The theme for the March Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge is Protection: make something to protect yourself (from weather or injury) or your clothes (from soiling etc.).
The theme wasn’t my idea (and my apologies, but I can’t find my notes on who suggested it), but as soon as I saw it I thought “what a brilliant idea for a HSM challenge!”
Protection, after all, is the ultimate use for clothing. In its most basic form, it exists to protect us from the cold, or to shade us from the sun, to shield our skin in rough conditions, and to provide a barrier against injury in dangerous conditions.
Though it’s less common now, throughout much of history we also created garments to protect our clothing itself. So many garments were so expensive in time and cost to create and own that simpler, more economical clothes helped to shield the costlier garments from wear and use.
Examples of garments that protect us are cloaks, coats, gloves, hats, scarves and wraps worn for warmth; sunbonnets and large hats for sun-protection; functional armour; pudding caps for little ones; heavy work trousers and skirts.
The most obvious garment that protects another garment is the apron, but many types of practical undergarments are also meant to protect the outer-garments from our own skin. And, of course, in addition to aprons, other forms of smocks and tunics were worn over better clothes by various professions throughout history. Things like gaiters (gaiters are practical, spats are decorative), puttee and the long cuffs worn by doctors and nurses are all garments that protect other garments (and, in the case of gaiters & puttee, also the wearer)
For this challenge, a garment that is for protection should have protection as its main function. Decorative papier mache armour of the late Renaissance was derived from a practical item for protection, but would be essentially useless at actually withstanding a blow from a weapon. Hats reduced to such a size, and so laden with decoration, that they do nothing to protect the head, keep it warm, or shield the face from the sun are clearly no longer about protection, nor are aprons of such elaborate trimmings and diminutive dimensions that they would expose most of the garment they are worn over to soiling and harm.