likely fastened at the back of the neck and the wrist with either buttons or laces. Men wore their cotes with a wide belt, and they sometimes bloused the fabric out across the chest. The men's cote generally reached to the ankle. Women's cotes were slightly longer, reaching to the ground, and women wore their belts much higher, just under the breasts. The garments were

Three medieval knights wearing cotehardies, hip-length jackets fit snugly to the torso and arms. Reproduced by permission of © .
likely made of wool, or perhaps silk, and evidence shows that they were usually dyed a single color. The wealthiest people might wear some embroidery or fringe on the hem of their cote.

The biggest overall trend in fashion from about 1100 to 1500 was that garments became more closely fitting. It was this trend that transformed the cote into the cotehardie. The cotehardie began as a short version of the cote worn by men. The men's cotehardie was a hip-length jacket that fit snugly in the torso and the arms. It might be worn with a skirt and hose. But the women's cotehardie was a truly dramatic garment. The snugly-fitting bodice and sleeves of the women's cotehardie was attached to a long, very wide skirt that might have had many folds. The skirt began just below the woman's breasts, and its bulk gave the wearer the pregnant profile that is so often seen in paintings and tapestries from the period. Some cotehardie skirts had slits cut in them, and women gathered up the front part of the skirt and carried it before her, adding to the bulk. It was a custom of women to cut off the sleeves of their cotehardies to give as a prize to a favored knight in a joust ing tournament.


Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.

Hartley, Dorothy. Mediaeval Costume and Life. London, England: B. T. Batsford, 1931.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

[ See also Volume 2, Byzantine Empire: Dalmatica ]

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