Cut Hosen for Men and Women

Alianor de Ravenglas
In this document you will find directions for making “cut hosen” of the type that are commonly seen in 12th-14th century Western European clothing. When worn by men, they are “thigh highs” that are attached to the braiesgirdle by points. When worn by women, they are “knee socks” that are held up by means of a garter fastened just below the knee.

You will need to know a number of terms for this handout to make sense. Grain/Bias: A woven fabric consists of a warp and a weft - two sets of threads that sit at 90° angles to each other. The direction of either of these sets of threads is called the grain; an imaginary line drawn at 45° to the grain is the bias. This is illustrated in Figure 1. Draping: the process of patterning a garment on the body. Braies: Men’s undergarments. These are usually held up by the braiesgirdle. Points: Ties that are used to attach hosen to the braiesgirdle.
Figure 1: Grain versus Bias

Garters: Strips of fabric, tabletwoven braid, or leather used to snug men’s hosen and hold up women’s hosen.

To make a pair of hosen, you will need: • Standard sewing equipment (scissors, needle, thread, pins, measuring tape, marking pencil or chalk) • Permanent marker or some other way of making indelible marks on fabric • 1-3 yards of “scrap” fabric (depending on fabric width, short or long hosen, and size of hosen-wearer) for making the pattern • The ability to do some basic math • 1-3 yards of medium-weight woven fabric (same quantity as above)

Fabric Selection
Cut hosen are by definition made from woven fabrics. Yes, using a knit will give you a closer fit, but knit fabrics were not used in this way during the middle ages. I recommend a medium-weight fabric and have made hosen from both linen and wool; of these, wool is the most historically accurate choice.1 Wool also simply works better -


I can’t prove that they DIDN’T make hosen out of linen; however, there exist remnants of woolen hosen.

wool is a stretchier fiber than linen, and this carries through to stretch on the bias. Hosen can be almost any color and were often brightly colored.2

Patterning Hosen
There was a time when I draped every pair came to my senses and started making patterns. I recommend creating a separate pattern for each individual for whom you will be making hosen. There are two ways to go about making the pattern. You can either draft a pattern from measurements or you can drape the pattern on the individual. In both of the explanations that follow, I will reference the points and lines illustrated in Figure 2; the result of both explanations is a pattern that looks roughly like the one pictured in Figure 3. of hosen I made individually. Then I A: Hipbone to floor
B: Circ. of largest part of thigh C: Circ. of knee D: Circ. of largest part of calf E: Circ. of ankle F: Circ. of foot at front of ankle G: Heel to F H: F to toes I: Top of knee to floor

Draping a Pattern
If you choose to go the draping route, take about a yard of scrap fabric. To drape Figure 2: Points and Lines the leg piece of the hosen, rotate that scrap for Measuring and Draping fabric 45° (so that it’s hanging on the bias) and pin the top corner to the waistband of your victim’s client’s undergarments. Wrap the fabric around the leg, pinning or basting a seam at the back center. Do this carefully, and avoid the temptation to make the hosen skin-tight; in particular, the ankle will seem like it is too loose, but it has to be for the ball of the foot to be able to fit through it.3 The main piece (and therefore the back seam) should reach the floor and curve under the foot to the point where lines G and F intersect (basically at the instep). The front of the hosen will not lie nicely across the ankle at this point - the fabric will be all bunchy and messy. In this bunchy mess, mark line F (the curve over the instep). Have your client remove the leg and make any adjustments necessary. Once you’re relatively satisfied with the fit of the leg (you will still be able to tweak it later), trim off the excess fabric at the back and inside the curve you drew over the instep (but not too closely - you still want room to adjust and you need to leave seam allowances!). You will now Figure 3: Draped pattern use one of the large excess pieces to drape the foot of the hosen. This cut from muslin piece extends from the toes to line F (and will be joined to the leg at line F). Working on the bias, wrap the fabric around your client’s foot and
2 3

Eustace, 2007.

How snug you can make the ankle really does depend on how wide the client’s feet are. My feet are fairly narrow and so the ankles of my hosen can be pretty snug; my husband’s feet are pretty wide at the ball and his hosen ankles are always very baggy. Alianor de Ravenglas 2 Cut Hosen for Men and Women

pin/baste a seam along the bottom of the foot. This seam should extend for the full length of line H (all the way to the end of the longest toe). Then pin/baste a straight line across the toe of the hosen foot.4 Once you’re satisfied with the fit of everything, mark your seam lines and trim the excess fabric, making sure to leave enough around the seam lines for the seam allowances.

Drafting a Pattern from Measurements
The other option available to you is to draft a pattern based on measurements off the leg; this technique still requires a bit of custom fitting to get a very snug fit. This technique begins with the following set of measurements (refer to Figure 1 for illustrations): • Length of the hosen (for long hosen, line A + line G; for short hosen, line I + line G) • Leg circumference at top of hosen (for long hosen, line B; for short hosen, line D) • Leg circumference at knee or calf, whichever is bigger (line C or line D) • Circumference of foot at instep (line F) • Height of the instep (line F / 3) • Distance from longest toe to instep (line H) Using these measurements, sketch out the outline of your hosen as pictured in Figure 4. At this point you should work with roughly straight Figure 4: Drafted pattern sketched out lines; you will fit the curves of the leg later. The lines that you draw in this process will more or less be your seam lines; at this point you should cut out the pattern making sure to leave about half an inch for your seam allowance. Now it is time to do some more detailed fitting. Wrap the hosen leg around the recipient’s leg as described in the section above and pin until the desired fit is achieved; do the same with the foot. You will want to pay particular attention to the curve over the instep, and you will find that the “corner” at the heel works best as a smooth curve rather than a right angle. Once you have the fit you like, trace out the seam lines (as marked by your pins and/or initial sketched lines) and trim down the excess fabric, leaving enough for your seam allowances. At this point, you can either leave the pattern “whole” or you can cut it in half and ultimately cut your hosen on the fold, as pictured in Figure 5.5
Figure 5: Drafted pattern

This is a change from the pattern pictured in Figure 2; I have found that it’s easier to work with simple trapezoidal pattern pieces and do this fine fitting on the final garment if at all.

Note again the change in the foot pattern between the pattern pictured in Figure 2; in the new method, the foot is rectangular. Alianor de Ravenglas 3 Cut Hosen for Men and Women

Whichever of the cutting methods you followed, you should now have a working pattern for your hosen! Once you have used your new pattern to cut out a pair of hosen, you will obviously have to put them together. Hosen are best assembled by hand. It might be possible to do so using a sewing machine (I confess I have never tried), but some of the joins get pretty fiddly and would be hard to manipulate on the machine. I use a combination of running stitch and backstitch to do my hand-assembly; points of stress (the beginnings and ends of seams, the entire join of the foot to the leg, the toe seam) get backstitch exclusively; long seams get running stitch with the occasional backstitch thrown in to strengthen the seam. The sewing of the hosen is pretty straightforward. You can Figure 6: Completed either attach the foot to the leg and then sew one long seam from short hosen, inside out top to toe, or you can turn the leg and the foot into separate tubes and then sew them together at the arch seam. Whichever method you use, you should be sure not to stitch over your seam allowances; you will need them free to for seam finishing later. Once the hosen are completely assembled, they will look like the one pictured in Figure 6, with a seam running down the back of the leg and along the bottom of the foot, one around the instep, and a toe seam. After you have the hosen assembled, I recommend checking the fit; at this point it is still easy to make any adjustments that are necessary. Once you are satisfied with the fit, you will want to finish the seams in some way. My preferred method is a “run Figure 7: Run and Fell and fell” seam - you have already done the “run” part, now you just need to “fell” it. To do this, trim down one half of a pair of Seams seam allowances to about half its original size. Fold the un-cut half around the now-cut half and stitch them down using either a running stitch or a hemstitch. This process is illustrated in Figure 7. Where the back seam and the instep seam come together, you will simply finish one seam first (I usually do the back seam first) and then incorporate that finished seam into the felling of the second seam, as can be seen in Figure 8. Often people question me about how the bulk of two seams coming together feels on the bottom of the foot, but I have found that they

Alianor de Ravenglas


Cut Hosen for Men and Women

press almost completely flat as they are worn and I don’t feel them at all. Once the seams are finished, you will need to hem the top of the hosen and decide how you plan to affix them to your braiesgirdle. I have used two methods to achieve this: points sewn to the top of the hosen and then tied around the braiesgirdle, and eyelets in the hosen through which you pass points that are are affixed to the braiesgirdle. Of these two options, the eyelet is probably the more authentic. In either case, I recommend reinforcing the top of the hosen (where it will be under stress from the pull of the points) with some scrap fabric. If you choose to make an eyelet, it should be done in such a way that you don’t break the threads (with an awl).

Figure 8: Bottom of hosen, inside out

Modifications for Women’s (short) Hosen
Up to this point, I have given directions Figure 9: Bottom seam of hosen assuming that you are making men’s long hosen. This is because the process for short hosen is almost identical. Obviously you cut them shorter - measuring line I in Figure 2 rather than line A, and you need less fabric. Draping short hosen is a bit more difficult because you can’t just pin the top to modern undergarments but it can be managed. The tops of short hosen are cut straight across and I just finish them with a double-rolled hem.

Wearing Your Hosen
Men’s long hosen, as the directions indicate, are full-length and worn tied to the braiesgirdle. The legs of the braies are then tucked down into the hosen so that the whole leg is covered. This does occasionally make the leg look lumpy, but this is more a function of how the braies are constructed than of the way that the hosen are constructed. These hosen may or may not be gartered below the knee, depending on desired time period and fit.

Alianor de Ravenglas


Cut Hosen for Men and Women

Figure 10: Men’s Long Hosen, with and without garters

Women’s short hosen, on the other hand, must be gartered to stay up. These garters are fastened just below the knee, and the excess length is rolled down and tucked in under the garters.

Figure 10: Short hosen, worn.

In all cases, hosen can be worn with modern shoes but they are much more comfortable with medieval footwear.

In closing…
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at saramichelef - at - gmail - dot com; I can often provide “tech support” over e-mail. And finally, I leave you with the following imponderable: What is the singular of “hosen”?
Alianor de Ravenglas 6 Cut Hosen for Men and Women

Sources Cited
maistre Emrys Eustace. “Shert, Trewes, and Hose III: Chosen Hosen”. http:// (Accessed 23 May 2008). maistre Emrys Eustace. 2007. “Shert, Trewes, and Hose III: Chosen Hosen”. Class taught at Aethelmearc Aecademy, July 2007. Maitresse Muriel de Chimay. 2001. Personal communication. Maitresse Muriel de Chimay. 2006. Personal communication.

Alianor de Ravenglas


Cut Hosen for Men and Women

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful