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Clothing hypothetically of Antiochene Poulaines

Placing the cursor on the footnote number will give an abbreviated view of the reference, while the full entry will be found at the bottom of the page.

crusader costume, poulain costume

Despite periods of Muslim domination from 626 to 969 and 1085 to 1098 the City of Antioch retained a predominantly Greek speaking Rômiosi population throughout the early middle ages.1 It was also relatively spared the crusaders’ tendency to indiscriminately massacre the population of cities they captured, and so preserved that character under Norman, and later French,2 overlords through the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. These overlords themselves acknowledged Constantinopolitan sovereignty on occasions in the twelfth century.3 The crusader elite inter-married with the Romiosi and minority Armenian populations extensively.4 Both the offspring of such marriages and some of the settlers found many aspects of Near Eastern culture seductive and assimilated them avidly.5

A General description of the ensembles

The main elements are under-tunics of double cloth, linen and cotton fibres spun together,6 dyed a deep blue, covered by an overgarment constructed with an outer of burgundy coloured wool7 lined with silk dyed grey and block printed with an Islamic design.8
The over-garments are powdered with triplets of silver sequins stamped with a design closely approximating those found embossed on Roman book covers in the Vatican collection,9 and embroidered around the upper sleeves with a geometric scroll pattern resembling opus sectile.10 (Detail of the embroidery in a new window.)
Both outfits have belts and pouches of blue dyed leather.11 fitted with hand embossed mounts,12 and buckle plates and strap-ends of bronze decorated with a technique of silver wire set in niello.13 The purses.14 are suspended from purse hangers,15 and have a small knife sheathed in the back.

The woman’s dress is of the close fitting, side laced style with wide sleeves inspired by earlier Byzantine fashion which became popular amongst Europeans in the early twelfth century16 and persisted in some parts of Europe until the late twelfth century.17

The man’s tunic is of the Persico-Byzantine pattern with the neck opening on the left which came into royal European use in the eleventh century18 and became prevalent across the social classes in Mediterranean Europe by the mid twelfth century.19 A coif and footed hose of grey wool complete the outfit.

Design, dyeing, printing, metal and leather-work on both outfits, and tailoring on the man’s outfit by Timothy Dawson.
Embroidery on both outfits and dressmaking on the woman’s outfit by Laura Iseman. (Pictured)


1) Elizabeth Hallam (ed.), Chronicles of the Crusades London, 1989, p.110.
2) Hans Eberhard Mayer The Crusades (tr.John Gillingham), Oxford, 1972, p.149.
3) Niketas Choniates O, City of Byzantium (tr.) Harry Margoulis, Wayne State University, Detroit 1984, pp. 107—9. See also Ralph–Johannes Lilie Byzantium and the Crusader States, Oxford, 1993, p.147.
4) P.M. Holt The Age of the Crusades, London, 1986, p. 34.
5) Francesco Gabrieli Arab Historians of the Crusades, New York, 1969, pp. 78 - 79. See also Hallam p. 138.
6) ‘Maqta’, Yedida Kalfon Stillman, Female Attire of Medieval Egypt, Phd dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1972, p. 22.
7) Chosen for its resemblance to a surviving textile in the Vatican Museum. Pfister collection, no. 6875.
8) A simplified design related to styles shown in Claude Humbert, Islamic Ornamental Design, London, 1980, pp. 48 and 113.
9) Carlo Frederici and Konstantinos Houlis, Legature Bizantine Vaticane, Rome, 1992, pp. 53, 56, 58, 59 and 60.
10) Humbert pp.101, 106, 111 and 83, ex. 272 being a later Turkish imitation of Byzantine opus sectile.
11) Reproducing the effect of indigo, one of the few period dyes for leather.
12) Geoff Egan and Francis Pritchard, Dress Accessories, Museum of London, 1991, p. 122.
13) For the model for the design see Egan and Pritchard, p. 76—7 no. 314 The silver in niello technique is a rare one known in scanty examples from Europe from the beginning of the twelfth century. See From Viking to Crusader, example 431.
14) Egan and Pritchard, pp. 342ff.
15) Egan and Pritchard, p. 222—3.
16) Carl Kohler, A History of Costume, New York, 1963, pp. 139ff; Margaret Hamilton-Hill and John Bucknell, The Evolution of Fashion, London, 1986, pp.6ff. However the patterns given in those volumes are manifestly inaccurate and were ignored.
17) As illustrated in the Cantigas de Santa Maria  manuscript (El Escorial J.T.1) made for Alphonso X “The Wise” in the early 1280s.
18) Kohler, pp.146f.
19) For example the tunics of Roger II of Sicily held in the Schatzkammer, Vienna. Biblioteca Laurenziana ms. Plut. XII.17 folio 3v. Carmina Burana ms.