Clothes · Projects

Yee Old Night Owl: Design

Every once in a while, you see something that is so uniquely you that you burn inside. This is how I felt when I was reading the Watchmen, and saw the Night Owl’s Snow suit.

A meme based on the art of Dave Gibbons and John Higgins in Alan Moore’s Watchmen graphic novel. (Original art is subject to copy right).

Fuzzy. Fur. Cozy. And owl shaped.

If you’ve known me, you know that I love owls. My great grandmother collected them and bequeathed part of her collection to me as a child (thats thousands of small 70s owl sculptures, choochkies, clocks, kitchen items, basically all the owls you find in an antique store). I love their playfulness, their cuteness, and the knowledge that a horned owl’s talons can crush a human’s skull is pretty badass.

While making an owl shaped cocoon coat sounded like a great idea, it doesn’t really fit into my wardrobe, not in the way that a medieval hood would. So there the design begins.

My Original Hood Design

I decided it would be made out of three layers. A white layer of wool, a middle layer of linen and lined with a brown wool. I didn’t want to line with the linen as I thought the linen would be too thin and breezy in the slashed areas, and I wanted this hood to be warm and cozy. I also decided to add fur around the face and down the button holes.

Now, que the deep dive into historical hood research. What do we know about hoods?

Decorated hoods with a lirepipes! (ALSO LOOK AT THOSE HAIRSTYLES) Bibliothèque nationale de France, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Hoods are depicted in lots of manuscripts. They have decorations, varying lengths of lirpipes (that thing coming from the back of the head) but they were primarily worn by men. Women are often seen wearing a different kind of hood, that was open in the front, and never quite closed all the way. They were smaller and less warm than men’s hoods and worn during later time periods (but before really silly hat times). So I decided I would focus on a more man style hood of a slightly earlier time period to get the shape that I wanted. My thought process was that women probably wore similar hoods because ITS COLD.

Fun with Lirepipes! Jean Le Noir, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

We are lucky in that several extant hoods, yes real hoods and not just illustrations, have survived the ages. Several were found in great condition in Greenland and were documented in Medieval Garments Reconstructed by Lilli Fransen and the prior tome on the same subject Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland by Else Ostergard. The first book provided great grid patterns of the hoods that survived there.

However, none of these hoods produced exactly the kind of shape that I wanted. I trudged onward and learned about a different medieval hood that was found in even better condition on the Bocksten Man, a bog mummy found in Varberg Sweden in the 1880s. He was found wearing a tunic, cloak and hood! While there is some controversy over one of the pattern pieces that was originally placed on the hood (now presumed to be part of the cloak), the hood pattern is similar to the Greenland hoods, except it has a triangular gore on the chest.

A reconstruction of the Bocksten Man’s clothing. Toxophilus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I started with a pattern of this hood found at Marc Carlson’s website which includes several patterns for different extant medieval garments. I made a mock up out of muslin and began the adventure of trying to get this to fit correctly!

Me and 3 of my six different pattern iterations. They each came with various fit issues and adjustments.

I made many mock ups of this hood, and struggled to get it to fit over my shoulders and under my chin correctly. This is a man’s hood, and I am a woman, so there were fit issues there. Getting the length correct was also a challenge! It was about now, that I decided I wanted to add some additional flavor to my hood… feathers!

Second Drawing of the hood

I modified my design to include dagged feathers which were very popular in medieval times, and I felt it gave my hood a very owl like flair!

detail, Romance of Alexander, 1338-44, Bodleian Library MS. Bodl. 264, r83

Dagging was incredibly popular way to decorate woolen garments during this period and can be seen both on large Houpeland style garments for both men and women and on earlier simple hoods. In the image above you can see a hood that appears to be only one layer of fabric that has been decorated with some trim or embroidery and has long whispy daggs. I thought adding these would be the perfect addition to the Owl Hood!

And that is all for the design! Click here for information on the construction and final images of the Hood!


Ostergaard, Else. Woven Into the Earth: Textile Finds in Norse Greenland

Fransen, Lilli. Medieval Garments Reconstructed: North Clothing Patterns

Romance of Alexander, 1338-44 from the Bodleian Library

Marc Carlson’s website of extant medieval garments and patterns ** I’ve had difficulty accessing this one lately.

THL Esperanza de Navarra’s handout on How to Construct a Medieval Hood

ELLINOR LANDAL‘s Blog on Medieval Hoods with Pewter Buttons

Ancient Pages Article on the Bocksten Man with pictures of his clothing from the Swedish Museum!


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