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What Type of Clothing Is a Doublet?

When it comes to selecting the appropriate period costumes for the stage, especially for a play set from the Middle Ages to the 17th century, there is a common question posed by rookie costumers- what type of clothing is a doublet? To answer as simply as possible, a doublet is a type of man's jacket that is snug, buttoned and fitted to a man's body. Depending on the era, this answer can change drastically.

14th and 15th century doublets

For an appropriate doublet for the 14th and 15th centuries, doublets hit just at the hip. These are worn over a shirt and hosiery, accompanied by a houppelande or some other sort of jacket or overgown. In the Middle Ages, doublets did not have a very fitted shape and often gave the illusion of an egg-shape due to padding. This is very period-specific, as fashion gave way to a more natural fit.

Tudor and Elizabethan doublets

For the Tudor period, doublets are close-fitting with tight sleeves. The doublets should have a long skirt and are decorated with braiding, embroidery or some other kind of embellishment. For the early Elizabethan period, padding is once again added to the doublets in the belly area, with skirting to cover the hosiery area and wing-like attachments to the shoulders. As the Elizabethan era wore on, padding fell from fashion once again in favor of close-fitted doublets with a deep V waistline.

17th Century short doublets

In the 17th century, doublets were short-waisted. Typically, doublets of this time were full and slashed, allowing the shirt underneath to stay visible. Decorative ribbons were found at the eyelets, pulling together the breeches and the waist of the doublet. As the 17th century wore on, doublets officially fell from fashion in favor of the ancestor of the modern suit.

In short, a doublet is the early precursor to a man's suit jacket, though it may seem more like a piece of women's clothing today. Any stage should make sure to choose the appropriate doublet, as subtle changes denote different centuries and styles.

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