Medieval men's clothing was subject to the same sumptuary laws of medieval women’s clothing. The colours of medieval men's clothing had different meanings with colours such as purple reserved for Royalty. Read more about the Medieval Mens Clothing >>
Medieval women's clothing was dictated by the sumptuary laws in later medieval periods, Medieval women were not allowed to wear the same clothing as medieval royals. Read more about the Medieval Womens Clothing >>
The clothing of the people over the course of the medieval ages evolved significantly. The beginning of the medieval period marked simpler clothing for all classes, often reflecting some influence from the days of the Roman Empire.
By the High Middle Ages, clothing had become more elaborate for the nobility but the non-nobility maintained a simpler outlook in clothing. It was only towards the late medieval period that apart from the noble class, rich merchants, burghers and other classes of the society also began to adopt elaborate dressing fashions.
During the early medieval period, the clothing of medieval men was simple and loose. Those who engaged in warfare usually wore smaller tunics and robes which fell to the knee or waist in order to allow them to wield their weapons without any hindrance.
Towards the High Middle Ages, men began to wear tighter-fitting clothes with specific emphasis on colours such as gold, purple and green. Among the standard pieces of dress which were used by most men was body linen worn as an undergarment and tunics which served as the primary dress and clocks or surcoats to serve additionally as a shield against the weather or as a formal dress. Shoes also became a regular part of the dress of medieval men by the late medieval period.
The evolution of the clothing of men in medieval period directly reflected the evolution of the European society at large. As Europe moved from warrior tribes to settled kingdoms with feudal setups and finally Empires with centralized authority, more and more men began to dress according to contemporary fashions.
At the beginning of the medieval ages, only the rich and nobles could wear proper fashion clothing and the commoners wore regular woollen clothing. By the high medieval period, a larger feudal class was able to afford well-manufactured clothing while by the late medieval period, men hailing from merchant and burgher class partook in the fashionable clothing of the day.
The clothing of the women was exceptionally simple until the end of the high medieval period. Before this era, women typically wore loose-fitting tunics and gowns with simply shifts as undergarments. For richer women, the only difference was that the gowns and tunics were made from expensive and rich materials.
By the 14th century, a notable change had occurred in women’s clothing. Women’s clothing now came to include hose, smock, surcoat, girdle and additional fashionable accessories such as a bonnet, cape and hood. During this period, different styles of headgear and hair-dressing also became a part of medieval women’s clothing.
Women’s clothing in the early medieval period comprised of simple, long and loose dresses which served only practical purposes. Towards the High Middle Ages, richer materials began to be used in the manufacture of women’s dresses.
These included silk and fur among others. Towards the end of the high medieval period, women’s dresses became more tight-fitting and began employing elements such as bodices. Bonnets, capes, hoods, shoes, new hairstyles, corset and surcoats also became regular part of women’s attire during this period and in the late medieval period.
The clothing of the children during the medieval period was fairly simple compared to the clothing of the adults. Adults had to dress according to their social status, wealth and position at the royal court but the children were free from such formalities for the time being. Still, they were dressed up in a specific style at an early age so as to ready them for the fashions of the societies culture by the time they grew up into adults.
The clothing for children in the medieval period was simpler compared to that of the adults. Children were typically dressed in frocks made of wool or linen. Boys of noble origins also wore stockings which were very common throughout Europe. Stockings were typically dyed to give them different hues, often depending upon the social class to which the boy wearing them belonged.
In some cases, an additional undergarment called braies was attached to the stockings. Young boys also wore a specific type of round cap which was made from gussets.
Young girls wore more or less the same type of dress as young boys in medieval Europe. Like the boys, they also wore wool or linen frocks, often coupled with specific caps. Tunics were an additional part of the costume of the young girls.
These tunics were typically long, loose and featured high necks. In some cases, simple embellishments such as colourful embroidery on the tunic was done. Towards the later part of the medieval era, girls also began to wear bonnets which distinguished their headgear clearly from the gussets of young boys.
Such simple clothing remained the primary costume of the girls until they grew up and then began to emulate the prevalent fashions of women’s clothing.
Unlike the clothing of the rich and nobility, the clothing of the medieval peasants simply served practical purposes. In summer, it was meant to cloth them sufficiently without hindering whatever work they did while in winter it was meant mostly to guard them against harse winter weather.
Men wore tunics made from linen or other inexpensive materials such as coarse wool hand-spun by peasant women. These tunics were usually knee-length which allowed the men to go about their work with ease. Similarly, men wore stockings made from homespun cloth to cover their legs while a coif or a hood was used to cover the head.
Women wore long gowns made from the wool they spun on their own. Since peasants could not afford dyeing their dresses, their clothing usually had grey, white or brownish outlook, depending on the materials used.
A belt was also a practical part of a medieval peasant’s clothing, used to fasten the tunic at the waist. Peasants also wore simpler and coarser shoes, made from wood or leather. In winters, cloaks made from sheepskin, woolen mittens and warm hats were used to ward off the cold.