The Anglo Saxon period in England stretches from 5th century to the 11th century Norman Conquest of England. During this long period, the Anglo Saxon dress underwent a number of changes.
In the early Anglo Saxon society, people generally wore similar dresses and clothes weren’t a common distinguishing element for different classes. Towards the 10th and 11th centuries, clothes came to represent the social status of the wearer as well.
Wool and linen were among the most common materials used for making clothes. Silk was occasionally used but was mostly limited to the rich.
Anglo Saxon Clothes for Men
The Tunic was a common part of men’s clothing in the Anglo Saxon society. The poorest men, usually the slaves and the peasants on the lowest rung of society, could afford only the tunic.
Peasants who were better off complemented the woollen tunic with woollen trousers. Those who were another step above in the social hierarchy, usually the nobility, wore a linen undertunic together with the woollen tunic and trousers.
Leather shoes were quite common among Anglo Saxon men and they were usually worn all the time, save during farming. Some evidence exists that Anglo Saxon men also used a kind of cap or headgear as well.
From 5th to 11th centuries, clothing became more refined and elaborate, comprising of many different pieces of dress including leggings, cloaks and belts.
Anglo Saxon Clothes for Women
The clothes for women in the Anglo Saxon period comprised mainly of a woollen gown that fell all the way to the ankles. More well-off women would wear a more elaborate dress, often comprising of an inner gown and an outer gown which was looser.
Women from wealthier families also wore linen underdress to complement this dress. In later Anglo Saxon periods, women would wear a cloak over the dress and a mantle to top it. After the conversion of the Anglo Saxon society to Christianity, women also began wearing a kind of head-covering.
Anglo Saxon Clothes for the King
The clothes of the Anglo Saxon kings during the early period were fairly similar to the general clothes for men in the Anglo Saxon society.
A distinguishing feature of the king’s clothing was the use of leather tunic upon which rings were sewn. The king also wore a longer and more elaborate cloak. By the 9th century, silk was extensively used in the clothing of the Anglo Saxon kings.
Anglo Saxon Clothes for the Clergy
The clergy wore simple clothes during the early Anglo Saxon period. An 8th century historical source reveals that the clergy in Britain were forbidden from wearing any brightly coloured clothes or indulging any other extravagance in clothing. The clothing itself comprised of rather short twill cloaks and linen stockings.
By the 11th century, clergy had evolved its own distinct clothes. These comprised of a specifically-shaped tunic called dalmatics, a special vestment called chasuble and unique hats. Such dress uniquely identified a clergymen in the Anglo Saxon society. Humbler members of the clerical class still wore plain and rough clothes.