Medieval Dresses and Costumes to Keep The History Alive
In this day and age there is no shortage of costume choices for the creative individual who has a love for the medieval and who aspires to emulate a personality from that time period.
During that historical period, medieval dresses for both genders ran the gamut and were closely linked to the social status of the individual. Kings, Queens, Knights and the wealthy had access to rich fabrics, elaborate headdresses and clothed accordingly. Whereas, the masses wore woolen garments that were more affordable and fit their lifestyle.
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Whether you are interested in a Halloween costume, medieval clothing for a Renaissance faire or theme party, or you just simply love the time period and are free spirited, you can find the perfect medieval dress to suit your personality and event.
Robin Hood, Maid Marion, a Renaissance Queen, Tavern Wench, Knight or an Executioner are all part of that colorful time in history.
If choosing authentic garb is important to you, then you will need to know a bit about the three different historical periods that define the middle ages and the variations in medieval dress that accompanied them.
An intriguing period of time in our history, the middle ages is defined as a period of time which began around the time of the 5th century and ran through the 15th century.
Many historians pinpoint the fall of the Western Roman Empire AD 476 as being the start of this way of life that spanned for a thousand years into the Renaissance period.
However, it needs to be said, there are some historians that state that you cannot tie any one specific historical event as the commencement of this period. So it is open to interpretation.
Because the middle ages spans so many centuries, historians have divided it into three different periods. According to some historians, the early middle ages commenced as early as AD 350 and ran through 1050.
The next period is from 1050 to about 1300, and it is generally considered the central middle ages or high middle ages, and then there are the late middle ages from 1350 through 1450 into the Renaissance.
Early Medieval Ages – Medieval Dresses (AD 350–1050)
During the early middle ages the double tunic was the basic garment for both genders of the upper classes. Tunics are hip or knee-length garments with sleeves, and a round neck.
Tunics are usually worn with a belt gathered at the waist. The under tunic also known as a chemise, often had long tight sleeves and a high neck whereas the outer tunic often had loose sleeves. The next change was the addition of trousers, with fitted tunics and hoods.
In and about AD 800 history records the European monarchs and the Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, wearing tunics with colorful silk borders, trousers, or breeches (knee-length pants), semicircular cloaks that were secured at the shoulder, and donning round cloth caps on their heads.
Armor for medieval lords and men in service was extremely important. There were two types of armor. Soft armor was often made of leather or quilted fabric verses the more traditional chain mail armor worn for battle.
Court women wore their double tunics by wearing a long tunic underneath an outer (super) tunic. Women would hitch up the super tunic with a girdle to show off the long tunic beneath. The super tunic was embellished at the neck, sleeves and hem. Full length cloaks that were fastened below the chin and a cloth veil in the hair completed the look.
Central Medieval Ages – Medieval Dresses – Romanesque and Early Gothic (1000-1350)
The next great change in fashion took place after the start of the Crusades in 1095 as Crusaders discovered beautiful new fabrics such as velvet, silk, satin and damask. Hence striking fabrics with bright colors and intricate patterns arrived on the scene along with the discovery of buttons, jewels, and fur trimming.
Hosiery came into vogue and was worn by men with breeches. In fact hosiery was so popular during this gothic period as to almost eliminate the breeches. An Oriental garment called the bliaut came into fashion and replaced the over tunic. The bliaut was a long gown worn by wealthy men and women beginning in the 1100s. Along with the houppelande, a long, full, outer garment, the bliaut was one of the long garments most associated with this time period.
It was also during this historical period that tunics were modified and became known as doublets. The over tunic developed a collar and became known as a cotehardie, a variation of the long Byzantine tunic. Hoods and fitted caps tied under the chin were worn by men as headdress.
The ladies also wore the bliaut as well as surcoats. A surcoat was an outer garment worn by both genders that could be either sleeved or sleeveless. Ladies began to wear corsets to slim and elongate their waists, and their skirts most often touch the ground. Beautiful gowns were worn and women wore crown like headbands known as barbettes in their hair.
Late Medieval Ages – Medieval Dresses – Late Gothic (1350 – 1500)
During this period of history clothing for both genders became more tailored and form fitting. More and more fabrics and materials became accessible and inspired more creative dress. Leather shoes with pointed toes, wooden clogs, bells, belts and turbans were seen. Women’s medieval dresses became ever more pronounced and hairstyles became more elaborate. Women often wore rouge and plucked their eyebrows as well.
A new style of armor came into being during this time as well. The chain mail armor was gradually phased out and replaced by the more protective plate armor. The plate armor protected the knight’s limbs, and torso, and paired with a helmet with a moveable visor the head and face were shielded as well. Often a surcoat was worn over the armor to protect it from the elements.
Centuries later we are still fascinated with this historic period and all of the cultural aspects associated with it including the diverse medieval dresses worn during that time span.
When discussing the middle ages, it is an interesting detail that the people of that age thought of themselves as modern just as we do today. However, although they may have considered themselves civilized, the people living during the ensuing Renaissance period did not.
In fact, the phrase “Middle Ages” was actually coined by people living during the latter Renaissance period, as an attempt to distinguish themselves from their ancestors, and it was not meant as a compliment. Fortunately we now know that the middles age is a story of ceaseless borrowing, adaptation, and transformation. It was a time period that heralded in many important modern institutions, the liberal arts, sciences and the English Parliament just to name a few.
To learn more about medieval dresses and the middle ages be sure to visit the Costume Gallery’s Medieval Research site.
Another excellent resource with photos on medieval dresses is Some Extant Clothing of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages for Kids Kidipede is a resource for children to learn all about medieval dresses, clothing, and everything related to the Medieval Historic time period.
Finally you may like Middle Ages Castles a really great site organized around the period architecture.
You will be able to find just the right medieval dresses and apparel for you and your entire family by clicking on any of the costume links above.
In addition you will find the customer support is great. Also you will be able to further research your own re-enactment costume choices as well as see ratings and genuine customer reviews.
Save yourself time and money and get your medieval renfest wear today. Keep the history alive!