Although the Normans had found a large area of land to settle in Normandy from the 10th century onwards, they were far from being a wealthy society. This was reflected in the clothing of the Norman men and women, even at the time when William the Conqueror invaded England.
The Norman dress during this period was rather plain and simple, meant to serve practical purposes and mostly free from any embellishments. However, as the Normans took over England and rose in power and influence, the clothing trends began to change and Normans began to wear more elaborately woven and embellished clothes.
Although the general dress of the Normans comprised cloak, tunic, gown and shoes, much like the common medieval dress in other European regions, it evolved different embellishments of its own over time, especially in England.
At the time of William’s conquest of England in 1066, it was common among the Normans to wear a close-fitting, plain tunics made from wool and a cloak on top of it. Another type of tunic was occasionally worn by Norman men which was of a looser type, that clung to the body with a band near the waist.
On their legs, Norman men wore drawers made from linen or wool. They also wore woollen socks and leather shoes. The cloak worn by Normans was of a specific type, fastened on the right shoulder with a brooch or metal ring. As headgear, it was popular among the Normans to wear a skull cap.
Soon after settlement in England, Norman men in England began wearing longer tunic with cuts on both sides. Embroidered cuffs also became a common feature in the clothing of Norman nobility. By the end of 11th century, Norman men were also wearing ankle garters to complement their leather shoes.
The clothing of a Norman women typically comprised of a gown, cloak and a chemise. The use of a headdress such as a wimple was also common among Norman women. The chemise was usually a white garment which was worn close to the body. The chemise was exceptionally long and fell all the way to the feet in length.
The gown worn by the women was loose, slightly tighter around the shoulders and fell well below the knee. The neck opening of the gown was occasionally ornamented with fine needlework. Norman women also wore a cloak on top of the gown which was clasped with a brooch positioned in the centre or towards the right shoulder.
The cloak of the Norman women evolved over time so that it was now fastened with a brooch in the centre. Bands ran from the brooch around the back and the shoulders of the wearer, giving the cloak a more collected and definite appearance. The use of lacing in the dress also began around the beginning of the 12th century and soon became a common aspect of the clothing of Norman women.