Heraldic Clothing

Heraldic Clothing from history with examples of dresses are exciting. Though such costumes were quite plentiful, few illustrations remain for us to see.

Three of these heraldic costume illustrations come from Albert Racinet’s ‘Historical Encyclopedia of Costumes’, a six-volume set published between 1876 and 1888. They all use heraldic symbols creatively.

This first of the historic costumes was worn by Jacqueline de la Grange, a 13th century noblewoman.

Heraldic clothing image courtesy Historical
Encyclopedia of Costumes by Albert Racinet

She was the wife of Jean de Montagu, who was Chief Minister to King Charles VI of France. Jean is reported to have been illegitimate. If so, as chief minister, he still rose to a position of great power and importance.

Jacqueline’s gown displays both the Montague and the de la Grange coats-of-arms. The martlet, a footless swallow, denotes her husband is the fourth son. The martlet signifies a person who has to subsist by virtue and merit, not by inheritance. Quite true for an illegitimate fourth son.

The eagles with their wings displayed symbolizes a man of action, one who is judiciously occupied with high and weighty affairs. This would be true for the Chief Minister to the King. The wings displayed denote protection ~ for the king, for his wife, for his family.

The ermine fur trim also denotes nobility and dignity. Likewise, the gold color in her bodice states they are of the nobility.

A lush plain white fabric, or a softly felted wool, could have the ermine pattern beaded on, or embroidered with a silky sheen thread could give the same effect. These techniques are explained on the Embellishment page.

Silks, in your family colors, or of your choosing, would also be appropriate. You could substitute a clan tartan for the blue line divisions. Remember The crusades began in 1095 and continued until 1272. The Crusaders brought home the fine silks and spices that the Muslims of Jerusalem were already importing from the Far East. To wear silk was a sign of wealth and nobility.

The veil is probably a fine French lace.

The next two illustrations of heraldic clothing are of Anne Dauphine de Avergne and her maid.

Heraldic Clothing image courtesy Historical
Encyclopedia of Costumes by Albert Racinet

Anne, Dauphine d’Auvergne, was the daughter of Beraud II, Dauphin of Auvergne. She married Louis de Bourbon, the Third Duke of Bourbon. His family coat-of-arms displays a field of fleur-de-lis.

Duke de Bourbon Arms
image courtesy Wikipedia

Anne is shown in 1371, the year of her marriage, wearing the dolphin insignia from her husband’s coat of arms. The fleur-de-lys denotes he is a member of the French royal family.

Anne’s attendant, also a married woman, is wearing her husband’s insignia including the martlets, indicating he was a fourth son.

Image courtesy Historical Encyclopedia
of Costumes byAlbert Racinet

Notice the red heraldic shield and diagonal stripe on the maid’s dress. Red is symbolic of eagerness to serve ones country, one who has been a warrior and a martyr.

The red diagonal stripe is called a Bend. The narrow white stripes on each side are called cottices. Both symbolize defense or protection.

Again, with adaptation, this basic design could make a lovely wedding dress. I’d remove the ‘collar’ inset area or replace it with lace. Other than selecting your own heraldic symbols and family crest, it’s good as it is. Though a row of small tartan buttons down the bodice to the shield would give it another small Scottish touch.


The tabards worn in the Medieval Era usually had open sides and a closed front. It slipped on over the head, was often belted, but sometimes hung loose. For knights and their ladies, they were often emblazoned with the knight’s insignia.

John Anstis introduced and establish the position of Blanc Coursier, combining the office of Royal Herald and as personal herald of Prince William, the Principal Companion of the Order of Bath. Due to this appointment, the coat-of-arms on the tabard belonged to Prince William.

This tabard was created in 1727 specifically for the Blanc Coursier position.

Heraldic clothing image courtesy Wikipedia

On this tabard, note the fleur-de-lys, the Rampant Lion, and the harp, the last two being Scottish motifs. Notice the motifs are repeated on opposite sides, which was not done in Medieval times. Also sleeves have been added. These two differences tell us this is a ‘modern’ adaptation [1727 AD].

But how could you adapt it for a Scottish theme wedding?

A tabard with heraldry, embroidered beading or appliqué trim, worn over a plain Medieval gown, would look great at a Medieval Scottish wedding. They could be sleeveless or with sleeves.

With one of the colors matching the skirt, this tabard could be worn with a tartan or silk skirt for any lady of the bridal party.

Either of these ideas would work for the bride, her attendants, mothers, and grandmothers.

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