The Medieval Cloak was worn over indoor clothing and protected the wearer from the cold, rain, or wind.
Over time, cloak designs have been changed to match fashion and available textiles.
During the Early Anglo-Saxon period, a short, fur-lined cloak was designed so that the animal’s skin faced outward and the fur brushed against the undergarments. The cloak opened either at the front or the right shoulder and was fastened with a brooch, usually circular in shape. Cloaks could also be closed by tying, lacing, or using a clasp made of thorn, bones, wood, or horns.
The word cloak comes from Old North French cloque meaning “travelers’ cape,” literally “a bell,” due to the garment being bell-like shape.
History of the Cloak
Both ancient Greek and Roman men and women wore cloaks. The Greek-styled Roman cloak, or pallium, was shaped like a square and sat on the shoulders. Romans of the Republic would wear a toga as a formal display of their citizenship, claimed to have originated with Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome.
Cloaks used until the Renaissance were simple in design.
There are very few examples of hooded cloaks in the Codex, although some cloaks were worn with separate hoods, either over or under the cloak.
Types of Cloaks
Cloaks can be classified flexibly into:
- Button-Shoulder Cloaks: Worn exclusively by men, these cloaks were closed on the right shoulder, usually with buttons. This style of cloak seems to be the descendant of the Greek chlamys.
- Mantles: A cloak style with a center-front closure, usually with a cord attached to metal mounts. This style of the cloak is the only style that appears on women.
- Royal Cloaks: A type of fur cloak with a fur capelet. This style seems to be worn only by men and evolves in the 15th Century into a ceremonial-only garment for kings and noblemen.
Image Gallery: Cloaks in Medieval Manuscripts & Art
Books about Medieval Clothing
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More Medieval Clothing
During the late Middle Ages, tabards (a type of short coat) were used by men all around Europe.
The Hood could be part of a cloak or cape, or worn as a separate form of headgear.
In the 11th century, women wore dresses that were similar to men’s tunics.
Medieval trousers were traditionally worn under a short tunic or with a small cloak and were ankle length.