The late medieval period in Europe marked the rise of landed aristocracy and the merchant class, in addition to the traditional nobility which had rather declined in stature by this period. The new aristocracy and merchant class meant that a fairly large portion of population could now afford not just quality dresses but dresses manufactured in contemporary fashion and style. The result was the widespread use of fashionable dresses for both men and women in the late medieval period.
Clothing of men had become refined with materials of richer quality and improvements on the original tunic-and-cloak style during the High Middle Ages. In the late medieval period, further changes in the overall outlook, design and materials of men’s clothing took place.
The most notable trend of this period was the use of tighter-fitting clothes which gave men a smarter look. It was also during this period that the so-called “Spanish figure” became fashionable in Europe, prompting men to maintain a slim physique.
The common dress worn by men of the period comprised of hose on the legs and a smart jacket worn about the undergarments. The jacket often featured pleating or skirting at the bottom. A surcoat worn on top of a tunic also remained a popular dressing choice for men.
Like the men of the medieval period, the clothing of women inclined to a trend of becoming more tight and form-fitting. The form-fitting was limited to the dress on the upper half of the body while the lower half of a dress would usually be fuller and use excessive clothing to make it flowing.
A similar contrast took place between tunics and gowns. Tunics became tighter with narrow sleeves on top of which elaborate gowns were commonly worn by women in the period. Gowns also featured unusually wide and flowing sleeves. Rich materials such as fur linings became common in the making of the gowns.
A particular emphasis was placed on the use of different kinds of headgears such as turbans and various styles of hair dressing. Unusual fashions such as leg-of-mutton sleeves and farthingale also briefly became widely popular among European women during the late medieval period. The farthingale was a circular frame which was worn and a skirt was then worn on top of it, giving it a very puffed look.
The Houppelande was a dress with a unique and unusual design that became popular in Europe during the late medieval period. The basic design of a houppelande comprised of a long and full body-length cloth with flaring sleeves. An excess of cloth was used in the making of a houppelande so that the excess cloth at the back would drag on the ground behind the wearer.
Huge flaring sleeves were a defining feature of the houppelande and were often lined with expensive materials such as fur. This dress was popular among both the men and women of Europe during late 14th and early 15th century. It was from this dress that the long academic and legal robes worn in modern-day world have evolved.