A Workshop & Notesby Cynthia Virtue aka Cynthia du Pré Argent
Hoods are a particularly useful item of clothing. They add another layer over the top of the body--head, neck and shoulders--which is exceedingly effective in keeping us warm outside, or keeping off the sun. It seems that most medieval cloaks/capes did not have an attached hood, instead they were worn with a separate hood like these.
The mere act of covering your head, even if it's with only one layer of cotton, will make you a lot warmer on chilly nights, or while you sleep, and it protects you from that annoying hair-part sunburn during the day. In addition to these practical matters, hoods are fun! You can wear them many ways, you can trim them, you can use them as pockets, you can tie your friends' liripipes together, and they are easy and quick to make. Suggested fabrics: anything. Well, anything you'd wear to an SCA event. In general, use woven natural fabrics, such as cotton, linen or wool. If you find a lovely fabric that is scratchy, line it with a softer one. You can trim them with dags, bells, "nailheads", beads, etc., and you can "parti" them, too. If you're not sure what sort of hood you want, or don't trust your design skills, copy one of the ones in this handout, or from a medieval illustration.
See the Men's Hats page for more medieval illustrations of hoods.
The "evolution" of the hood.
Hoods, started out as basic, efficient clothing for everyone. They were worn both "normally," as well as on top of the head as hats. Then they started mutating, depending on the social class of the wearer, and as time went on. Although I've used the word "evolution" it seems that the simpler versions continued in use, even while the more stylish hoods where being used by the upper classes, or by middle class folks on special occasions.
Basic hoods: not much different than a folded piece of cloth with a seam in the back to make a poncho-like hood. Then they start being fitted at the neck, to reduce bulk, make a better line, and keep them on the head better. Then they finally get way out of hand -- peasant women with liripipes that go to the ankles (not very useful for a working woman), ornate dags on the liripipe and hood skirts, folding them so that the skirts become very ornamental cockscombs when worn as a hat, or wearing them on top of the head with the skirts hanging down behind.
Man from "Peasants Dancing" end of 15th century, French
Man with hood on head from the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries, 15th c. English
Drawing by the author
Woman from "Peasants Dancing" end of 15th century, French
Man with long dagged liripipe from the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries
Man with apparently fur hat and hood on shoulders from Histoire du Grand Alexandre, Fr 15th c