||We receive knowledge of medieval clothing from the contemporary arts:
of paintings, sculptures and the miniature paintings in books.
In the Middle Ages the tailoring business developed and fashion as a concept
was born. There wasnt much difference among the distinct social classes in the way
the clothing were cut, the differences became evident mostly in the colours and materials.
The country folk prepared their fabrics themselves and the nobility and the bourgeois had
the possibility to buy their own imported fabrics.
The domestic wool was revised into frieze of different strengths
-durable, felt and carded fabrics. The most expensive, the finest and the most colourful
cloth was an extremely important merchandise imported for example from the Netherlands,
England and Germany.
There are a couple of basic patterns and some tips available in the
links which will enable you to make a simple, individual medieval outfit. Remember
! When you start to prepare your dress that there were large regional
differences in the medieval European outfits and that the actual Middle Ages started in
Finland rather late, only in the 13th Century and that we were strongly
influenced by both the Viking and the ancient outfits.
Preparing the fabrics and the threads was time-consuming and
Fabric was extremely valuable despite whether or not it was
home-made or an imported one.
The medieval threads were spindled with a distaff. For one
whole dress where the density of threads was 12 threads per centimetre one needed as much
as 15 000 metres of finished thread i.e. 30 kilometres of one-filament thread. The
thread had to be tightly woven and durable. It was closely utilised and the clothes were
used all the way to the end the parts that were worn-out and broken were mended and
patched. When the piece of clothing was totally worn-out, the good parts were used again.
This might be a reason why the archeological findings are mostly church textiles. The
looseness of the clothes was received by the using of gussets sometimes they were
plenty this way one would also save the valuable fabric. The colours were important
to the contemporary people and by lifting the coating the colours of the underclothes and
the lining could be shown. The working cloth of the country folk was a linen shirt.
Long, dragging clothes were typical in the Middle Ages especially
for the rich. Height was emphasised in clothes as well as in architecture. Buttons were
first used in the 14th Century, however, they were more used in mens than
in womens clothes. Armorial bearing shapes and mi-parti outfits (two different
colour halves of clothing) were typical in the Middle Ages.
Click on the images!
- trouser-socks were tided up the waist
A brooch called "Faithfulness"
shirt and the undergarment or cotte, the womans arms couldnt
show; the sleeves of the undergarment were long and slim.
coating or surcot with large openings for hands, "hells
windows" and longitudinal sections for pockets were. (One-coloured,
mi-parti or decorated with armorial bearings) The coating was usually
lifted so that the colour of the undergarment shows beautifully.
Cloak, fur linings, socks and stocking
suspenders, graceful booty shoes.
Long hair and a virgin crown, plaits, pillbox hats and a chin
kerchief, chignon, hair net.
The Mans outfit:
The shirt or the frock, belt,
sock-like legs i.e. pant-socks from woollen cloths or leather (occasionally different
A round or a half cloak (fur linings) as a
coating, tied on the right shoulder.
Maybe the most typical medieval hat hood
with a tail. Pointed snout shoes.
Small children were dressed in frocks, out of linen or wool. The
hats distinguished them the girls had bonnets and the boys usually a round cap made
from six gussets. The older children dressed differently than the adults did.
The medieval people preferred strong colours red, sky blue,
leaf green and white could be featured in one dress. The colours emphasised each other.
The fabrics were dyed with plants. Yellow was received out of birch
leaves, red out of the roots of northern bedstraw, olive green out of blood-coloured
cortinarius and juniper berries, blue with a dyers woad. Bright colours were dyed
then, as is done today also, with imported colours. Brick red was dyed with madder roots
strong red with kermes insects or nowadays with cochineal insects and blue with indigo.
Pure green was made by dying the thread first with blue and then with yellow or vice
versa. Black colour was very difficult to dye and mostly natural black wool was used for
fabrics. The dyers profession was highly valued.
The young girls hair was tied with a flowery wreath or a metal
band i.e. a virgins crown. The long hair either flew freely or it was plaited with
decorative bands, sometimes the plaits were even lengthened with tows. The older and the
married women covered their hair. The veal or the chin kerchief were typical medieval hats
together with a band-like head-dress and a pill-box hat. The chin kerchief and the veal
was attached with pins.
Another typical medieval head-dress was the tail hood worn by both
men and women.
Other mens head-dresses were the hoods tied under the chin,
pointed elf-like caps, barrets and different hats.
The medieval shoes were booty like, soft and graceful, with no
heels. The pointy "snout shoes" were typical in the Late Middle Ages
especially for the rich shoes were prepared from leather, fur or woollen felt. Shoes
were extremely expensive and therefore the country folk walked bare-footed during the warm
Purses and bags
Purses and bags were made from leather or fabric. Fabric purses were
often decorated with embroidery.
Belt was an important detail in a medieval costume. It was usually
worn on top of the undergarment and important things were hanging from it like belt bags
or purses where money was kept, knife, keys and so on..
nice to know
Dark Ages werent so dark after all, many different winds were blowing in Europe
usually through monasteries. Brick became common as building material, grand high churches
along with their large windows were built, towns developed
In Paris there were 200
000 inhabitants and in the city alone 26 public baths
Classic epic tales were
and many other things also small everyday matters
saddle together with the stirrup enabled the knights with their heavy armour to balance on
became common place and so the tailoring profession developed
and the concept of
fashion was created. In 1391 a French style doll was sent to the Queen of England
introducing of buttons in the 14th Century helped to make clothes
and the different buttoning left and right respectively dates back
from this period
country people and servants used aprons
kerchiefs were known already in the 1250s. In an Italian book of etiquette people
are recommended to use the scarves the servants apply for blowing ones nose
later on in the book it is also mentioned that a foot cloth may be applied for
and looks were taken care of, the ideal was a long, thin body, long hair as well as slim
arms and legs.
pale skin was in fashion, -the skin was bleached for example by using lead pasta
eye brows were trimmed, the hair on the forehead, the temples and in the neck was shaved
in the 14th and 15th Centuries, this was done to emphasise the
were not emphasised, however red powder was used on the cheeks
women stood in an S-formation, the stomach was bulged forward, this also for the height
cardamom, cumin and mace were used as perfume
the home-made medieval perfume can be
made by mixing a ground fragrant herb in water or oil
used to have with them in the cities when walking outdoors a scenting bag of herbs or a
fragrance bag containing for example ground cumin to counterbalance the odour in the
black colour as a symbol of sorrow became common in the 1350s, the black cloth was
worn on top of the colourful clothes.
In weddings the ordinary evening
dresses of the period were worn, for the bride it was her last chance to show off her hair
it was decorated with a golden or silvery garland or a ribbon tied with flowers.
There was no veil.
THE CULTURAL CENTRE OF TURKU