What Did People Wear in Medieval Times?

The Middle Ages was a period of more than a millennium, from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance. During this time, clothing was an indicator of social status and wealth. The basic garments of the period included the robe, the hose, the skirt, the dress, the belt, the overcoat, the girdle, the cape, the hood and the bonnet. The wealthiest people wore fabrics such as silk and fine linen, while lower classes wore wool and thicker linen.

Men's tights were long and reached or just above the knee, while women's tights were shorter and fastened with a garter below the knee. Some socks ended in a footboard, while those that completely covered the foot could have a leather sole added. Clothes were often made of wool, although silk and brocade items could be saved for special occasions. Outerwear wasn't that different between men and women, except that men's clothing was shorter and had more spacious sleeves.

The most expensive garments were usually characterized by their superior use of materials and cuts rather than by their design. The lower classes had few items of clothing and often walked barefoot, while the middle classes wore more layers that might even have had leather or silk ornaments. The clothes of the aristocracy and wealthy merchants were often made and changed according to fashion trends. Access to clothing was also restricted in times of economic conflict during wars such as the Hundred Years' War with France (1337-1453 AD).

King Edward III passed sumptuary laws to regulate the dress of different classes of English people to promote English dress and preserve class distinctions through disguise, clothing and dress. Dyes were common, so even lower-class peasants often wore colorful clothes.Clothing was taken into account along with other elements of a person's property in deciding their tax liability, but clothing was often omitted for the upper classes, suggesting that social display was considered a necessity for them and an unnecessary luxury for everyone else. As a result, the upper classes protected their clothing styles by law so that lower classes could not try to progress by dressing “above their position”.

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