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Medieval Dresses

Medieval life and Times

Medieval Dresses
Middle Ages clothing and fashion, including the Medieval Dresses, like everything else was dictated by the Pyramid of Power which was the Middle Ages Feudal System. Medieval clothes provided information about the status of the person wearing them. The clothing and fashion during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages was dominated and highly influenced by the Kings and Queens of the era.

Only the wealthy could dress in fashionable clothes. Sumptuary Laws  restricted people in their expenditure including money spent on clothes. The head-dress worn by people during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages immediately conveyed the rank of the person.

Medieval Women's Fashion
Medieval Nun's Clothing
Peasant Dresses

900 - 1000
The Middle Ages Ladies Dresses of the early Middle Ages was still influenced by the classical styles of the Greek and Roman women

  • Their dresses were at times so tight as to display all the elegance of their form
  • Other dresses were made so high as completely to cover the neck
  • A long tunic reaching to the heels, fastened in at the waist and closed at the wrists
  • A tunic might be worn with or without sleeves
  • Their dress consisted of two tunics, and of a veil or drapery, which was thrown over the head and fell down before and behind, thus entirely surrounding the neck
  • Queens, princesses, and ladies of the nobility wore in addition a long cloak lined with ermine

1000 - 1100
The typical Middle Ages Ladies Dresses during the period of 1000 - 1100 featured:

  • The female dress of the time consisted of two tunics, the under one being longer but less capacious than the other
  • The sleeves of the dress came down tight to the wrists, and being plaited in many folds, whilst those of the latter open out, and only reach to the elbow
  • The lower part of the dress, the neck, and the borders of the sleeves are trimmed with ornamented bands
  • The waist was encircled by a girdle just above the hips
  • A long veil, finely worked, and fastened on the head, covered the shoulders and hung down to the feet, completely hiding the hair, so that long plaits falling in front were evidently not then in fashion
  • The under dress was made of various colours, whereas the gowns or outer tunics were often white

The typical Middle Ages Ladies Dresses during the period of 1100 - 1200 featured:

  • A cap was worn made of linen with lappets hanging down over the shoulders

  • The dress was fastened round the waist which had long bands attached to the sleeves near the wrists

  • The tight dress, fastened at the collar by a round buckle, and two bands of stuff forming a kind of necklace
  • She also used the long cloak, and the closed shoes, which had then begun to be made pointed. Coloured bands were attached to their shoes, which were tied round the ankles like those of sandals, and showed the shape of the foot.
  • Ladies, in addition to their head-dress, often wore a broad band, which was tied under the chin, and gave the appearance of a kind of frame for the face

  • The surcoat was at first a garment worn only by females, but it was soon adopted by both sexes
  • The surcoat was originally a large wrapper with sleeves, and was thrown over the upper part of the robe
  • The surcoat was then made without sleeves
  • The under garment, which was made of more costly material, might be seen

1200 - 1300
The typical Middle Ages Ladies Dresses during the period of 1200 - 1300 featured:

  • Luxury was at its height when gold and silver, pearls and precious stones were lavished on clothes and dresses
  • Massive belts of gold were also worn
  • Dresses with tight bodices were generally adopted
  • The women wore over them a tight jacket, reaching to a little below the hips, often trimmed with fur when the gown was richly ornamented, and itself richly ornamented when the gown was plain
  • They also began to plait the hair, which fell down by the side of the face to the neck, and they profusely decorated it with pearls or gold or silver ornaments
  • A pointed cap, on the turned-up borders of which the hair clustered in thick curls on each side of the face
  • On the chest was a frill turned down in two points
  • The dress, fastened in front by a row of buttons, had long and tight sleeves, with a small slit at the wrists closed by a button
  • A second robe in the shape of a cloak might also be worn, the sleeves of which were widely slit in the middle
  • Dresses were embroidered and richly decorated
  • The shoes were long and pointed

1300 - 1400
The typical Middle Ages Ladies Dresses during the period of 1300 - 1400 featured:

  • Women's coats and surcoats often trailed on the ground
  • Hats consisted of a frame of wirework covered over with stuff which was embroidered or trimmed with lace
  • The hair was kept back by a silken net, or crépine, attached either to a frontlet, or to a metal fillet, or confined by a veil of very light material
  • Whilst male attire had extended to the utmost limit of extravagance, women's dress, on the contrary was dignified with elegant simplicity
  • The coat, or under garment, which formerly only showed itself through awkwardly-contrived openings, now displayed the harmonious outlines of the figure to advantage, thanks to the large openings in the overcoat
  • The surcoat, kept back on the shoulders by two narrow bands, became a sort of wide and trailing skirt, which majestically draped the lower part of the body
  • The external corset was invented, which was a kind of short mantle, falling down before and behind without concealing any of the fine outlines of the bust. This new article of apparel, which was kept in its place in the middle of the chest by a steel busk encased in some rich lace-work, was generally made of fur in winter and of silk in summer
  • The fashion of wearing false hair continued in great favour
  • Nets were again adopted, and head-dresses which, whilst permitting a display of masses of false hair, hid the horsehair or padded puffs

1400 - 1500
The typical Middle Ages Ladies Dresses during the period of 1400 - 1500 featured:

  • The ladies wore long trains to their dresses

  • These trains were shortened
  • Sleeves of dresses became long, hanging and embroidered or fringed
  • Ladies' dresses on becoming shorter were trimmed in the most costly manner
  • Their head-dresses consisted of very large rolls, surmounted by a high conical bonnet
  • They began to uncover the neck and to wear necklaces
  • Women's dress was described as follows: "In this year (1487)," says the chronicler Monstrelet, "ladies ceased to wear trains, substituting for them trimmings of grebe, of martens' fur, of velvet, and of other materials, of about eighteen inches in width; some wore on the top of their heads rolls nearly two feet high, shaped like a round cap, which closed in above. Others wore them lower, with veils hanging from the top, and reaching down to the feet. Others wore unusually wide silk bands, with very elegant buckles equally wide, and magnificent gold necklaces of various patterns"
  • The principal characteristic of female dress at the time was its fullness
  • Catherine de Medicis introduced the fashion of ruffs and small collars
  • Dresses tight at the waist began to be made very full round the hips, by means of large padded rolls and by an arrangement of padded whalebone and steel, which subsequently became paniers
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