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A padded garment worn under most types of medieval armor to absorb the shock of blows and prevent chafing and what SCA combatants affectionately refer to as 'armor bites'. Almost universal for SCA armored combatants, because it helps absorb the shock of blunt rattan weapons especially well, and also provides a matrix on which to attach other types of armor either by straps and buckles attached to the gambeson or more commonly through the use of arming points. It readily meets the standard set in the SCA armor rules, frequently repeated, of 'hard over soft'.

Another type of garment that provides a matrix for attaching leg armor is known as a pourpoint.

The typical gambeson is mid-thigh length, with wool, poly-fiber, cotton or even linen batting quilted between two layers of stout fabric. Linen and trigger fabric are both popular shells for the construction of a gambeson. Linen tends to breathe better while trigger lends more durability to the garment. The garment has long sleeves, similarly quilted. Sometimes these are separate and tied to the torso portion of the garment at the shoulder, or have openings at the armpit for air circulation. Usually gambesons button or lace up the front. When crotch-length, this garment is usually known as an arming doublet.
Linen batting, though hard to find for many, should be sought over all other batting materials because it wicks moisture, and breathes the most. Cotton and wool batting sit on equal par I think, most fighters think that cotton feels cooler than wool, but soaks up perspiration whereas wool wicks it away which can help the wearer feel cooler in the long run. Cotton batting is markedly cheaper than wool batting and more readily available. Last on the list of batting material sits artificial poly-fibers. Poly-fiber should be avoided. Poly doesn't wick moisture and when a fighter's persiration is held against his or her body by his gambeson, chafing and itching from heat rashes ensues. Not to mention poly is a non-period material and thus it detracts from the authenticity of the gambeson.
A quick-cheap-easy gambeson can be constructed using a quilted moving blanket like those you would get from moving van rental companyies like U-Haul or certain hardware or furniture stores. Another school of gambeson construction suggests using old ready-to-be-thrown-out cotton terrycloth towels for cheap and durable batting.

The Historic Gambeson

The term "Gambeson" like most of the armoring terms used comes from the French term for this item and the modern usage refers to a wide variety of garments. A padded cote was worn under armour or as armour itself throughout many periods and cultures of the middle ages. Extant arming coats that have been found are most frequently made of silk or linen and do not have the popular modern venting holes in the arms.

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