Forget the wedding garters that are just there for show… in Medieval times, people really needed them to hold up their hosen!
Until the late 16th Century, and even later, most people couldn't afford the expensive knitted silk stockings available to only the richest members of society.
Instead, they wore "hose" or "hosen" made of linen or wool, fitted moderately closely to their legs and cut on the bias (diagonally across the fabric). These had a tendency to creep down into your shoes, if you weren't wearing garters!
It was incredibly uncomfortable (take it from someone who has tried!)
The simple solution was to make a pair of soft leather garters. These were usually made using a small, but strong, bronze buckle, and narrow length of leather simply looped over the tongue and shank. Holes were punched at the other end, just like the notches on a belt.
This is truly one of the simplest projects you can make to add to your historical costume accessories.
You will need
Many leather garters seen in paintings have been decorated with stamped designs, hand-tooled lettering, and painted with leather paints, just like the one on the statue below.
You can do this too, if you're so inclined. Just do a little research to find out what designs are appropriate for your period costume.
There are lots of examples of garters which have been woven, instead of being made from leather. These were often tablet-woven from fine coloured silks, with patterns, lettering, or even heraldic imagery in the design.
If you have the skill or the interest to make this style of strap, they're still fairly simple to assemble.
The simplest finishing for the raw ends of the weaving was to bind the ends with stitching. Still more ornate was the put a metal strap-end on the braid at the end opposite the buckle, and finish the flat end (the bit to be stitched down over the bar of the buckle) with a similar strip of metal wrapped around and firmly riveted in place.
Here's a lovely example of a tablet woven style based on Museum of London Finds.
Further decoration could be added with beads, pearls, metal plaques or even gemstones.
Unlike the leather assembly technique, you can simply fold the braid through the buckle, allowing the tongue of the buckle to poke through the weaving. Sew the end of the braid down on the inside of the strap (at the back of the tongue). If you're using metal tipping at both ends of the braid, you could stitch it to the outside to form another decorative feature.
Buckle the straps firmly just below the knees to stop fabric creep. Don't let them tourniquet your circulation, but make sure your fabric doesn't slip down too much.
We'd love to see some of the wonderful examples of garters (especially the ornate ones) made by our readers. Please join in and inspire us with your creativity. You can ask questions, or share your photos using the form below, and tell us a little about the design and historical context, to boot!
If you have a question, or you're stuck, we welcome questions, so feel free to ask!
You can even add a photo to illustrate your problem if you like.