Fashion in the Medieval Period

The Middle Ages range from the period of 11th to the 16th century. The USP of this era was learning and growth on the part of human beings in all aspects ranging from art, culture, music etc. The most characteristic feature of this age was the feudal division of society between seven social categories in Europe. This division molded every aspect of human life in those times. Clothing too was influenced by this rigid social structure. A stark difference could be witnessed in the clothing patterns of the rich and the poor, the nobles, the knights, the kings, the monks and the nuns. The way they dressed became an intricate part of their personality or identity to be precise. The stature of a person was defined by the clothes they wore.


Fig1. Difference in clothing b/w the rich and poor

Only the rich apparently could dress fashionably. During the 11th century, women’s apparel basically comprised of two tunics and a veil. The dresses they wore were inspired by Roman culture and were body hugging to accentuate their feminine features. Also, these clothes they wore were completely covering. During the 12th century the tunics were made more capacious and rest of the clothing pattern remains unchanged. The veil ran all the way down from the head covering the shoulders to the feet. Further modification was evident when by the 13th century cloaks and caps attached with broad band which was tied under the chin began to be worn.


Fig 2. Illustration inspired from the middle ages


Another interesting introduction in the arena of fashion was the surcoats which were large coats with sleeves and were popular with both the sexes. The 14th century marked the introduction of ornamentation of clothes when gold, silver, pearls and precious stones were lavished on the gowns with tight bodices. Fur coats became quite common too and tight jackets that were to be worn over the gowns also became popular. By the turn of the century, women’s attire was marked by elegance and simplicity. The external corset was invented and nets and head dresses were adopted. They began to wear uncovered necklines which were very uncharacteristic. Also, they began accessorizing their necklines with rich neck pieces.


Fig 3. Clothing for women in the medieval period.

 Clothes for nobles were loose and belted and the type of hat/cap one wore was reflective of the class he belonged too. The rich wore hats made out of velvet. They wore robes with long sleeves fastened around the waist, coupled with a cloak which was later replaced by the surcoat which was quite popular with both the sexes. Mantles, hats, stockings and hose became status symbols and were indicative of luxury clothing. Sumptuousness and extravagance was the characteristic feature of the rich men’s attire. By the turn of the century, they began wearing tunics coupled with tight waist coats and leather shoes with pointed tips. Broad brimmed hats and stockings completed a man’s attire.


Fig 4. A picture showing how a wealthy man and woman dressed up during this time.

 Thus, we see that fashion and clothing during the medieval ages was not stagnant but kept on evolving over centuries. Class and societal divisions marked a difference in the way different people dress. While, a peasant hardly owned a rug those belonging to the nobility wore highly ornamented clothes.

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