Medieval Clothing History, Facts, Information: Women and Men Styles: Merchant, Noble, Peasants

Research Topics Presentation Tips History Essays Medieval Time Period   Clothing

When the Medieval Time Period (Middle Ages) began, Roman togas were replaced by Germanic clothing.

Medieval Clothing was designed to symbolize class, status and wealth. A peasant wore a blouse. The poor wore clothes made of wool, leather or tow cloth which was made of flax fibers. The rich wore a fur lined jacket under a tunic which was topped with a cloak. Silks, velvets in a variety of colors  were only available to those who could afford their price. Both men and women clothing were trimmed with fur.

Clerical clothing was designed for warmth, as there was no heat in medieval churches. Clerics wore Cossacks made of heavy wool.

In Northern Europe, gloves were common for both peasant and the wealthy. Gloves worn by the nobility were either decorated with embroidery or encrusted with jewels.

Hats like clothes indicated a persons class. The nobility wore helmets. Squires wore pointed hats. Doctors wore a hood. Serfs wore round brimmed hats.


Cotton was a luxury fabric. Linen was made from flax.  Underwear was made of linen. Underwear was a chemise worn by both men and women. Linen was only available in areas that flax was grown. Flax did not grow everywhere. So, when Flax was not available, Hemp was substituted. When linen was abundant, it was also used for rags; diapers, sanitary pads, etc.

colors of clothing in medieval times

Bright colors, fine furs and softer fabrics were worn by the rich and powerful. Dull colors and rougher textured fabrics were worn by the poor.

Medieval Clothing: Women and Men Fashions

Men carried purses because medieval clothing had no pockets.

Men's clothes consisted of short tunics often worn 2 at a time. These tunics were made from undyed wool cloth.  Trousers were loose and cross-gartered. A large roomy cloak or mantle was worn over the trousers and tunics. Cloaks were fastened at the shoulder with jeweled brooches and clasps. Brooches and clasps also held clothing together.

In the 13th century, women wore bright colored dresses and deep decolletages. These were special occasion dresses worn by rich women.  The Church spoke of the sinfulness of wearing such dresses, so women responded by a cover up veil. Everyday dresses were simple, homemade garments made of wool or linen. These dresses were worn over top a long sleeved undergarment that had one of more petticoats.

In the 14th century, rich men wore tunics made of velvet with silk lined hoods and fur trimmed.  They wore purple, red or green outer robes trimmed in fur. Hats were also trimmed in fur. gold and silver bells were sewn on the hoods and sleeves.

Women clothing consisted of a long dress that was shapeless and concealed the figure. This dress was called a kirtle. The sleeves were long and wide and worn over skintight sleeves that were a part of the underbodice.

Generally, men and women clothes were simple with little adornment. Colors were earthen colors (mostly browns and grays) made from vegetable dyes.

The Medieval crusaders brought back silks and damasks to be used in making clothes for those who could afford such luxuries.

In the late 13th century, men's clothing changed from trousers to tight fitting hose. One leg was one color and the other leg another color. The tunic extended to the knees. Men began to wear a full-length gown (to the ankles). This gown had skintight sleeves, which were decorated with either embroidery or jewels. A decorated belt was worn around the hips. From this belt hung either a pouch, sword or dagger.

Weaving and dying processes improved allowing more color choices in clothing.

By the 14th century, men and women's clothing began to fit the body.

Men's clothing consisted of a short tight fitting tunic, which was buttoned down the front. The neck of the tunic was round and low cut. Sleeves were skintight and were long enough to cover the knuckles. This tunic was called a gipon. The tunic often was made from 2 different colors and adorned with the family coat of arms.

The gipon was either worn with or without an overcoat. When it was worn without the overcoat, it was worn with a belt. The overcoat was called a cotehardie, which was basically another tunic. The cotehardie had long sleeves and fit close to the body. It was long enough to reach the top of the thighs.

Women's clothing consisted of the Kirtle but it was more closely fitted and showed more cleavage. Sleeves were skintight and buttoned. Women's overcoats or cotehardie had very long sleeves, which often touched the ground. Worn over the cotehardie was the sideless coat, which consisted of a front and back panel.

Men's clothing consisted of the gipon with a collar renamed the doublet. A padded waistcoat was added and worn under the doublet. Many wore horsehair shirts under their clothing for religious reasons. The cotehardie reached the knees. Hats became fashionable to wear.

Women's skirts were long with attached trains.  A gown was worn over the cotehardie replacing the sideless overcoat.

Mens clothing hems went up and down with the fashion of the day. However, womens dress hems were always below the ankle. Joan of Arc dared to cut her hair short and dress like a man. Women were suppose to be subdued and not lead. Joan of Arc lead the French army to victory against the English.  She claimed to see visions and spoke to God. She was burned at the stake for witchcraft and heresy. The Church later made Joan of Arc a Saint.