Anglo-Saxon clothing remained the most visible aspect of the Anglo-Saxon culture in England from the 5th to 11th centuries. During this period, Anglo-Saxons transformed from nomadic, migrating tribes to those settled down in specific locations and evolving into smaller kingdoms which eventually morphed into a unified and centralised Anglo-Saxon kingdom. These changes were reflected in the clothing of the Anglo-Saxon people during the different phases of the six centuries of their rule.
During the earliest period of Anglo-Saxon rule in England, leading noblemen who assumed kingship dressed quite similar to the rest of the society. Over time, the clothing of the king became more elaborate. For instance, by the 8th century, Anglo-Saxon kings were wearing leather tunic with elaborate decorations such as rings sewn on it to reflect their social status.
Kings typically also wore a significantly long cloaks which came to use expensive silk trimmings by the 9th century. A long and broad iron sword, often ceremonial, was also carried by the King as a part of his clothing. By the 10th century, cloaks worn by kings had grown more elaborate and used cords and tassels to give them a regal look.
Men’s clothing in the Anglo-Saxon society was typically of two types: clothing worn by the commoners and that worn by those of noble origins. Commoners usually wore tunic made of coarse wool and in some cases, woollen trousers as well.
Men of nobility wore trousers or leggings, better-made tunics with cloaks on top. The cloaks worn by the rich were typically made of fur and fastened in place by the use of intricate metal brooches. Trousers were typically worn when a man used a shorter tunic or cloak.
Leggings served as additional clothing for the legs, often serving the purpose of keeping the lower body warm in cold weather. The use of belts was also common among men as was the use of leather shoes, hats and gloves.
Women in the Anglo-Saxon society wore simpler dresses in comparison, although their dresses were typically of brighter colours. Women typically wore undergarments made of linen on top of which a woollen gown was worn which fell to the ankles.
In the cases of the women of the royal families or other rich families, more than one gown was worn. In such cases, an inner gown was worn which fell down below the ankles and had longer sleeves and on top of it, a smaller gown with no sleeves was worn.
Women also wore mantles and cloaks as the outer garments of their dress. Following the widespread conversion of the Anglo-Saxon society to Christianity, the use of a head-covering also became a common part of women’s clothing.
The clergymen in Anglo-Saxon society were initially forbidden from wearing brightly-coloured cloaks. Their main garment comprised of very brief twill cloaks which were of waist-length or slightly longer. By the 11th century, the clothing of clergymen had become more elaborate. At this time, clergymen wore chasuble, dalmatics and special hats.