28 thoughts on “What Braveheart Got Right About Women’s Medieval Clothing (That Every Other Movie Gets Wrong)

  1. We have to take the wins where we find them. There are other groups out there that snark about other aspects of film/TV costumery, such as armour. One particular beef is about studded leather, which wouldn’t be especially effective — but which led me to wonder whether this was a misinterpretation of brigandine, which was small plates riveted to cloth or leather, underneath the garment, which left only the rivets showing on the top.

    1. Studded leather armour is 100% a misinterpretation of brigandines/coat-of-plates and similarly constructed armour. Not sure if we get to blame Victorians or D&D, though. ^_^

  2. I never would’ve expected to see this title on a piece, but hey, you’re right! I was just sewing some stuff from the 15th century for my folks and I was just trying to explain to my mom, no, this is how this looked—it’s really different from what movies have led us to believe about it. It took some getting used to, but once she saw how it all fit together it made more sense to her. My dad came out looking professorial, lol—you can really tell where those academic gowns came from!

  3. Not gonna lie, I was a bit worried when I saw your headline about Braveheart being right about something historical.

  4. The only thing I actually liked about this film was Sophie’s costume shapes and of the wimples were awesome. Also her hair was mostly worn up and ‘hidden’.

    1. And are those cauls she’s wearing over her raisin-roll braids in the first few photos. They look cool, and might even be accurate. (In which case, another point for “Braveheart,” a movie I kind of like, especially the scenes that don’t feature Gibson.)

  5. The movie makes the 14th century silhouettes look gorgeous!
    To someone not nitpicky about historical accuracy,braveheart’s costumes might be the golden standard for medieval women fashion.

    1. Sheer net, no. But it’s nigh-impossible to purchase what they did use — linen fabric with the threads spun so fine it was sheer. So, it’s actually not as horrendously wrong as you might first expect.

      The weird decoration down the centre-front of the one wimple, though … no idea where that’s come from.

    2. Net, no – but I have some vintage linen fabric that is almost that sheer. (No idea how old – I acquired it at an estate sale.)

  6. I get where you are coming from, but at best this is a Victorian interpretation of third-quarter-of-the-14th Century. Complete with the weird huge Princess Leia-esque buns on the side of the head, coated in criss-cross gold net. Huge give-away. It may not be ahistoric in a modern way, but it is ahistoric in a Victorian way and I’m not entirely sure that’s hugely better.

    Also, Braveheart is supposed to be set c. 1280-1314. See Eleanor of Castile’s effigy (c. 1290) for a better idea of what fashion actually should look like at this period: https://www.westminster-abbey.org/abbey-commemorations/royals/edward-i-and-eleanor-of-castile

      1. I think Miriam is referring to the round buns over Sophie’s ears, not the face-framing braids. In the first link you shared you can only see face-framing braids on Philippa, and in the second one the ladies with face-framing braids appear to have braids that wrap around the head (like the hairstyle they reproduce – which is super cool btw, thank you for sharing that!).

      2. Philippa of Hainault does not have “side buns”, nor does your other link show them. Both links show plaits, sometimes referred to as “templars”, which frame the face. They are not buns, they are not circular, they are not covering the ears, they are not the size of the things stuck on Isabella in Braveheart and they are very rarely depicted as decorated.

        Whilst I agree that the hairstyle you linked is perfectly accurate (for c. 1330-80), that has exactly zero relevance to the hairstyle on Isabella in Braveheart.

  7. Noooo! Princess seam first appeared in 1848! It was introduced as a novelty and QA has nothing to do with it! During the late victorian era it got very fashionable, to the point when every dress was called princess gown (polonaise, tunique, over dress or whatsoever) which had long seamlines!

  8. I always find it difficult, when considering Isabella of France in Braveheart, to bypass the fact that she would have been around 12/13 years old at the time of the films plotline and that Edward I was dead before she married Edward II; but saying that I have to agree that her headwear in the film is fantastic. My only nit-pick is that I think that too much sheer fabric was used, the very few contemporary depictions of Isabella that I have found/seen show her with far more solid drapery over her coif. She certainly did like her headwear though, she bought 72 headdresses with her when she travelled to England from France after her marriage!

  9. Not just any wimples, mind — BEAUTIFUL ONES.

    Truth be told, I never made it all the way through Braveheart, coz I found out what happens to him at the end. Plus, lots of horses died in the battle scenes. I can sit there and watch men chopped into mincemeat and not care but HOW DARE YOU SKEWER THAT HORSE. HE DID NOT ASK TO BE THERE FIGHTING YOUR BATTLES, YOU TWATS.


    On occasion, wimples showed up on more than just old ladies in the medieval murder mystery series Cadfael, along with tons of high necklines and limited fabric choices, but I’m not sure whether they included princess seams or not… Hmm.

    1. I thought I was the only one who had that reaction to animals being hurt in movies. I was watching a movie the other night where the villain and his German Shepherd were locked in separate rooms. I kept yelling at the TV ” Don’t hurt the dog, you assholes!” At the end, the dog ate his owner (he was really hungry). :)

  10. I also love the fact that Isabella’s surcoat is heraldically correct for the period: arms of England, files three lions lions passant gardant or differenced with a label azure, for the heir, dimmidated with the azure, Fleur de lys or for France.

  11. No historical costumer probably wants to look to Braveheart for inspiration, but it wouldn’t hurt if more of them saw how good the ‘unsexy’ wimples, unfitted dresses and high necklines can look! Granted, making Sophie Marceau look bad would be a challenge but the same goes for any Hollywood leading lady, so give them a wimple next time- they even sort of accentuate the face, really!

    1. I agree totally: a wimple or a gorget worn over a well crafted crespine or caul can be highly elegant and frame the face beautifully. It is also often forgotten, but was shown in Braveheart, that under the wimple the hair was often revealed in elaborate display; often in plaits or braids, coiled around or inside the caul either side of the wearers face. This would have soften the effect greatly.

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