Medieval Clothing

What did people wear in the Middle Ages? Explore outfits below and learn about hoods, capes, dresses and more.

What Did People Wear in the Middle Ages?

Tunics were the most basic garment worn by men in the Middle Ages. They were typically knee-length or longer, with long sleeves and a loose fit. Cloaks and mantles were popular outer garments too, although they were usually worn for warmth and protection from the elements. Men also wore a variety of hats and headwear, including coifs, hoods, caps, and hats of various styles. 

Women wore long, loose-fitting gowns or dresses that typically reached the ankles or floor. Overdresses or surcoats were worn over the gown for added warmth or decoration. Women also typically wore veils or head coverings to modestly cover their hair. These could range from simple linen veils to elaborate headdresses adorned with jewels and embroidery.

Medieval clothing tells a story of the customs, hierarchy, and creativity of the people who wore it. So, let’s explore the main options people had in the middle ages!

The Fashion of the Middle Ages

Firstly, we should mention that medieval clothing varied depending on factors such as social status, region, and the specific time period within the medieval era. 

In the early medieval period (from the 5th to the 10th century), clothing styles were relatively simple. Men commonly wore tunics, which were loose-fitting garments that extended to the knees or lower. Women also wore them, although typically with an overtunic or gown over it. The length and style of the gown could indicate the wearer’s social status.

During the high medieval period (11th to 13th century), clothing became more elaborate and varied. Men continued to wear tunics, but these were often accompanied by fitted garments such as a hose (tight-fitting leg coverings) and a long, fitted tunic called a cotehardie. Cloaks and mantles were also popular outer garments for both men and women.

A typical kirtle from a 1400-1409 illumination detail, St Jerome Tempted by Dancing Girls.
A typical kirtle from a 1400-1409 illumination detail, St Jerome Tempted by Dancing Girls.

Women’s fashion, on the other hand, evolved with more emphasis on fitted garments. The bliaut, a tightly fitted and elaborately decorated gown, became fashionable. Women also wore veils or wimples to cover their hair and headdresses, such as hennins, which were tall, cone-shaped hats.

In the late medieval period (14th to 15th century), clothing styles continued to evolve. Hose remained popular, and men also began wearing doublets, which were close-fitting jackets. Cloaks and hoods were commonly worn for outdoor activities. At the same time, women’s fashion featured more extravagant and voluminous styles. The houppelande, a loose gown with wide, flowing sleeves, gained popularity. Women wore girdles, buckles, or belts to accentuate the waist, and headdresses like the hennin continued to be worn, sometimes reaching extreme heights.

What Materials Were Used for Medieval Clothes?

Fabrics used in medieval clothing included wool, linen, and silk, with finer materials like silk and velvet reserved for the wealthier classes. Embroidery, fur trim, and intricate patterns were also common embellishments, especially for the upper classes.

Books about Medieval Life and Clothing

These books provide valuable resources for those interested in delving into the intricacies of medieval life and the clothing worn during that era. They offer a wealth of information and scholarly analysis, making them excellent choices for anyone seeking to expand their knowledge on the subject.