Fashion in the medieval era has gone a long journey, especially for women. As the years go by, women’s medieval fashion gradually change up into the later years. In this era, what you wear depends on your status as a person. You can already tell that a person is poor or rich just by the clothes they wear. Back then, wearing layered garments is a thing which is, by comparison, more complicated than what we have today. Hell, even an evening dress in the medieval era needs to be layered and should be worn with a tight corset, what a way to show off that body shape.
Let’s break down what women’s fashion looks like in the medieval era by differentiating each group.
Wealth and Nobility
- The wealthy and noblewomen wore tunics or sleeveless dresses that touch the floor. Although the same as what peasants wore, the material used for such dress varies differently. The wealthy get more colorful fabrics combined with sophisticated embroidery compared to the peasants, which are quite the opposite.
- What’s inside these dresses is fur to keep the women warm. However, from time to time, fur has been trimmed down and became a popular trend in the era.
- During the Middle Ages, wealthy dresses became more elaborate. From one tunic down to two tunics were worn, all featuring a vibrant color scheme that is embellished from one another. Sleeve borders were decorated with ornamental bands, as well as necklines and the lower half of the dresses. Hips we’re also the center of attraction, where it was more emphasized by having girdle-like pieces called panniers to make it look bigger. Accessories such as jewelry, gold, and silver also became a thing which is embellished on such dresses.
- For those in the lower part of the society, peasants also wore dress-like tunics or kirtles. The difference lies in the materials that are being used for the dress. Instead of lush fabrics, they were made of wool and undyed linen. And instead of fur, peasant women wore a shirt beneath the tunic.
- The Sumptuary Laws are responsible for such because of their implementation of preventing the poor to wear such fancy dresses. The law also says that the poor are not allowed to wear expensive veils, silver-garnished girdles, and other vibrant colors that are seen on the wealthy and noble. By doing so, women will face the consequences, which are severe punishment for not following the law.
Social Standing & Dress
- Not just women, but the “you are by the clothes you wore” is also true for men. The only thing that’s the same for both men and women is the absence of pants. Yes, that’s true! Pants are out of sight in the eyes of the medieval people no matter if your wealthy or not.
Women’s Headdresses in the Medieval Era
Headdresses such as caps or veil are often worn by women in the medieval era. Married women are rocking on close-fitting caps that were shaped like a bun. The most common hairstyle in the period is braided hair and is then covered with a long veil to conceal its appearance. As the years go by, these head coverings have slowly evolved, ranging from long veils to pointed caps and finally, rolled bonnets.
The History of Medieval Fashion
- However, fashion from the Middle Ages didn’t reach our time because it slowly deteriorates when modern clothing has been introduced. Most of the information we have for such clothes and apparel in the Medieval era come from paintings and sculptures that we see today in our museum. If you want to know more about the topic, there are plenty of educational books that can be found in libraries that discuss the fashion of the medieval times, and you can also find them online as well.