Thursday, March 31, 2016

"What Meanest Thou?" // #2

It's time for our second What Meanest Thou post! And (per popular request), it's a further study in period (mostly medieval) dress with lots of pictures this time around. So here ye go...

#1: Kirtle

A woman's gown or outer petticoat (i.e. what would generally be referenced as her 'dress' in modern terms). Often worn over a shift (see point #4 below).

#2: Surcoat

An outer coat of rich material. A man's loose robe worn over armor; a sleeveless garment worn as part of the insignia of an order of knighthood. Can also reference a woman's sleeveless overdress (see pictures 4 and 5 below in this category).

#3: Smock

A loose dress or blouse with the upper part closely gathered, it was/is an outer garment worn by men, women and children. Similar to the tunic in that it spans many historical periods.

Elizabethan smock

Elizabeth shirt and Jacobean smock

#4: Shift

A woman's long, straight, unwaisted, loose-fitting undergarment. Often worn as a nightdress as well. (Spans many historical periods.)

Early 19th century

So there you have it! :) What are your thoughts? Have you ever confused any of these terms?

Heidi Peterson is a lover of wide-spreading land, summer dust, white pounding waterfalls, and mountain tops; also of good dark coffee and rich stories. Most of all she's a lover of the One who is the Word, the Word made flesh. You can visit her additional blog (where she shares more about books, movies, and further marvels of life) at: Along the Brandywine.

Visit and contact at: Sharing the Journey // Along the Brandywine // ladyofanorien(at)gmail(dot)com


  1. Great idea! I was never sure what a surcoat was, so that really helped. And it was interesting to see that you defined shift and smock separately,as I have seen them used interchangeably as well as contrasted.

  2. Thank you!!! This helped so much. I never knew that surcoat could reference a piece of woman's clothing as well!

  3. I love this series, Heidi! :)


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