Women’s Medieval Hose – 12th-15th century

Cloth-cut hose in fulled, tabby-woven wool, suitable for a woman from the 12-15th centuries.

Hose were worn by both women and men throughout the medieval period across western Europe in various forms, with a few variations in the cut around the foot.  These styles were worn from the 12th century (possibly as early as the 11th century) up to the 15th century. In the 16th century, the cut of the foot changed significantly.

Wool, linen thread

Medieval women wore short hose, gartered just below the knee. (Men wore longer hose, tied to their breeches girdle.)


Examples of women’s hose in art are rare, because of the long skirts. Where we can see the hose (usually in difficult circumstances), they are depicted as short hose, held up with garters under the knee. In some cases the tops are turned down over the garters.

Other examples, such as the 15th century example below show the tops worn up over the knee. Black and dark colours seem to be the most commonly depicted, although there is a red example above, and a purple one further below.

Unlike earlier styles of hose, pictorial and archaeological evidence show that medieval hose were cut on the bias of the fabric, which provides some natural stretch. The image from the 12th century Winchester Bible below depicts diagonally striped hose – easy with a bias cut (and very difficult otherwise).

An extant example of ecclesiastical hose in silk shows the same diagonal stripes, together with some piecing to make the best use of the fabric.

The cut over the instep on these silk hose is the M style – one of the typical cuts from this time. Textiles and Clothing (Crowfoot et al 1992) depicts several hose fragments from the late 14th century London showing some variation on the shape over the instep – a slight M shape and a simple arch.

The Crowfoot illustration above (#235) probably shows the remains of a woman’s hose, since the narrow hem along the top edge would have been knee high.

These extant London wool hose remnants were sewn with linen thread, with many fine stitches. The seam over the arch was worked as a simple overlap seam with no turnings – a seam type that appears to be unique to hose. Although less strong than a run-and-fell seam, it minimises lumps and is more comfortable.

The back seams were worked in fine running stitch or backstitch. The seams were not finished, but left raw. The seams were opened flat and sewn with a running stitch to keep them in place. Because this seam is on the bias, there is very little fraying – even on linen hose – and minimises bulky seams.


Garters were essential to hold up women’s short hose. These could be made of a narrow band of textile, simply tied under the knee, as seen in the images from the 14th century manuscripts below.

The Museum of London (MoL) also holds several late 14th century woven garters, all woven on a band loom in red and black wool, with integral decorative scallop fringing. The bands vary in width from 8-15mm, with additional hanging fringe of 7-10mm.

The MoL finds also include strips of heavy silk and selvedges from woollen fabric which had been recycled as garters. I have also seen an example in the MoL store of a tablet-woven garter with twisted fringed ends (no image in their online collection).

There is no context to provide gender for these finds, but tied textile seem to be more typical of women’s garters.

Men’s garters were often depicted made of leather or textile like miniature belts, with small buckles and sometimes decorative mounts. It is possible that women also wore buckled garters – I have not seen any buckles on depictions of women’s garters, but some images show a band with no obvious tie.


This style of hose can be patterned based on measurements of the foot and leg, using plain fabric on the bias to make a toile (test run). This approach gives you a custom fit – regardless of your shape and size.

I have created detailed step-by-step instructions to make a custom hose pattern, available as free PDF download:

How to Pattern Medieval Women’s Hose

(Patterns are also available for men’s medieval hose and 16th century short hose on the relevant pages)


This series shows the construction process for women’s hose with a simple arched instep, once the pattern has been developed and tested. The M style variation is detailed at the end of the process.

Well-fulled tabby-woven wool is ideal for these hose, although you can also make them in worsted wool or solidly-woven linen. It’s important to wash your fabric as you plan to wash your hose. If you get any shrinkage, wash the fabric a couple of times.

Once the test run is working well, I lay out the pattern on the wool on the true bias. Cutting on the bias is very inefficient, but cutting several pairs of hose at once does reduce the waste. The sole sections can be fitted in around the main pieces. Keep some scraps for patching!

The first step is to sew the arch seam. Mark a 1cm line along the straight top the foot section and mark the middle. Slip this under the arch in the leg section and pin the middle at the line. Baste (or pin) the edge along the marked line.

Sew over the raw edge with many small firm stitches (about 2mm apart). I’ve used fine waxed linen thread (as per the finds) but you could use a matching thread. Turn the piece over and sew more small stitches over the other raw edge, making an overlap seam, then remove the basting.

Because each fabric will have a different amount of give, you may need to adjust the fit before sewing. Right sides together, pin down the back seam all the way to the toe. Carefully try the hose on, tying up with a garter (or piece of tape), then adjust the seam for a comfortable fit, starting at the foot..

It should fit nicely but not tight, with a little pointed bit at the toe. Make sure the arch seam stays on the instep (too low and you will get wrinkles). Check you can still get it off over your foot (if not, move the pins until you can), then mark the new seam line. If you made any changes, repeat for the other leg.

This back seam needs strength and a little stretch. In line with the historic examples, I have sewn this in backstitch with waxed linen thread (3mm stitches). You can also sew this seam by machine using a long narrow zig-zag, (1.8 width and 3.5 length works well). Trim seam allowance to 1cm, and about 7mm over the heel.

The London examples show that the back seam was not felled down but left raw, with a row of stitches on each side of the back seam to keep the seam flat. I sew a row of small running stitches 2-3mm from the seam on each side, pausing every 5cm or so to stretch the stitches and add a lock-stitch. This ensures the seam still has some ‘give’ when in use.

Alternately, you could overcast the edges to the body of the hose.

Finally, fold a hem at the top edge and slip-stitch this down (a single hem for fulled wool or double if it will fray). Most images show the hose tops worn up, so I hem to the inside. If you prefer your hose tops folded down over your garters, you can hem to the outside.

The finished hose fit well!

M style version

As with the Arched style, the first step is to lay out the hose on the true bias and cut out the pieces.

Mark a 1cm line along the M shaped top the foot section. Slip this under the M shaped arch in the leg section and pin the middle at the line. Line up the top edge along the marked line and baste (or pin well).

Sew over the raw edge with many small firm stitches (about 2mm apart). I’ve used fine waxed linen thread (as per the finds) but you could use a matching thread. Turn the piece over and sew more small stitches over the other raw edge, making an overlap seam, then remove the basting.

Pin the back seam and follow the instructions above for adjusting the fit, sewing the back seam and finishing off the hose.

Other fabrics

You can also make hose for hotter weather in worsted wool or dense linen.

These fabrics fray, so do a test of the arch seam using scraps of the fabric and wash it – you may need to turn the edge under before you whip it down. If so, add 5mm to the top flat edge of the foot piece and make the overlap 1.5cm. Baste in the middle of the overlap, then turn under the edges by 2-3mm and sew down both sides.


Hose are some effort to make, so it is worth patching and/or darning to keep them in use – much less work than making a new pair. I use a fine wool mix thread (Madeira) for darning small holes, working over a wooden darning egg or mushroom.

Crowfoot et al (1992) notes that the London finds included several elliptical, bias-cut pieces of wool with stitch marks around the edge, which were probably patches for the toes and heels of hose – the areas that always wear out first!

My patches end up similar shapes – I cut them by eye to match the hole and a margin, then whip them on with the same fine wool thread I use for darning. Then I whip around the hole, making an overlap seam. The patches felt in well after the first use, and don’t feel lumpy.

Red wool hose mended with a patch and a darn
Mended hose – patching (left) and darning (right).