Guide To Dressing A Character

Medieval clothing and fashion like everything else was dictated by the Pyramid of Power which was the Feudal System. Medieval clothes provided information about the status of the person wearing them. This was not just dictated by the wealth of the person. Only Royalty were permitted to wear clothes trimmed with ermine. Lesser Nobles were allowed to wear clothing trimmed with fox and otter. There were other Medieval clothing rules. The wives and children of tradesmen were to wear:

"No veils, but such as are made with thread, nor any kinds of fur except those of lambs, rabbits, cats and fox."

A 14th Century Act of Parliament decreed that (this had been in place long before Parliament confirmed it a century later):

"All labourers and lower classes of people shall wear no kind of cloth but blankets and russets, nor use any girdles than such of those made of linen."

Fabrics

The type of cloth and fabric used for Medieval clothing was therefore extremely important. People of the Lower Classes wore clothing generally made of wool, linen and sheepskin. Medieval Nobles and Upper classes wore clothing made of velvets, furs, silks, lace, cottons and taffeta. Knights returning from the Crusades returned with silks and cottons from the Middle East. Velvets were imported from Italy. The materials worn by the Nobility came in a variety of different colors. The dyes used for coloring these clothes were expensive. The red dye came from a Mediterranean insect which provided a bright scarlet color. Green dyes came from lychen. the Dyerswoad plant provided dyes for the remaining blue-based colors.

Practical Medieval Clothing

The early Medieval clothing was distinguished by lots of different layers of clothing. Much of the time was spent outdoors or in draughty, cold castles and it was necessary to invest in warm clothing layers.

Peasants

The Medieval clothing of peasant men consisted of a Knee length tunic fastened with a belt. Others wore linen shirts or rough woollen shirts. Peasant men often went bare-legged or simply bound their legs with strips of linen. Peasant women wore a longer dress made of similar material which was also fastened with a belt.

Noblemen

The Medieval clothing of the Noblemen consisted of trousers covered with long over tunics called bliauds. Tabards and Surcoats were also worn. These clothes were covered with full length cloaks. The cloaks were trimmed with an expensive fur and pinned at the shoulder with a broach. They wore shoes designed for castle wear made of silk, velvet, cloth or leather and fastened with a buckle. The indoor shoes worn with Medieval clothing were covered with wooden and leather outdoor overshoes. Hats were also part of a nobles clothing which were similar to a cap and pointed at the front. The materials were made of velvets, silks, lace, cottons and taffeta and dyed in bright colors. In the 14th century Medieval clothing included underclothes consisting of breeches, chemise and hose. Additional information is available on the Medieval Knights Armor page.

Noble Women

The Medieval clothing of the Noble women consisted of many layers of clothes. They wore underclothes consisting of breeches, chemise and hose. The underclothes in Medieval Clothing were covered with an underskirt usually made of yellow or white linen or silk. The underskirt was covered with a long, trailing gown, or dress, with wide sleeves. The gowns were made of velvets, furs, silks, lace, cottons and taffeta. The hem and the neck of the gown (dress) and sleeves were often decorated with gems and lace. The gowns were covered with long over tunics called bliauds. Tabards and Surcoats were also worn over the gowns and dresses. These clothes were covered with full length mantel. The mantels were trimmed with an expensive fur and pinned at the shoulder with a broach. They wore shoes designed for castle wear made of silk, velvet, cloth or leather and fastened with a buckle. The indoor shoes were covered with wooden and leather outdoor overshoes. Women wore their hair long and plaited which was covered by a Wimple or a Guimpe - a piece of silk or linen draped and pinned over the hair, wrapped around the throat and tucked into the neckline of the gown. Hats were were later added as part of the clothing of a noble women which grew bigger as fashion dictated featuring tall points, some shaped as the horns of cows. The Medieval Clothing materials were made of velvets, silks, lace, cottons and taffeta and dyed in bright colors.