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A kirtle (sometimes called cotte, cotehardie) is a garment that was worn by men and women in the Middle Ages. It eventually became a one-piece garment worn by women from the late Middle Ages into the Baroque period. The kirtle was typically worn over a chemise or smock, which acted as a slip, and under the formal outer garment or gown/surcoat.
Kirtles were part of fashionable attire into the middle of the sixteenth century, and remained part of country or middle-class clothing into the seventeenth century.
Kirtles began as loose garments without a waist seam, changing to tightly fitted supportive garments in the 14th century. Later kirtles could be constructed by combining a fitted bodice with a skirt gathered or pleated into the waist seam. Kirtles could lace up the front, back or side-back, with some rare cases of side lacing, all depending on the fashion of the day/place and what kind of gown was to be worn over it. Kirtles could be embellished with a variety of decorations including gold, silk, tassels, and knobs.
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- The Passionate Shepherd to His Love poem by Christopher Marlowe, in the 1590s.