Vesture Vocab III: Lexical Decorations for your Costumes and Conversations

Are you in the market for something interesting to add to your costume or cosplay? Halloween is practically around the corner, after all. If you’re searching for a costume or design detail to put the finishing touches on an ensemble, or just plain looking for weird words to wow your Scrabble buddies, Vesture Vocab is here to help!


There are two previous installments (I and II), so if you don’t find what you want here, perhaps you could take a gander at the other articles for assistance!


Also sometimes referred to as cotehardie, this is a versatile, all-purpose,  fitted, unisex medieval garment, that is sometimes worn with (over) a kirtle (I covered that term in Vesture Vocab II!). This is handy if you’re into medieval-inspired costumes!

 Joan de la Tour (Statue). 1377.
Joan de la Tour (Statue). 1377.

While some might use the two words interchangeably, there are historians and costume aficionados who cite gendered differences between the two garments. Personally, I tend to refer to kirtles as a tunic-like garment of varying lengths, and a cote-hardie, while perhaps overall a similar garment structurally, as having buttons up the center front.


In the musical Chicago, Roxie Hart proclaims, in a song titled for her namesake, “And I’ll appear in a lavaliere that goes all the way down to my waist!”  So, what the heck is a lavaliere, and why would she want it hanging so low?

2/3 of these ladies of Downton Abbey are wearing lavaliers.
2/3 of these ladies of Downton Abbey are wearing lavaliers.

Simply put, a lavaliere is really just a fancy word for a pendant suspended by a necklace. That’s it! Lavaliere sounds so much more interesting, though, huh? This type of jewelry was popularized by one of Louis XIV’s (1638- 1715) mistresses, Duchesse de La Vallière, and, like most any style or fashion, there have been periodic resurgences of the lavaliere over the years, one of them being during the 1920s. And, while a little lavaliere might be good, a lotta lavaliere would be even better for a character like Ms. Hart.


This term originally refers to the baskets hung over the flanks on beasts of burden, but panniers eventually evolved into the must-have, space-hogging understructure of the 18th century. If you see a dress like this:

English sack back dress, ca 1760s with 19th century trim additions.
English sack back dress, ca 1760s with 19th century trim additions.

…there is something like this underneath:

English panniers, ca 1750s.
English panniers, ca 1750s.

If you do a Google search for something like 18th-century panniers, you’ll see that there is a wide range in the style and structure of this garment, depending upon how the panniers are needed to support the dress. Some panniers even have drawstring tops, and small, light items could be carried by the wearer (like an 18th-century fanny pack!)


If you’re not big into actually styling your hair (like me!), but if you’re looking for a relatively easy way to give your ‘do an historical bit of flair, a snood might just be your ticket!

Illustrations from any Lady Godey's book are always charming.
Illustrations from any Lady Godey’s book are always charming.

A snood is basically a fancy hairnet, but don’t let that description dissuade you from using one.  The great thing about this specific design detail is that it can be used for costumes inspired by as far back as the Renaissance and up through the 1940s and beyond. Many different incarnations of this hair accessory can be found in paintings, drawings and eventually photographs through the mid-20th century. The looks is popular with retro-glamour individuals, and there are even directions and patterns to knit and crochet your very own snoods!

Not a hair NET, but fabric bags like these also qualify as snoods. This glamorous studded rayon accessory is ca 1940s.
Not a hair NET, but fabric bags like these also qualify as snoods. This glamorous studded rayon accessory is ca 1940s.


What IS a wimple, other than a word that sounds a little funny? It’s an old accessory that is still used today, as a matter of fact! The term came into being around the 12th century and meant a piece of cloth that is worn to cover the head, throat and sides of the face. Who wears such a garment today? Well, some orders of nuns, for instance wear a traditional wimple, along with a coif (check-out Vesture Vocab II to find-out what a coif is!).

Diana Rigg as GoT's Olenna Tyrell.
Diana Rigg as GoT’s Olenna Tyrell.

You can also see a wimple on everyone’s favorite conniving matriarch, Olenna Tyrell, in Game of Thrones. Yes, the wimple and coif combo were reserved for women who were, historically, ‘not available’ (i.e. married women and nuns), but that doesn’t mean that you have to stick to those stodgy old rules. Want to wear a chiffon wimple and show as much hair as you’d like? Go for it!

 Other resources:

Brooks Picken, Mary. A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion. Dover Publications, Inc. 1957, 1987. Print.

Langley, Susan. Vintage Hats and Bonnets, 1770-1970, Identifications and Vales. Collector Books. 1998. Print.

Laver, James. Costumes and Fashion. Thames and Hudson. 1995. Print.

Ambrose, Gavin and Harris, Paul. The Visual Dictionary of Fashion Design. AVA Publishing SA. 2007. Print.

Payne, Winakor, Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. HarperCollins Publishers. 1992. Print.

Do you have any terms that tickle your fancy? Or are you looking for a little help regarding what to do with an existing costume? Go ahead and fire away with questions in the comment section below!

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