A Knights Tale avaNot all of the historical and quasi-historical films and series offer period-accurate stage costumes, but it doesn’t mean they’re not good-looking and interesting to learn about. Take A Knight's Tale movie. It’s called “quasi-medieval”, since it is a modern adaptation rather than an accurate historical film. Thus, the costumes used in it are stylized and re-modeled medieval outfits used to hint at the Middle Ages rather than be replicas of actual medieval clothing. Still, it’s fun to analyze them, so let’s do it.


About various other movie costumes from different periods of history you can read here: Historical movie costumes in popular TV shows. Where to find good period-accurate stage costumes?


This material is based on the video from YouTube channel “Costume CO”.

A Knight's Tale is a 2001 American quasi-medieval adventure comedy-romance movie.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

The film is intentionally anachronistic and it's not meant to be historically accurate. It equates to modern adaptations of Shakespeare, more accessible to modern audiences.

The costumes for A Knight's Tale were designed by Caroline Harris.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

The writer and director Brian Helgeland said in an interview that his team “… wanted to create a period piece that stayed fair to the period but felt contemporary and the audience to feel like they had been invited in and not overwhelmed by period costumes, obscure speech and antique music”.

With this in mind, Brian Helgeland brought in the 1970s decade to rip off the 1370s setting, stating in an interview that “I wanted to make the Middle Ages feel as alive as they were to the people who inhabited them”.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

According to an interview, he encouraged his various department heads to follow his lead and to take liberties and flights of fancy that are sometimes six centuries wide.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

Production designer Tony Burrough and costume designer Caroline Harris conceived a color palette that subtly becomes richer as William's fortunes grow.

In developing a look for the male band of medieval misfits, Caroline Harris said, “Brian and I were inspired a great deal by the look of the Rolling Stones on their 1972 tour.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

Tony Burrough added that “There is historical reality, then there's the script, the director and contemporary perceptions…” “…often all working against each other. You must blend it all together”.

Roland and Wat

Roland and Wat, played by Mark Addy and Alan Tudyk, were the former squires to Sir Ector. They are part of the scheme, although reluctantly at first, to help their friend William Thatcher assume the title of Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein, which enables them to participate in the tournaments.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

At the beginning of the story, William, Wat, and Roland are dressed in buttery-yellow linen shirts and trousers and leather vests and tunics. In their initial ruse, William needs one more pass to win the tournament and collect their winnings, so their vests are faintly stenciled, perhaps sun bleached, with Sir Ector sigil of a white stag.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

After the trio collects their winnings and Will receives them to use the money to pay for the entry fee at the next tournament, where he impersonates a fictional knight, they realize that they cannot proceed with Sir Ector sigil or else they might be found out.

 

A Knights Tale10

 

In a scene cut from the movie, Will suggests that they use the phoenix as their emblem, since the phoenix represents new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.

In a Complete Guide to Heraldry, the mythological phoenix is frequently found as a crest. It is always represented as a demi eagle issuing from flames of fire.

Wat’s tunic is stenciled with three phoenix's on the front – the large one represents knight William, while the two smaller represent his squires Roland and Wat.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

In this scene, Wat is wearing a robe that we see Sir Ector wearing in a flashback scene, which reinforces the idea that they repurposed some of his old clothes.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

As the team begins to win more attorneys, they get newer clothes in richer colors. Roland is handy with a needle, so it is possible that they bought some fabric while touring and were able to create these new looks.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

The sigil is also more pronounced, and they have leather laces on their tunics.

In the final act, when Will has been knighted as Sir William, the green in their tunics is even richer and instead of the sigil being stenciled, it is now a black applique trimmed in gold.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

William Thatcher

William Thatcher, the hero of the story, is played by Heath Ledger who is a peasant who takes on the title of Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein after his knight Sir Ector suddenly dies.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

It's likely that this velvet & leather patchwork vest that William wears in the first act is from Sir Ector's trunk of clothes.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

Initially, William wears the dead knight’s steel tournament armor, including all of the underbits.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

It's likely the aging Sir Ector has been attending tourneys in this dated armor for some time, as Count Adhemar makes fun of the style.

Out of fear that they might recognize Sir Ector’s sigil, the team changes it to the three-phoenix emblem, which you can see here on Williams shield.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

According to Best of Sicily Magazine, “While coats of arms were certainly seen during the latter Crusades, it seems that they originated at tournaments, where they made it easier for both the heralds and the spectators to identify the participants”.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

According to their website, Rod Vass at the UK based Armordillo Ltd. created all of the principal and stunt armors in steel and polyurethane, including William’s two sets of armor.

While the styles of these armors are mostly historically accurate, they are a good 100 years later than the story itself.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes
Maximilian I Jousting Armor, 1494, Kunsthistorisches Museum


You can see in these publicity images that the armor itself is basic steel and there are no fancy embellishments or scrollwork, likely because Sir Ector was very practical or possibly he didn't have a lot of money.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

Underneath the armor, William is wearing a quilted gambeson and some additional leather protections.

But like we see in many medieval shows, there's no leg armor and there's no protection under the arms.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

But in the joust, his horse has armor that covers his legs and privates. By the way, Armordillo Ltd. also created all of the horse armor.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

The gambeson, like we see here, was a garment typically made from layers of linen.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

He's also wearing some leather coverings over his linen trousers.

Here's a close-up of the leather gorget that Will is wearing under his armor.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

The other fellow in this picture (on the very left) is wearing a bevor, which is a piece of armor that, together with the helmet, is meant to protect the jaw and throat.

Kate makes Will a set of lighter armor to give him an advantage in the tournaments. Like Kate herself, the armor is no nonsense, without any added embellishments, like we see in the other night's competition armor.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

This part of Will's armor is called the “grandguard”.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

According to The Art Institute of Chicago, by the 16th century, armorers devised this steel reinforcement as a replacement for wooden shields. The grandguard was bolted down firmly over the left side of the breastplate.

 

Bevor and Grandguard, 1560, South German
Bevor and Grandguard, 1560, South German

 

Will's helmet is similar to the armet-style helmet pictured here. This style of helmet was essentially restricted to the fully armored man at arms.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

Armetca, 1510-15, possibly British or Flemish, from The Met
Armetca, 1510-15, possibly British or Flemish, from The Met

 

Here are some close-ups of Will's armor, both the steel plate and the polyurethane armor.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

The complete set of Heath Ledger's polyurethane armor sold at auction for $6,000.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

Will wears this ensemble to the ball where they all danced to Bowie's Golden Years.

A great look for Will is this outfit. It really suited Heath Ledger to wear this off-white linen cropped jacket with the detachable sleeves.

 

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

A Knight's Tale movie costumes

 

And it’s only logical, since Will is the white knight vs Count Adhemar who dresses mostly in black and brown.

 

A Knight's Tale film costumes

 

Kate

Being a blacksmith, Kate wears practical clothing – a tunic with a brown suede surcoat laced on the sides. When she's working, she wears an apron.

 

A Knight's Tale film costumes

 

As she becomes one of the crew, her colors also align with the team.

 

A Knight's Tale film costumes

 

This is a nice little detail on her cuffs. Just a little bit of leather. And this picture on the right is her costume from an auction.

 

A Knight's Tale film costumes

 

Chaucer

Paul Bettany plays English poet and author Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the real-life characters in the film.

 

A Knight's Tale film costumes

 

When doing research on Chaucer, director Brian Helgeland said that there was a six-month period of Chaucer's life when no one knew where he was. So he set the film during that time frame.

 

Geoffrey Chaucer, circa 1340-1400
Geoffrey Chaucer, circa 1340-1400

 

Actor Paul Bettany did a recent interview with InterReviewed where he revealed that he wasn't too uncomfortable being buck naked in not just one scene but two. In the interview, he said that the costume department offered him a day-glo yellow sock for his privates.

 

A Knight's Tale film costumes

 

He told the wardrobe team, “The one factor extra embarrassing than strolling down the road bare in entrance of individuals is… strolling down the road with a day-glo sock on your penis”.

When poor Chaucer does finally get some clothes, it's assumed that this leather surcoat with the fur collar is also a hand-me-down from Sir Ector, the dead knight that keeps on giving.

 

A Knight's Tale film costumes

 

In the same interview with InterReviewed, Paul Bettany said that his long coat “To not in any means deride the jacket – the jacket's marvelous, in a medieval-pop comedy. However, I don't assume, strolling down the streets of New York Metropolis – it doesn't really feel like a sensible choice for me, sartorially talking”.

Clothing-wise Chaucer also gets an upgrade. His second look is this slightly-below-the-knee tan leather coat faced with brown fur along the center front, on the cuffs, and collar.

 

A Knight's Tale film costumes

 

And the sleeves are slashed so that they could be worn as hanging sleeves as well.

 

A Knight's Tale film costumes

 

And the coat is also slashed at the back up to the waist and trimmed with more brown fur.

A Knight's Tale film costumes

 

Count Adhemar

The antagonist of the story is Count Adhemar, who is played by Rufus Sewell.

 

A Knight's Tale film costumes

 

If Count Adhemar is based upon any historical figure, it's likely Louis I, the French Duke of Anjou, who reigned from 1360 until his death in 1384. The guy only lived for 24 years.

 

Louis I, French Duke of Anjou
Louis I, French Duke of Anjou

 

Adhemar has just 2 costumes + a set of armor.

His lightly padded asymmetrical gambeson appears to be made of grainy brown leather with black contrasting leather and trimmed in velvet.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

Rufus Sewell’s custom-made costume went up for auction, although it appears to be made of cloth and not leather. This item sold at auction for only $54.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

For the ball, Adhemar wears a black velvet surcoat with hanging brown sleeves. There is a fine gold trim detail and, you can't really see it in the film, but the fabric has a geometric texture.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

Adhemar's most striking costume, though, is his nearly black suit of armor.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

Rufus Sewell said in a behind-the-scenes interview, “I let the armor do the action for me, it's pure steel. I don't know how many pounds it weighs but the helmet's about 30 pounds”. “… well, it's 100 degrees outside and you regularly have to have water poured on you and you watch the steam go pssst…”

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

Costume designer Caroline Harris said, “The armor is not sheepskin, y’know it will never be comfortable… When you lift your visor you get a genuine sigh of a tortured person, which is great”.

While we don't always see it, this piece of additional armor is called the “wrapper”.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

According to The Art Institute of Chicago, the purpose of the wrapper is to reinforce the lower helmet visor and the guard brace to strengthen the left shoulder.

 

Elements of an Armor Garniture, 1573, South German, Augsburg
Elements of an Armor Garniture, 1573, South German, Augsburg

 

The armor was custom-made by Armodillo Ltd.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

It's a natural steel color and not black like it appears on the screen. And you can also see all the beautiful details on the armor, which are hard to make out in the movie.

The full set of armor pictured here went to auction and sold for an undisclosed amount. According to the Heritage Auction listing, this costume included a two-piece set of undergarment shirt and trousers painted to resemble chainmail.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

The Black Prince

James Purefoy plays Sir Thomas Colville, later to be revealed Edward the Black Prince, a real historical figure.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

According to Myarmory, the nickname Black Prince, first seen in the 16th century, seemingly comes from Edward's choice in armor colors and from his use of black in heraldic devices, though some claim it resulted from his foul temper.

 

Edward, the Black Prince, between 1430 and 1440
Edward, the Black Prince, between 1430 and 1440

 

Compared to William and Adhemar, Edward has the most elaborate armor of the three, although not so ostentatious as to give his identity away.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

This is a guild bronze effigy of the Black Prince in his full armor and surcoat depicting his coat of arms.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes
The Black Prince, Canterbury, Cathedral

 

The Historic Environment Scotland Blog states that “A knight would wear a metal helmet and a heavy suit of armor, which could take an hour to put on. Over that, he wore a brightly colored surcoat displaying his coat of arms. Each night had a different coat of arms, so he could be recognized while wearing a helmet”.

 

Edward, the Black Prince & King Edward III, 1390
Edward, the Black Prince & King Edward III, 1390

 

James Purefoy's full set of jousting armor went up for auction but remained unsold.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

Here’s a lovely costume of Edward. It includes a brown leather coat with a silk screen print of his coat of arms, although it's toned down from the vibrant colors.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

The collar and cuffs are trimmed in brown fur.

Jocelyn

Lady Jocelyn is William's love interest and she's played by American actress Shannon Sossamon.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

This is a nice Jocelyn’s costume. It's not only beautiful but the gown with a matching overvest and headpiece suits her very well. The embroidery along the center front opening is lovely.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

This costume has been criticized online, though it's a solid one. There's some Asian influences and the hat is definitely a statement piece. This is a hand-crafted period hat with a straw crown and a brim edged in gold thread.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

This overgown made from what looks like Shantung silk, again, appears to be Asian-inspired. There's a beautiful ombre effect on the skirt and the bell sleeves with golden panel inserts.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

She wears it with this delicate filigree gemstone necklace.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

Interestingly, the costume is currently available on eBay for 2,795 pounds or approximately $3,800.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

Here's another very pretty gown that Jocelyn wears in her chambers.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

The gold necklace is probably of her heraldry but it’s hard to have a good look at it.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

This gown is very similar, and she wears the same necklace with her sigil.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

The next costume is gorgeous. It's a gold chevron coat with a contrasting purple trim worn with a matching purple split skirt.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

Here it is from the back.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

Jocelyn wears this yellow silk gown at the end of the movie. According to the production notes, the embroidered Chinese silk dress worn in the scene was a century old.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

This costume is beautifully made. According to the production notes, it's an off-white bell-shaped coat cut from handmade felt and hand-embroidered with Jocelyn's heraldry in gold thread.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

This costume is one of the worst Jocelyn's outfits. The color's fine, it's very similar to the embroidered Chinese gown, but the construction is abysmal. And it's completely unflattering on the actor.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

And lastly, Jocelyn's ball gown. It’s also not among the favorite costumes.

 

A Knight's Tale stage costumes

 

Firstly, the color's dreadful. There is already so much chartreuse in the scene, and then, they put it on the leading lady – she should have had her own color.

Next, she's meant to coordinate with William but instead, she just clashes with him. And William even upstages her.

The silhouette is unflattering, too.

A beautiful girl deserves a beautiful costume.

And that’s it with the stage costumes pictured in A Knight's Tale film.


(c) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5I7AvEDwcKw


About various other movie costumes from different periods of history you can read here: Historical movie costumes in popular TV shows. Where to find good period-accurate stage costumes?

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