The houppelande was a long, very full outer garment from late in the Middle Ages (c. 500–c. 1500). First appearing in Europe in about 1350, the houppelande was worn by men over the top of a tunic and hose, or by women over a long underrobe. The houppelande was close-fitting in the shoulders but then billowed outward from there in many folds of fabric. By the late fifteenth century these folds were organized into long, tubular pleats.
The houppelande was a very dramatic garment. Both its hemline and its sleeves could reach to or trail on the ground. The sleeves were extremely wide and hung down to the side when the arms were extended. Both hemline and sleeve cuffs were often trimmed or scalloped into decorative patterns. Fabric flourishes, looking something like small wings, were sometimes added at the shoulders. The houppelande was usually worn with a decorative belt, with women wearing the belt just below the line of the bust.
Houppelandes were made in a variety of rich fabrics, including silk, brocade, and velvet. They were sometimes trimmed with contrasting linings to add color or with fur to add warmth. Wearers could choose from a variety of rich colors, and later in the period they could choose from vibrant patterns as well.
Bigelow, Marybelle S. Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing, 1970.
Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Yarwood, Doreen. The Encyclopedia of World Costume. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1978.
Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: