Medieval Clothing was one of the more important parts of any ruling empire during medieval times. During this period the Medieval Clothing styles that people wore kept changing, the main reason for this was that the king demanded it and it was easier to do as new materials such as fabric were being introduced during the Medieval period.
The king could now make his empire unique, stand out from others by using different colour combinations, and at the same time have the citizens wearing clothes that would differentiate them amongst themselves. New types of Medieval Clothing would also protect them from hot, cold or wet weather which led to medieval people being happier in general.
Tudor Clothes were very distinct in style and King Henry VIII introduced Sumptuary Laws that stipulated that poor people could not wear royal colours in their Tudor Clothing.
Read more about the Tudor Clothes >>
Learn about the Medieval Clothes that were worn during the entire Medieval Period. Discover the Medieval Clothing Worn by Royalty, Nobility, Clergy, Peasants & Much More!
Early Medieval Clothing
Early Medieval Period *c. 476 – c. 1000
High Medieval Period * c. 1000 – c. 1250
Late Medieval Period * c. 1250 – c. 1500
The simplest forms of medieval clothing appeared at the beginning of the medieval period, in the 5th century.
Anglo Saxon Clothing
Germanic tribes the Jutes, Angles and Saxons migrated to England bringing with them their customs and fashions, after this the Norman Conquest of England change how people dressed and Norman clothing which was influenced by a feudal system became more common among the people.
At the time of Norman Conquest of England in 1066, for instance, Normans wore woollen tunics made in a close-fitting style, sometimes together with a waistband to keep the tunic in place.
Early Medieval Clothing *Wool, Linen & Silk *c. 476 – c. 1000
Wool was the coarse material being used in the early medieval period for almost all Medieval Clothing garments, people were given clothes that were suited to their current social status in medieval society, slaves and poorer peasants were only able to use wool for their garments.
Medieval Peasants Clothing
Higher level people in the Peasantry class such as Reeves were allowed to wear linen, which was previously harvested from the flax plant.
Linen would now be used for Medieval Clothing instead of wool, this made the clothes more comfortable because the linen touched the skin and not the coarse wool.
Flax Plant Used to Make Linen Clothing
Silk was also discovered in this early medieval period, however it was a very expensive material to use and was only found among the very rich, for decorative purposes mainly to decorate Medieval Clothing.
Bright and expensive materials were used to make Nobilities Medieval Fashion
Medieval Clothing *High Medieval Period *c. 1000 – c. 1250
There were some very significant changes that happened to medieval clothing from the year 1100 during the Norman period of rule. Clothes were used as a way to recognize someone and to understand his standing in the Feudal system and social status among the group of people.
During this period in Europe, medieval clothing and costumes were simple and the only difference was in the small details. The types of Medieval costumes that were used were mainly divided into the clothing of Royalty, Nobility, Clergy, and Peasantry.
medieval men wore knee-length tunics for almost all activities, and men from the upper classes wore long tunics with hose and mantles or cloaks.
Short and Long Tunic
The short costumes derived from melding the everyday dress of the Roman Empire and the short tunics that were worn by invading barbarians, the long costumes were descended from melding the clothes of the upper Roman empire classes and were influenced by Byzantine dresses.
Underclothes of Medieval men’s Clothes consisted of an inner tunic or a shirt with long tight sleeves which were usually made of linen since it offered the most comfort.
Leggings that were made of separate garments for each leg were made of cloth and were worn with a tunic. On the outside, the men wore an outer tunic that reached to the knees or ankles and it was fastened to the belt of the person.
Women’s Clothing *12th Century 1101 – 1200
Women wore long tunics or gowns in this medieval period. A close fit to the body, full skirts, and long flaring sleeves was characteristic of upper-class fashion for both men and women.
The under-tunic of the women was called a chemise, which was made of linen, and over it, a long ankle-reaching tunic was worn.
Women that were working wore their ankle-length tunics strapped to their belts. All the married women who followed the Christian customs wore veils over their hair, which were stationed in the center of the hair and were then hung down in long braids that then made it possible to extend it with false hair.
An item called the wimple was introduced in England in the late medieval period that was made of a linen cloth that covered the throat and was fastened under the veil.
Late Medieval Period Clothing * c. 1250 – c. 1500
During the thirteenth century in medieval Europe, clothing became very simple for both men and women. Both male and female Medieval clothing was relatively similar and changed very slowly.
The most significant thing that started happening during this period was the dyeing of wool which continued to be the most important material for clothes.
For rich people, color was a very important factor in their clothes and when the color blue was introduced it became a very fashionable option that was adopted by the Kings of France as their heraldic color.
Medieval German Clothing
14th Century Fashion
The fourteenth century marked the start of fashion for medieval clothing for both men and women. This was started when different experiments with different types of Medieval clothes were used to dress a certain individual.
Costumes are worn by musicians and other medieval people.
The simple draped garments and the straight seams of the earlier centuries were replaced by curved seams and led to the beginnings of tailoring, this resulted in simpler designs of human clothing that could fit anyone, and not just individuals.
The introduction of fur also made an appearance and was mostly used for inner linings for warmth because this century was hit by a medieval mini-ice age and the weather was very unpleasant at times.
The men wore a few layers of clothing on them. The innermost layer of clothing was the breeches which were loose undergarments made of linen and held up by a belt.
The shirt was the next layer, made of linen. The hose was made out of wool’s main purpose was to cover the legs in bright colors. The men also wore a jacket called a doublet that was about a hip length and had buttons.
A tunic worn over the doublet was usually made of wool. The first fashionable hats were beginning to make an appearance and the previous hoods, transformed into wearable hats.
The women wore a few layers of clothing and the first layer was classed as underwear. A linen or woolen chemise, a loose garment, and the first types of bras made an appearance called the Breast Girdle.
Although underwear was invented, men and women of all classes slept naked until the late 16th century when special nightwear was invented. Over the chemise, women wore a gown called a kirtle that was foot length.
For further customization decorations and other layers of clothes would be added above the chemise and jewels started to make an appearance on women’s clothes.
For outdoors, cloaks and mantles for women made of fur were popular. All married women had to cover their heads to show that they were taken.
15th Century Medieval Clothes – Extravagant and Extreme Clothing
During the fifteenth century, fashion was characterized by a series of extremes and extravagances and the houppelandes were among the first floor sweeping costumes introduced at the beginning of this era of extreme clothes.
The most extravagant clothing during this medieval period was the revealing doublet-sand hose in Italy. Hats, cloaks, hoods, and other headdresses started to increase in importance among the people and thus were swagged, jeweled, colored, and feathered.
For the first time, people strived to be very fashionable among their surroundings, especially women, and the terms “out of date" started appearing to describe other people who wore medieval clothes that were from another time.
Medieval Clothes Summary
Medieval clothing changed dramatically during medieval times from the simple costumes of the early medieval period to the introduction of more advanced materials such as linen and silk which gave more choice later on.
Finally, we had the late medieval period where people had more choice and wealth and this led to a period where medieval clothing was seen as more of a way to show off one’s wealth and status than for any practical purpose.