MeDiEVaL WoMeN's FaShIoN

"Have you ever looked at a rainbow dotted, ruffled, gathered, and flounced blouse (or a leopard-print, lace trimmed, skirt accented with ostrich feathers and rhinestones) on the runway and wondered, who on earth could ever really wear such an extravagent creation? The answer, we belive, is simple: Anyone."

- Donna Karan


HAIR- In the beginning of the 12th century women's hair was as completely covered as possible. It was covered by a wimple, vail, or both, and it would be braided into two sections. The braids would then hang down underneath the vail. The braids or sometimes loose hair was also sometimes wound around into buns at the back of the head. Medieval women usually let their hair grow to very long lengths, and often wasn't cut in a lifetime. Beauty parlours were unheard of.

HEADDRESS- The veil was worn by all women, and varied in size, being either circular or rectangular. Vails were sometimes very long, similar to bridal veils in modern times, while others hung short at the upper back. The veil was put on with an edge, which came forward towards the woman's brow and hung on each side of her face. It was held in place with a circlet or fillet, or in the case of royalty or nobility it would be in place with a crown or a cornet. High dome-shaped caps were worn, with a short veil and a wimple. Can you imagine having to wear a veil for everyday dress?

GARMENTS- The under-gown or long gown worn by Medieval women had close fitting sleeves at the wrist. Wide sleeves were very prevalent on women unlike those on men.The skirts lay loose upon the ground and were very full. The skirt gown was usually lifted a little at the sides, over the hips. The more fashionable would wear very large or wide skirts, held out by a farthingale which was a hoop at the bottom of the skirt. Most skirts would have tiny waist lines, and it was common for women to wear corsets to make themselves look even thinner. A corset, just imagine it!

FOOTWEAR- The women wore short, soft shoes or booties made of a leather material. They almost looked like socks. Women's shoes were similar to those of the men, but without the exaggerated toes, and as well the men often had the sole of their shoe attached to their leather leggings. Shoes were not only a luxury, but they were not really comfortable for walking in with their very thin soles. Ouch!

BELTS- Leather, studded with bosses of gold would describe the average upper class woman's belt. Plaques of gold, elaborately chased or set with stones were often hinged together or sewed on a strip of material, making a flexible girdle or belt. Serfs were very poor, and would not have worn a belt, but rather a course piece of dull coloured material around their waste. Belts were a symbol of fashion and money in the upper class nobles.


Medieval accessories consisted of belts, girdles, cornets, circlets or gloves. Sheaths could be decorated with gold, enamel, and unfaceted jewels. The main jewelry items were mantel fastenings, broaches, and rings. The first time gloves with separate fingers were worn was in the Middle Ages, and they were gauntlet shaped, and often embroidered or decorated with jewels. Jewelry was usually imported and wonderfully lavish. Medieval accessories were not much different from what we see today on Fashion File.

Materials used in the middle ages were woolen cloth, fur, linen, cambric, silk, and the cloth of silver or gold. The effects of the crusades improved the material supply of silks, gauzes, sating, damasks, broaches and velvets from the East. People either weaved or spun the cloth themselves, sometimes buying linen in large amounts when necessary. Wool was most common and sometimes put together with goats hair to make chamlet, which was good for making clothes. Soon after the sheep had been sheared and the wool had been cleaned, it was stroked and untangled to make the hair all point in the same direction. The richer Middle Age women would wear more expensive materials such as silk, or linen.
The wealthy, and nobility did not make their own clothes, as the lower class did. The dyes used on clothing were made from lichen, onions, and alder plants. Nobles wore mostly silk and other expensive and lavish materials. By the end of the Middle Ages clothes had become very stylish, for instance, shoes with long pointy toes. Dresses that were worn to parties were trimmed with fur and jewels, half one color half another. The dresses were always accompanied by necklaces, bracelets, and rings or other pieces of jewelry. On festive occasions, clothes were sparkled with gold. Things were not like this though for the poor and the serfs. Their clothes were made from course material, out of dull colours, and had no accessories. Fashion during the Medieval Ages was privy to only the wealthy and nobility!

Healey, Tim. History of Costume. London: MacDonald Educational Ltd, 1997.

Lister, Marget. Costume. U.S.A: PLAYS Inc, 1968.

Oliver, Jane. Costume Through the Centuries. London: Oliver & Boyd Ltd, 1963.

Lester & Kerr. Historic Costume. U.S.A: Chas A Bennet Co Inc, 1977.

***mAiN PaGe***

By TaRa AnD ChRiStInA