Byzantine Clothing

The Byzantine Empire’s culture evolved as a result of many diverse influences. These included the rich heritage of the Roman Empire that the Byzantine Empire inherited oriental influences from the East as well as from the South.

Map of the Byzantine Empire

Byzantine Empire

As a result, Byzantine clothing stood in contrast to Roman clothing in that is inclined more towards ornamentation and embellishment of the outlook with rich colours, expensive fabrics, beautifully made trimmings, gold works, jewels and other elements.

Byzantine Clothing

Byzantine Clothing

Byzantine people also wore very well-made shoes, and hats and utilised a wide range of excellent-quality textiles in the manufacture of their clothing.

Byzantine Medieval Shoes

Byzantine Shoes

Byzantine Clothing *Royalty

The formal clothing of an Emperor comprised of the imperial loros which was a special costume combining the Roman and Christian influences of the Empire.

Justinianus I Famous Byzantine Kings

The logos for the Emperor comprised of a long strip of a rich cloth which dropped all the way to the feet in the front and was longer at the back so that the additional portion of the cloth at the back was pulled to the front and carried in a fold on a bent arm.

Example of Byzantine Clothing as worn by The Byzantine Emperor Honorius

Byzantine Emperor Clothing

The dress of an Empress was similar except that the additional cloth at the back was pulled to the front and tucked under a belt that the Empress wore.

In the later period, the Empress’ loros began to feature exceptionally wide sleeves and highly intricate collars which were embellished with jewels, pearls and rich embroidery.

Byzantine Medieval Jewelry

Byzantine ring typical of the design of medieval Jewelry during this period

Byzantine Military Clothing

The clothing of the military generals and leaders in the Byzantine Empire remained unusually close to the original military clothing of Romans in the Roman Empire.

Officers in the Byzantine army wore a brief tunic with leather straps at the fringes and similar leather straps covering the upper arms.

Varangian Guard of The Byzantine Empire

Varangian Guard of The Byzantine Empire

On top of the tunic, the officers wore a breastplate of armour on the battlefield. Boots and sandals complemented this military dress. Specific emphases were made on footwear since they were practically the most important part of a soldier’s dressing while marching. A form of head-cloth was also worn by the Byzantine soldiers under their helmets.

Byzantine Shield of Byzantine Army

Byzantine Soldiers Scale Armour

Byzantine Female Clothing

Given the great share of Christianity in the identity and establishment of the Empire, clothing in the Empire also reflected the edicts of the religion. Women’s clothing, in particular, followed the requirements of modesty as laid down by contemporary ecclesiastical authorities.

Byzantine Art

In general, women wore a long dress that fell to the ankles and had a fairly high collar. In public, women wore a wide variety of head-clothes. Headgear included veils, caps, simple cloth tied in the style of a turban and circular sewed wrappings.

Like most other portions of the Byzantine society, women also wore a wide range of footwear. This included sandals, boots reaching up the middle of the calves and slippers. Red was the most common colour for women’s footwear.

Byzantine Shoes

Shoes are an exceptional part of Byzantine clothing in that people in the Empire used elaborate and excellently made shoes of different kinds, shapes and colours at a time when shoes weren’t exactly a top priority in the rest of Europe when it came to dressing.

Byzantine Medieval Shoes

Byzantine Shoes from the early medieval period of history

The colours of the shoes in the Empire denoted the status of the wearer. Red shoes marked the Emperor, for instance. Shoes were gilded with gold work for the nobility and the royalty, sometimes studded with jewels and pearls as well.

Byzantine Clothing Fast Facts

  • Byzantine clothing included the use of many different kinds of shoes.
  • The colour of the shoes reflected the social status and rank of the wearer.
  • Byzantine courts required the use of different dresses and costumes for different occasions.
  • Women in the Byzantine Empire dressed modestly, using different kinds of head-coverings.
  • Byzantines used dyed, printed and patterned textiles such as silks in the making of their dresses.
  • High-quality and well-made shoes with intricate gilding and patterns were commonly used in the Byzantine Empire.
  • In military dressing, special attention was given to soldiers’ boots to allow them to march effectively.