Medieval History of Men and Women’s Clothing

The time period characterized by fall of Roman Empire and the beginning of renaissance is popularly known as medieval period or middle age. This period saw revival around fifth century and lasted till fifteenth century. It was the period when men’s fashion change rapidly in comparison women’s. Clothing styles of men and women very different from each others. In social setup too their medieval costume differed widely. Lower class people were living in miserable condition; they were forced to wear clothing of last century until disrepair state where they had to buy a new set. New Introduced sumptuary laws divided the society largely on the base color and material of fabric.

Women’s medieval costume

The evidence of women’s clothing, what they actually wore comes from mid-fourteenth century. Female dresses were experiencing a great degree of change. Dresses became tighter with lower necklines and designed to outline the feminine posture. Tight lacing to provide fitting shape, for long waist appearance griddles were used and corset became the one of the significant part of their clothing. Open bodice with attached floor length skirt more popularly called surcoat was the elegant part of their dressing. In actual, in the beginning of fifteenth century gowns replaced all the female wears except surcoat.

Hose, kirtle, smock, gown, surcoat, girdle, bonnet and hood were basic clothing of women. However material and color used in making of these garments were distinct for women of each social status. Upper class women wore garments of expensive fabrics like silk, velvet, damask and taffeta in rich and vibrant colors while lower class women wore apparels of linen, shipskin, wool and cotton. Infact in later period poor people were restricted from using cotton because it was heavily taxed while imported (from India) and kept royals only. Skirt was one of the significant features of medieval dresses of women and petticoat made the way for these fashionable garments which were available in myriad designs and patters.

Men’s Medieval Costumes

Regardless of social standing in society medieval men’s garment were consist of tunic, trousers, cloak and leggings. Single brooch was used to fasten the cloak. Tying, lacing and clasping technique were applied as another method of fastening. ‘Have nots’ wore cloak made from wool. Tunics had length between hip and knee and were tied by belt or girdle. Trousers were worn under short tunic or cloak. With narrow trousers Garters or leggings worn as complementary pairs, two pairs of leggings were worn for protection of legs. Lower class people made use of old clothes to make them while wealthier people’s leggings were custom made.

Social status was supreme during medieval period and this notion made clearer by clothing. Generally scarlet colors like red and purple were meant for nobles especially for kings and princes. Among wealthier people nobles were the trend setter. Their clothing made of expensive fabrics was embellished with elaborate embroideries, laces, ruffles and embedded gems.

Negligence by rulers, miserable living condition and unemployment forced some English people towards the path of piracy. Popularly known as sea robbers, their pirate clothing were basically the looted costumes from hijacked ships of merchants and rulers.

Although clothing were one of the major way of dividing people in social hierarchy but so much of severance resulted in invention of new techniques and clothing designing methods which is still making modern human beings gaga for medieval costumes.

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