Ibegan SCA fighting at the tender age of 15. I wore a gambeson made from a moving pad, without arms, for years until it disintegrated after one too many washings.
Having seen a few gambesons at A&S competitions, I decided to try making one that suited my armor and looked more period than a Mad Max costume.
The original garment that I used as my inspiration was the Pourpoint of Charles of Blois, 1367, which is now in the Musee Historique des Tissus in Lyon. Though this is a civilian garment, its inspiration was no doubt taken from military garments of the time (The History of Costume: From the Ancient Mesopotamians Through the Twentieth Century (2nd Edition), Blanche Payne, pg.180). I also drew upon the look of the Jupon of Charles VI of France, in Chartes Cathedral.
The sleeve design utilizes the bias of fabric to allow a tight fitting sleeve that allows for greater mobility than would be expected. The grand assiette style sleeve means that the armhole is much larger and covers the chest and back. This also allows for a tighter fit and more flexibility.
I made my original gambesons with thick padding, and while the padding quilted was almost adequate body protection in and of itself, the loft of the fabric trapped in too much heat. I have since switched to a simple cotton felt, Warm and Natural, used in quilt making, because it allows for breathability with a degree of padding.
Finally the buttons. As you can see from the Charles of Blois Pourpoint, there are quite a few. The buttons along the body and sleeve were reduced. I only have one button at the wrist to accommodate for a vambrace, and the buttons along the front are spaced out so you don’t spend all day getting into or out of the garment. I have made some with lace holes, but reports back are that the added time doesn’t justify the flat front. Everyone who has worn this garment with a brigandine or breastplate seems to find the convenience of the buttons worth the need to occasionally replace one or two.
I’ve made some changes to the original pattern to better suit the purpose it’s used for, fighting, and to more easily adjust for size. Not all of us are shaped with a wasp waist and broad shoulders, but with a little fiddling it can be made to accommodate most shapes and sizes.