Costume Basics for CROFT                                                      September 1, 2000


Since a significant amount of CROFT demonstrations take place at or around Renaissance period events, this will address basic costume concepts for that.  As our group grows to encompass other times and fashions it will require more research into what would be appropriate for that period in history.  But to start with, here are some basics for a Celtic costume for 1400-1600.


Plan on treating this like 1500’s clothing.  You will have to wear it for hours to whole days at a time, so it needs to be up to the wear and tear, and above all washable.  You also need to be able to move about in daily activities and be reasonably comfortable.  However, no one has accused a bodice of being particularly comfy beyond 3 hours!  You need to take into consideration weather and activities that you will be involved in and plan accordingly.


Materials:  Natural fibers are a good bet.  Linen, cotton, wool.  Avoid synthetic fibers, modern looking fabrics, aniline dyes (very bright colors, neon), or any printed fabric.  Woven designs can be appropriate.  When in doubt ask a member of the group their opinion before making any large purchases.  You might ask the store if you could cut a small swatch.  Often an established member of the group will be willing to accompany you to the store.  This part is very much a touchy-feely hands-on process.  Remember that ALL FABRIC MUST BE WASHED FIRST BEFORE IT IS CUT & SEWN.  This booklet contains some samples of fabric and color ideas just to get you thinking.  An important thing to remember is that the look should be something that could pass for 500 year old clothing that might have been worn in a cool damp climate.


In the laundry list that follows these are the basic, minimum requirements for a Celtic costume for a middle class person.




Shirt (Leine - pronounced lay-nuh): White or off-white cotton or linen-like fabric.  Rough to medium weight.  Long sleeved and goes to about knee to mid-calf.  A Sark (shirt similar to a Frontier shirt with a collar) can be acceptable if the large sleeve on the Leine is cumbersome for function.


Trews:  Pants.  Wool of rough texture, medium weight fabric.  Can be solid, checked, or plaid.  Can be long or below the knee.


Belt:  Wide, leather, can be plain or decorated with a simple buckle. For a kilt one should have an additional belt 4” wide.


Kilt:  6-7 yards of tartan/plaid/checked wool 60” wide.  Muted colors are best.  No family tartans at this time, only local preferences for colors and patterns.


Jacket:  Ionar – Irish, or Cota – Scottish.  Wool medium to heavy weight, solid or plaid.


Hat:  Tam, flat cap, or beret made of felt or wool.  Dark colors, brown, black, and blue.  Can use a pin or broach for decoration.


Shoes:  Flat leather or cloth.  Brown or black.


Socks:  Knee high hose, or athletic socks – solid color, gray, tan, or white.  Tea dyeing cotton socks works well.




Blouse/Chemise/Leine:  White, ecru, and yellows.  Cotton or medium weight linen-like fabric.  Should be mid-calf to ankle length.


Scottish Bodice:  Natural colors, plaid checks, tweed in wool or twill weave.  Rough to medium weight fabrics.  No darts, lace up the front is most common.  Boning for support and flattening effect.  Usually worn with two skirts.


Irish Bog Dress:  An all in one bodice and full or gored skirt that all opens completely up the front.  The bodice portion laces up the front, but the skirt portion is open to reveal a different colored underskirt.  Solid colors preferred.  Ankle length.  Use light weight wool or linen-like material.  These can get heavy.


Skirts:  Heavier weight cottons, linen, or light weight wool.  Should be full at the bottom.  Skirts can be gathered, circle, or gored, and with a waistband buttoned at the side or back.  Solid colors preferred.


Hat:  Also called a coif, cap, or biggins.  White or off white cotton or linen.  All married women had their heads covered.  A wide brim straw hat is a great idea for relief from the sun or in lieu of sunglasses.  Young girls and unmarried maidens can go bare-headed.


Belt:  Leather with a simple buckle.


Pouch:  Leather or cloth.


Shoes:  Flat, leather or cloth, clogs, espadrilles.


Stockings:  Cotton or wool tights, or knee high stocking in natural colors.


Mantle:  3-4 yards of tartan cloth in muted colors.  Women preferred the plaid with white or light-colored background.  Cloak, Irish:  rough textured wool, lined with lighter fabric, can be with or without hood.


Basket:  Natural color with a cloth or napkin for a cover.


ACCOUTREMENTS and other fun accessories


You probably want to gather other things to embellish your costume and help flesh out your character.  Other things may just be necessities for daily living, like a cup, a spoon and bowl.  Observe some of the veteran re-enactors.  What things are they using?  Ask where they acquired them.  Thrift stores, garage sale, Mom’s attic or your own garage may become a new source of treasures.  Who knows, even your old 1970’s earthy mugs may take on a new life.  Handmade items are always a nice touch.


Jewelry:  Bronze, brass or pewter.  A Celtic knot-work pin or Penandular brooch is a nice decorative and functional touch.


Inkle straps:  Sashes or woven ties.  Lots of things to hang off your belt or get tied on.  Note:  no pockets.


Walking stick


Eyewear:  Wearing no glasses or wearing contacts are probably best.  When necessary to wear glasses a very simple small frame is best.  NO SUNGLASSES or darkly tinted lenses.


Eating Utensils:  Wooden bowl or trencher, metal or pottery mug or cup, wooden spoon, small eating knife.


Tools of Your Trade:  Whatever it takes to identify your skill or function to the public; a saw and hammer, a drop spindle, quill and paper, etc.


Chair or bench


Small rug


Storage:  Baskets or boxes to carry or store your stuff in.  It’s important that you can set up and break down easily and then trek all this stuff back to your car.  On occasion all this stuff may need to be protected from the elements, or prying eyes, or vermin.


Plaid:  A 2-4 yard piece of wool for multipurpose function. (Covering modern tools, wearing on a cold day or just for Celtic napping or picnicking.)  Miscellaneous linen dish towels or napkins can also be useful.


Food:  Snacks or lunch goodies that would be appropriate to eat right out there in public as part of the overall ambience – fruit (dried or fresh), sausage, cheese, bread or rolls, nuts, hard boiled eggs.  Let your imagination and your appetite run wild.




It’s the package and presentation that say so much about CROFT as an organization of folks trying to honestly represent a pat era.  There are a number of things that are not official costume but certainly affect the fashion statement that we are trying to make.  Things that should be obvious but bear mentioning, because all of us need reminders from time to time.  You may hear the call to “check for 20th Century stuff.”  Here’s a few to get you thinking.  Cigarettes, sunglasses, watches, paper plates, plastic utensils, costume jewelry and rings (wedding rings OK), plastic bags or plastic anything for that matter, safety pins, coolers, modern tools, soda cans or water bottles, obviously modern foods like Hostess cupcakes or cheese puffs, chewing gum, colored nail polish, artificial nails, heavily scented perfumes, makeup, lycra, spandex, etc.


CROFT – Basic Costume


Due to the expansive period of history our group covers (400 BC to 1745 AD) , the costume ideas described below are used as a starting point for anyone wishing to demonstrate at CROFT events.  Derived from group research we have found that 14th Century middle/merchant class Scottish and Irish costume is the most convenient and easiest to duplicate.


Men/Boys Costume  Basic Pieces


Scottish                                                            Irish


Leine (large sleeve shirt)                                     Leine (large sleeve shirt)

Trews (trousers/pants) or Great Kilt                     Trews (trousers/pants) & Cota/Ionar (short coat)

Leather shoes/Boots (ghillies or pampooties)        Leather shoes/Boots

Head covering (biggens/Tam-bonnet/straw hat)     Head covering (biggins/cap/straw hat)

Belt & pouch                                                     Belt & pouch


*Accessories:  Basket, tools of the trade, period chair or chair that can be covered w/plaids, “mess kit” (bowl or plate, wooden spoon, ceramic/pewter tankard, period knife, and napkin), inkle strap, Celtic brooch (Scottish) and a hooded cape or cloak.


Women/Girls – Basic Pieces


Scottish                                                            Irish


Leine (large sleeve shirt)                                     Leine (large sleeve shirt)

Bodice and overskirt                                           Bog dress

Underskirt                                                         Underskirt

Leather shoes/boots                                           Leather shoes/boots

Belt/Inkle strap & pouch                                     Belt/Inkle strap & pouch

Head covering (biggens/straw hat)                       Head covering (biggens/straw hat)


*Accessories:  Basket, tools of the trade, period chair or chair that can be covered w/plaids, “mess kit” (bowl or plate, wooden spoon, ceramic/pewter tankard, period knife, and napkin), inkle strap, Celtic brooch (Scottish) and a hooded cape, cloak or Arisaid (Scottish.)


Infants (Non-mobile little people) Male & Female – Basic Pieces


Scottish and Irish


Saque (Gown with drawstring at bottom)


Diaper covering/camouflage


*Accessories:  Cradle type basket and period toys (rattles, etc.)


*Accessories are appropriate for Scottish and Irish Costume unless otherwise indicated.


Appropriate Fabrics


Leines (large sleeve shirts), Biggens and infant saques for Male and Female – light to medium weight linens, muslin, cotton/linen blend, cotton and Osnaburg type fabrics.


Women’s Bodice – Medium to heavy weight wool fabric – plain or subtle plaid acceptable.


Women’s Overskirt/Bog dress – Medium to heavy weight plain wool fabric – may have subtle trim at the bottom (Heavy weight linen and cotton may be worn in deference to the Arizona climate.)


Womens’ Underskirt – Light to medium weight plain woolen or medium to heavy weight linen and cotton in plain colors.


Women’s Arisaid (Scottish) – Medium to heavy weight subtle plaid fabric – light background colors preferred.


Men’s Cota/Ionar – Medium to heavy weight plain woolen material


Men’s Great Kilt – Medium to heavy weight subtle plaid fabric


Men’s Trews – Pants (Scottish & Irish) Medium to heavy weight subtle plaid fabric or plain natural colored wool.


Cloaks & hooded capes – Heavy weight woolens in plain colors.


Recommended Patterns