Jerkins and Doublets
What's the difference between the two? The two terms are used pretty interchangeably historically, but I usually think of a doublet as having sleeves, and a jerkin as not having sleeves.
Either garment is essentially a jacket or vest worn over a shirt. Unless your character is very poor indeed, wearing just a shirt is not an option - it's like going out in your underwear! The garment may be more-or-less fitted, depending on the character's class and occupation. Here are patterns for a jerkin and a doublet. There are an almost infinite number of variations to the basic jerkin. Yours might button up (no obviously plastic buttons, please), lace up, or be closed with ties or clasps. It might even be simply belted closed. The front can come all the way up to the neck, or not. You might have a collar, or be collarless. The waist can have picadils (often called tabs) or a full peplum. Finally, you can add sleeves to it (either tie-in or set-in), making it a doublet. And that's without even mentioning trim!
Plain jerkins or doublets with minimal trim are the norm. An exceptionally poor person might even wear a straight-cut (rather than tapered) jerkin. The more wealthy commoners (merchants and the like) would distiguish their clothing by having a more fashionable (more fitted) cut, and slightly better fabric.
A nobleman's doublet proclaims his wealth. More trim is certainly appropriate, as long as it is applied in an esthetically pleasing manner. Nicer fabrics, such as velvet or silk, are a must. And, of course, it must be of a fashionable cut (it wouldn't do to look shabby next to the rest of the court)!
Click on the picture for a larger image:
Back to the Costume Page