Clothing in the middle ages was based on feudalism or the rights based on ownership of land. Every strata of society from peasant to the King had a unique dress code which would easily distinguish one from the other. One could easily determine his role and status of society based on the clothing. Various laws set by the King disabled them from spending money on opulent clothing, the higher class alone could invest in luxurious garments.

The medieval clothing of the female around 1000 AD consisted of two tunics [1] , the first tunic worn was longer but had less capacity than the latter. The clothing had long sleeves that were fitting to the wrists and pleated in many folds. Ornamental bands were bordered on the sleeves and the lower part of the neck. The girdle encircled the waist just above the hips. The head was covered by a long veil covering the shoulders right down to the feet. The outer tunics were white while the inner tunic was made of various colours.

The clothes worn by knights under the armour provided him with both comfort and protection. The underclothes which consisted of the under-shirt and under-pants were made of linen. Woolen stockings provided warmth to the knight. The underclothes served importance as they protected the skin underneath while he wore the heavy metal armour. A padded garment known by various names such as Aketon, Arming coat, Doublet, Gambeson, and Hacketon consisted of a quilted coat which was either sewn or stuffed with linen or even grass. This served as padding for additional armour worn over the top. A robe known as a surcoat was placed over the body armour to help him be distinguished in battle. Parts of the Medieval Knights suit consisted of a complicated series of garments chain mail, iron plate. They would cover the most vulnerable parts of a knight’s body.
The Lords who were placed higher than peasants and serfs. They wore head-dresses made of felt, wool or cotton with a long streamer attached to it where the peak turned up in front. The longer the head-dress the more powerful he was considered. He dressed in a robe fastened round the waist which had long bands attached to the sleeves near the wrists. Enclosed shoes had begun to be made pointed. The hair was kept short.

The serfs and peasants always stayed at the bottom of the ranks so clothes merely served a utilitarian purpose to them. It was practical clothing devoid of any irrationality. Clothing of these men were short and tight. They consisted of breeches made of leather, doublets and capes made of coarse brown wool. The tunic they wore was confined at the waist by a belt from which working tools were suspended. They would wear an overcoat or mantle of thick woolen material that fell from the shoulders to half-way down his legs. Gloves also served a practical purpose and were worn for use in tasks such as hedging.

There was great display of luxury and grandeur in the clothing of Kings during 1200-1300 AD. Precious metals and stones were now being adorned on clothes. They wore huge belts of gold. The nobility’s clothing consisted of breeches, stockings, shoes, the coat, surcoat and the head-dress. Hoses or long stockings of the same colour and material as the breeches. The fashion of pointed shoes was adopted in the whole of Europe for nearly three hundred years. The ordinary surcoat for the luxury class was cloth, either scarlet, blue, rust or the combination of two or more of these colours mixed together.

The monks of that time wore a tunic that had a cloth or leather belt tied around the waist. A scapula was worn over the tunic which was a garment consisting of a long wide piece of woolen cloth worn over the shoulders with an opening for the head. It was attached to a hood know as cowl. They would self-impose torture on themselves by wearing hair shirts under their habits. Some monks would also wear a cross chain around their necks. The medieval nun had two habits, two wimples and veils, a scapular for work, shoes and stocking. The habit was tied around the waist with a cloth or leather belt. They would cover their hair with wimples to avoid hair exposure.

Europe, famous for its medieval art [5] draws its roots from the artistic heritage of the Roman Empire and the iconographic traditions of the early Christian church. The elements of art embedded in this culture has aspects of classical, early Christian and “barbaric art”. The works of art were very rare and expensive and were only associated with secular elites, monasteries or major churches. If they were religious in nature they were largely produced by monks. When the Middle Ages slowly came to an end, works of considerable artistic interests were found in small villages and a large numbers of bourgeois homes in town and their production was given importance. During the rule of St Benedict permitted the sale of art by monasteries. Throughout the period monks might have produced art, commercially for lay market and monasteries would equally hire lay specialists where necessary. A vast majority f the work was religious .The church had become very important as well as wealthy so vast sums of money was spent lavishly on art. Most luxury illuminated manuscripts of the Early Middle Ages had lavish book-covers in precious metal, ivory and jewels; the re-bound pages and ivory reliefs for the covers have survived in far greater numbers than complete covers, which have mostly been stripped off for their valuable materials at some point.

Fig 1: Clothing of royalty


Figure 2: Clothing of the knights


Figure 3: Clothing of peasants


Figure 4: Clothing of the priests


Figure 5: Clothing of women


Fig 6: Famous Medieval stain-glass painting

Charlemagne and the Pope

Figure 7: Religious Art


1. Lord & Ladies, n.d, Medieval Women’s clothing,, Accessed on September 11, 2014

2. Lord & Ladies, n.d, Medieval Knight’s clothing,,  Accessed on September 11, 2014

3. Lords & Ladies, n.d, Monk’s clothes in the Middle ages,, Accessed on September 11, 2014

4. Lords & Ladies, n.d, Nun’s clothes in the Middle ages,, Accessed on September 11, 2014

5. Wikipedia, 2014, Medieval Art,, Accessed on September 11, 2014


1. Figure 1, History of Fashion, n.d, Clothing of Royalty, Accessed on September 11, 2014

2. Figure 2, History of Fashion, n.d, Clothing of Knights, Accessed on September 11, 2014

3. Figure 3, History of Fashion, n.d, Clothing of peasants,, Accessed on September 11, 2014

4. Figure 4,History of Fashion, n.d, Clothing of the priests,, Accessed on September 11, 2014

5. Figure 5, History of Fashion, n.d, Clothing of women, Accessed on September 11, 2014

6, Figure 6, Vitreosity, 2008, Glencairn Museum,, Accessed on September 11, 2014

7. Figure 7, Pine Green Woods, n.d, Medieval Art, Accessed on September 11, 2014