What Influenced Medieval Clothing?

Medieval fashion during the Middle Ages was heavily influenced by the kings and queens of the time, with only the wealthy able to dress in fashionable clothes. Sumptuary laws restricted ordinary people in their spending, including on clothing, which had a major impact on medieval fashion. The Crusades were one of the biggest influences on medieval fashion, with fine silks, satins, damasks, brocades and velvets imported from the Far East. The royal courts of medieval times were imitated throughout Europe, with the fashions of France, Spain and Italy having a strong influence on those of England.

Traditional Roman attire was mainly composed of simple pieces of cloth that were carefully wrapped to cover the body. As the Western Roman Empire declined, fashions were influenced by the protective garments of barbarian peoples, resulting in a synthesis of pants and shirts with sleeves, capes, stoles and sticks. The clothing worn in medieval England was determined by social class. Ideas from France, Spain and Italy had a major impact on fashion in England during this period.

Rich people could dress in fashionable clothes while sumptuary laws restricted ordinary people in their spending. The style of nobility in the High Middle Ages is what most people would recognize as medieval clothing. At the end of the 12th and 13th centuries, an overcoat was added to this simple style, likely influenced by the tabardo worn by Crusader knights over their armor. The Church and government also had a major influence on what people wore during this period.

The Byzantine Empire inherited many traditions from Rome but was also influenced by styles from the East. Clothing from the early Middle Ages was functional but became an indicator of status, wealth and occupation until the Renaissance. Fabric merchants also had an impact on style when new trade routes opened up and new materials were imported.For several peoples that lived in England - Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Danes, Normans and Britons - clothing in medieval times differed greatly for men and women as well as for different classes of society. The Crusades and Marco Polo's adventures introduced new cultural influences, fabrics and technological advances to European garments.

Despite the variety of clothing available in the late medieval period, most of it was very expensive meaning most people only had a few items.

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