During medieval times, monks wore a simple habit of white, grey, black or brown wool tunic, belted at the waist with rope or a belt. A Monk would often wear a cowl, a hooded cape over his tunic which not only provided protection from the weather but signified his rejection of the world and devotion to his religious calling. The cowl supplied a cape for the shoulders as well as a wide hood to cover the head. Making a medieval cowl is a simple project for an afternoon.
Obtain the material and thread. If you’re looking for historical accuracy, choose black or brown wool. Thread color should match the color of the material.
Cut out a circular piece from the fabric for the shoulder cape, about 24 inches in diameter. Cut a circle out of the cape fabric, tangent to the center, just big enough for your head to fit through.
Cut two triangles from the material for the hood. The triangles should be 18 inches by 18 inches. The other section of the triangle should be curved to fit the neck circle of the cape.
Cut a longer back piece if you want the hood to have a tail down the back. That is, one of the edges of the triangle should be longer than 18 inches, say 25 inches. This longer piece will form a liripipe or a tail at the back of the hood.
Sew the two triangles together along the top and back. The straight side remaining is the opening for the face. Hem the face opening or finish it with trim.
Hem the outer edges of the shoulder cape. You can hem it straight or make a dagged hem if you wish by cutting sections into the edge of the cape and hemming each section separately.
Sew the curved base of the hood to the neck opening so the face opening is toward the shorter or front side of the shoulder cape. The longer portion of the cape hangs down the back.
Add trim if you wish. Consult an historical costume book for ideas on trim.
- Middle Ages: Monks Clothes in the Middle Ages
- “Encyclopedia of Monasticism”; William M. Johnston; 2000
Patricia Neill began writing professionally in 2000, spending most of her career as managing editor of “Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly.” Neill published political satire at LewRockwell.com and other libertarian websites. She also has an essay in “National Identification Systems: Essays in Opposition." Neill holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Nazareth College of Rochester.