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Cloaks keep the rain off and provide some protection form the cold. A good woolen cloak, even without waterproofing, can take a long time to soak through, and can be easily discarded when you go indoors. Some tabards and surcoats (especially fur-lined ones) are also good garments to wear for warmth.

In period, cloaks had separate hoods more often than not.

Cloaks can also be used as picnic blankets, bedrolls and full circle cloaks can be large enough to shelter a friend too.



Cloaks generally take a lot of fabric. Although other fabrics work, wool is a great fabric, and a cheap source of large lengths of pure wool is op-shops/thrift stores/charity stores where blankets sell for generally about half the price of the cheapest wools, and can sometimes even be found in matched pairs for the larger cloak.

Remember that many cloaks were worn to keep the wearer warm and dry. Furs are warmest as a lining, rather than on the outside (although in some cases fur on the outside might be symbolic).

Making cloaks

Cloaks range from very simple to make to moderately hard. Some early period "rectangular cloaks" are basically draped blankets and can be made with no sewing. Slightly more complex yet still relatively simple are "half-circle cloaks".

Rectangular cloak

This is the type of cloak worn by warriors in the Bayeux tapestry, and by various early period men and women. It is essentially a piece of rectangular wool that is pinned together to keep it on the body. Women and scholarly or elderly men generally wear full length (ie. to about the ankles) rectangles pinned at the neck with a pin or "penannular brooch". For very cold weather, a separate hood might be worn.

Warriors might wear shorter cloaks (just below the knees), pinned above their right hand shoulder to allow movement of their sword arm. This also works well for women trying to get stuff done.

A rectangular, belted cloak forms the early basis of the Scottish Great-Kilt.

Cloak Tips

  • If you have an old blanket, then no sewing is required to make your cloak which has the advantage of being able to be used as a blanket again, especially on your bed at night during camping events. Many pictures show draped fabric rectangles with no kind of fastening. It'll fall off unless you sit or hold it in place, but I'm told by someone who wore a blanket for 3 days this way, that it works quite well.
  • If you do not have a period fastener then a nappy pin will work
  • If your cloak is too long, fold the top bit over as a sort of collar, then pin it.
  • This cloak has no hood, but you can pin it more loosely and drag a fold of the cloak up over your head as a hood.
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