High Medieval Clothing

The high medieval period was marked by rapid integration of various cultural influences and styles into Europe. Europe was exposed to the contemporary Arab culture during the Crusades and travellers from Europe brought back news of the diverse cultures in distant regions.

One of the direct cultural borrowings of this period was the spinning wheel which furnished Europe with the technology to spin greater amount of textile in lesser time. This coincided with a period when more and more people could afford well-made clothes and consumption of well-manufactured textiles grew rapidly.

Most notably, the clothing of women began to undergo evolution while new styles and designs were incorporated in the clothing of European populations in general.

High Medieval Clothing for Women

The clothing for women underwent rapid and significant change from the early medieval to high medieval period. By the high medieval period, fabrics such as velvet were used in the dresses of women and the overall shape and design of the dresses conformed more to the lines of the body.

A notable development during the period was the use of elaborate sleeves of the under-tunic. In some cases, the sleeves were so wide that the hems touched the floor. Linen was used to manufacture the under-tunic and over it, a pelisson was worn. Finally, a loose blouse was usually worn on top of pelisson.

Important Facts about High Medieval Clothing:

  • High medieval clothing for women comprised of linen under-tunic, pelisson and a loose blouse on top of it.
  • High medieval clothing for men comprised of linen undergarments, woollen hoses and tunics and special headgear.
  • High medieval clothing in Europe was influenced by Arab culture to the East, the Moorish culture in Iberia and the culture of the Byzantine Empire.
  • Buttons and handkerchiefs saw their first widespread use during the high medieval period.
  • A kind of footwear called turnshoe began to be worn by European noblemen in the 14th century.
  • Richard II of England purportedly invented the kerchief in the 14th century as a part of the royal dressing.
  • In the 14th century, very tight-fitting clothes for young noblemen became a common fashion in Europe.
Medieval Fashion in the 14th Century

Medieval Fashion in the 14th Century

High Medieval Clothing for Men

Dressing for men also became significantly elaborate by the high medieval period. During this era, men would wear linen breeches and shirts as part of their undergarments. Woollen hoses were used to cover the legs, often culminating in a leather sole which effectively functioned as an attached shoe.

On top of the shirt, a doublet was typically worn which was made in the style of a buttoned jacket. A woollen tunic was then worn on top of the doublet and served as the actual dress. An unusual fashion in European noblemen began in the middle of the 14th century when they took to wearing body-tight doublets with no tunic on top.

An armour-coat or jupon, originally a part of battlefield dressing, also became a regular part of European men’s dressing. It was also during this period that headgear became a popular part of men’s dressing. The most notable form of headgear of the high medieval era was the chaperon which evolved from a hood and now became an elaborate kind of hat with a face-opening.

High Medieval Clothing for Commoners

Although the clothing of the commoners in the high medieval period remained fairly simple, it underwent significant changes when compared to the early medieval period. Men began to wear knee-length tunics, shirts and braies together with thick shoes while women used kerchiefs and aproned-gowns as part of their working dress.

Buttons and Kerchiefs

Buttons had been used before the high medieval period in European dressing but they mostly served to adorn the dresses. In the high medieval period, buttons became a practical part of dresses, serving a role similar to their present use. Kerchiefs also became a part of clothing during this period, purportedly being invented by Richard II of England in the late 14th century.

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