Peasants Clothing

Early Medieval clothing for peasants and the poorest people in medieval society was made from coarse wool, linen and hemp cloth. The clothes that peasants wore were usually uncomfortable and dull looking as they were not dyed or treated in the same way as clothing for wealthy Medieval people. A basic tunic was the common working dress of the medieval peasant plowman working the fields in medieval times.

Medieval peasants clothing in Europe

Southern European peasants wore similar but different clothes to that of their Northern European counterparts because of the different climates. Northern European peasants usually worked in damp, muddy and cold conditions on their farms and dressed accordingly. Medieval peasants would usually wear a tunic, short breeches or sometimes long trousers depending on the severity of the weather. The longer trousers that were worn by medieval peasants were usually tied with thongs. The shoes worn by medieval peasants also differed in the North and South of Europe, with Northern medieval peasants wearing more substantial footwear.

“The man wears rough clothes full of holes; his wife has bare bleeding feet; and the baby is wrapped in rags” – Poem by the famous medieval poet Piers Plowman.

peasants shoes

reconstructed medieval peasants shoes

Medieval peasant shoes

Medieval shoes of peasants were normally made of animal skin such as calfskin or goatskin, shoe laces were made from leather. Medieval peasants usually repaired their own clothing and shoes when they were worn out, the soles of worn out shoes would often be replaced. Different materials were tried out for shoe soles during the medieval period including wooden soles that were similar to clogs.

Medieval peasants boots

Medieval peasants also wore longer boots to protect their legs and feet in very wet and muddy conditions, some better prepared peasants were able to wear knee length boots and gaiters which would be tied to their linen trousers to keep them from flopping downwards. Although Medieval peasants could wear boots or shoes it was still very common for the poorest people in medieval society to have no protection on their legs or feet.

Medieval women | peasants clothing

Medieval women would often stay at home to look after the household and run the farm while their husbands were away fighting, especially in early medieval times. During this time Medieval peasant women would make clothing for the entire family, and they invested a lot of their time spinning and weaving in the main room. A medieval peasant women would wear a long shift made out of wool or linen, over this they would wear a sleeveless woollen tunics, this was usually secured at the shoulder with straps or brooches. The brooches would usually have chains hanging down from them which medieval peasant women could attach useful items to such as keys.

Medieval peasants clothing accessories

Medieval peasants clothing in early medieval times was made without pockets to put things in, this led to there being a wide choice of pouches or purses being available that were usually made out of cloth or possibly leather which medieval peasants could put their small important items or precious items in such as bronze and silver coins.

Medieval peasants headgear

Hats were not a very common sight in the early medieval world, however in very hot countries broad brimmed straw sun hats could be worn to keep out the Sun. Conical hats that had the peak flopping forward to the front were also worn, they were basic cloth type caps who’s style was taken from early Greek designs, called the “Phrygian” style in ancient Greece.

High and Late peasants dress

Medieval peasants clothing did improve from the early medieval period during high and late medieval periods, however medieval people were still desperately poor and their clothing reflected this status. Even though drastic changes had occurred in the improvement of textile technology from the early medieval period, medieval peasants clothing did not keep up with these improvements and only wealthier medieval people could afford clothing made from materials such as silk.

Peasants Costume Labelled

image of peasants costumes labelled

Peasants clothing | Tunics

Despite the improvements in textile technology and more materials being available from foreign lands medieval peasants clothing continued to be fairly basic. Common labourers and villeins wore tunics and hose (breeches/stockings) made from coarse homespun cloth.

Peasant clothing for men

Medieval peasant men continued to wear basic clothing and men of all classes started to wear capuchon’s which were hoods that fitted tightly around the person’s head. Capuchon’s extended down the back and over the shoulders which gave it the look of a collar or cape. Round linen caps were also very popular with peasants and would be tied under the chin. Peasants shoes would be commonly made out of materials such as cloth, felt or leather.

Peasant clothing for women

Clothing for Medieval peasant women had not improved much either and women still wore coarse uncomfortable garment such as long gowns that were made of a home spun cloth and hose.

Peasant clothing | The Black Death

Surprisingly the devastating black death which killed many peasants and elites in medieval times also led to the decline of the feudal system. As so many people were killed by the Black Death this gave the peasants who were basically the workforce in medieval times more bargaining power against the ruling classes, this led to improvements in living conditions for peasants as they would have more coin to spend. Peasants were now able to buy the better quality clothing that had become available, and many peasants had much more clothes of better quality to wear.

Peasant clothing facts:

  • Knee length tunics were the most practical form of dress for Medieval peasants
  • Tunics were made of very coarse wool, linen or hemp materials.
  • Early medieval clothing for peasants was not dyed and didn’t have much styling
  • Northern European peasants wore warmer clothing such as breeches or long trousers
  • Early Peasant shoes were made of calfskin or goatskin
  • Some Medieval peasant shoes had wooden soles like clogs
  • Knee length boots and gaiters were also worn by medieval peasants
  • Some early medieval women would make home spun clothes for their peasant families
  • Medieval peasants did not have pockets and used pouches or purses made of cloth or leather
  • Hats were not commonly worn in medieval times
  • Peasants wore shoes made out of cloth felt or leather in later medieval times
  • A Capuchon was type of medieval hood that looked like a cape and was popular fashion clothing for peasants
  • The Black Death led to an improvement in peasants clothing as they could now afford better clothing
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