Anyway, I'm in picture collecting made thing to decide how to treat the hems. I don't want to do heavy embroidery as that seems to be a more ecclesiastical thing, and I also don't really want to do a full lining as the wool is quit heavy and the lining would just make the whole thing unbearable. I'm leaning towards a wide interior facing of some sort, or maybe just a narrow edge binding in silk or really smooth linen. So far, the narrow binding seems like a more plausible finish than the facing, though the facing would give me a buffer between the back of my neck and the wool of the cloak, not that wool bothers me much.
First, we have Gerard David's Marriage at Cana. This picture makes me happy for a couple of reasons - there is a mantle on the bride, yes, AND Raymond's Quiet Press has a lovely reproduction of her cloak clasp, so that's a bonus. But the lady in the front with the funny white hood (yay for a white hood! The white hood is fun too) has a paternoster in her belt, and the seated woman facing her has a Perugia style towel used a lap napkin and a nifty circlet on her head - all things I'm working on in one way or another. Plus there's some fun silly hat action going. But back to the mantle. It's clearly lines in white, but it sort of looks like the white lining is coming around the red fabric of the body and binding the edge a bit, which suggests the binding idea might be on the right track.
The funeral brass of Joan Skerne shows a similar style mantle with a similar style closure (and another spiff hat), but there's not enough detail on the brass to tell how the edge of the mantle was finished. There really isn't enough detail any of the brasses I've been able to find to tell how the edge might have been finished, except to rule out major embroidery. So I tent to think women wore simpler mantles. It certaily makes scence to me that the sort of things that have survived, namely church vestments and the odd ceremonial rode, would be rather on the exceptional side and not the kind of thing one would wear every day, even if one was wealthy. The way the mantle hangs on Joan suggests to me that it is at least somewhat shaped through the shoulders though - there is certainly neck shaping. The cone neck you would end up with without shaping the neck would really get in the way of the hats and veils fashionable at the time.
We then have another guy from the Manesse Codex, who is a man but is wearing a cloak with a contrast lining and what appears to be some sort of contrast binding or trim a the edge. It's a little to hard to tell if this is artistic license, done so you can see the folds of the cloth, or actually a bit of detail thrown in for good measure. The fellow in the fur lined cloak also seems to have a bit of a white edging on his, which might just be the fur lining but could be some kind of binding/edging. The detail isn't great in these manuscripts though so sometimes it's hard to tell what the artist is or is not getting at. I've got to do a bit more digging around but from the what I can remember of the other painting I have seen, there's nothing much that's conclusive one way or the other. I thought I saw something that looked pretty clearly like a line of trim or cord on outside of the mantle, just inside from the edge of the front opening, but I can't find the painting just now (figures).
Doing something to the edge is definitely necessary, both to protect the wool from wear and to stabilize it. It may be thick and well-fulled but it still wants to stretch itself all out of shape and a bit of something less mooshy will help the front edge keep it's shape and hang neatly without going all lettucy on me. I just want to make sure it's as authentic a finish as it can be, somewhere in the back of my head I harbor not-so-secret thoughts about doing more serious reenacting one of these days (the kind with actual authenticity standards) and I don't want to have to re-do my whole kit if I can avoid it. Plus, authenticity is fun!