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Medieval Clothing


Academic year: 2021

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Materials available for use in medieval clothing included:  Wool  Silk  Linen  Hemp  Cotton  Leather  Fur

Various fabrics, such as taffeta, velvet and damask, were made from textiles like silk, cotton and linen using specific weaving techniques.

Glossary of Renaissance Fashion

basquine — boned bodice made of whalebone and leather, gave the appearance of wider shoulders tapering to a tiny waist (women)

beret— thin, loose hats that usually tilted towards one side of the head

Renaissance beret

bombasting — stuffing for trunk hose, peascod-belly, and leg-of-mutton sleeves, composed of rags, flock, and other materials

bourrelet — wider version of the farthingale adapted in France, more cylindrical in shape rather than conical (women)

bum roll/bolster — roll of padding tied around the hip line to hold the skirt out from the body, less restrictive than the farthingale (women)

camicia — undershirt usually made of white linen (men)

canions — upper stocks worn from the doublet to the knee (men)

chopines — shoes that elevated the wearer, eventually developed into high heels

crescent cap — circular/heart-shaped cap worn towards the back of the head with a velvet veil covering the rest of the hair


copotain — high bell-shaped hat doublet — man’s bodice

duckbill shoes/scarpines/ox-mouth shoe — large, wide, square-toed shoes often decorated with jewels or slashes (men)

enseigne — disc-shaped hat ornament, usually extremely detailed with jewels/carvings (men) farthingale — topmost petticoat, hooped to give shape to the skirt (women)

finestrella sleeves — sleeves where the outer fabric was slit horizontally and the sleeves of the undergarment were pulled through (women)

flat cap — flat hat with soft crown and moderately broad brim (men)

funnel sleeves — sleeves that were fitted at the upper arm and ballooned out, fitted tightly around wrist

gorget— neck ornament

Kennel or Gable Headdress jerkin— short velvet or leather jacket, usually sleeveless (men)

kennel/gable headdress — pentagonal piece worn over the top of the head with veil/bag cap of dark velvet attached to the back and covering hair (women)

leg-of-mutton sleeves — puffed sleeves that extended the entire length of the arm neck wisk — a falling ruff that was open at the front, resembling a collar

nether stocks — trunks worn under breeches, long enough so that the bottoms could be seen (men) pantofles — wooden platforms attached to the sole of the shoe with pieces of fabric to protect them from rain, snow, and mud

peascod-belly doublet — doublet rounded at the abdomen to give the appearance of a filled-out belly (men)

points — resembled shoelaces, used to attach trunk hose to doublets or sleeves to doublets or bodices (lacing/trussing)

pokes — apron-like pockets tied to the doublet (men)

ruff — starched (often with different colors) and wired collar pleated into ruffles, could be made of lace or jeweled, usually had matching cuffs


slashing and puffing — slits cut in a garment with fabric from the undergarment pulled through to form puffs

stomacher — stiffened triangular piece worn at the front of the bodice, reaching from neckline to lower abdomen (women)

supportasse — frames of silk-colored wire pinned underneath the ruff to keep it in place

trunk hose/pumpkin hose — ballonish-looking breeches that extended from the end of the doublet to about mid-thigh (men)

Venetians— full breeches that reached the knee

Wings on the Shoulders

verdingale/farthingale frill — stiff wheel of fabric, often pleated, worn between the bodice and the skirt (women)

wasp waist — deep V-shaped waistline that extended over the skirt

wings — rolled fabric worn vertically around each shoulder, between the sleeve and the bodice wisk/Medici collar — fan-shaped pleated collar, stiffened with wire and open at the front zipone — buttoned tunic that reached the knee worn over the doublet (men)


Fashions progressive chronologically, the first image with fashions typical of the early Renaissance in Italy, with high waists and finestrella sleeves. Second image of fashions towards the middle of the Renaissance, influenced mostly by the Tudor court, with a square neckline, funnel sleeves, and a conical Spanish farthingale. Last image of fashions by the end of Elizabeth’s reign, with leg-of-mutton sleeves, long v-shaped waistline, ruff, and barrel-shaped French farthingale.

The first image is of men’s fashions towards the middlish of the Renaissance (before this men’s fashions had stayed the same as late Medieval fashions), with padded shoulders, jerkin, knee-length


tunic, flat cap, and duckbill shoes. Second image from later Renaissance, with leg-of-mutton sleeves, short cape, short trunk hose, ruff, and v-shaped waistline of doublet.

Renaissance Costume History

Around the 1490's is when costume historians can agree that the new dress for Renaissance began. This was the period of clothing that could be said that excessiveness in all areas of costume began.

Different countries took the news styles differently. For instance, the northern European countries were distorting the natural figure by padding sleeves, doublets and stockings. Italy did not go as far as the North, and England and France followed Italy's lead while they stuck to more medieval influenced styles. Germans went to the greatest extremes making “improvements” on the natural silhouette. They put large puffs at the head, shoulders, thighs; small puffs, like boils, over chest, back, arms, legs and feet. They put feathers on many on everything from wide-brimmed hats to the knees. Clothing at this time followed suit with all other types of creative expression at this time—it went over the top into new discoveries.

Permanent characteristics in all countries are summarized as thus: rich heavy materials, in voluminous amount, large sleeves, close body garments, large hip-clothing, wide-toed, heelless shoes and covered heads masculine and feminine.

Some of the styles that endured throughout the Renaissance included slashing**, where the outer clothing was cut in slits and the underclothing slightly pulled through, the ruff, a circular collar of starched and pleated fabric (these continued to get larger and more elaborate as the era progressed), and detachable sleeves, which allowed for a more affordable method of changing one’s outfit. Fans also became very popular accessories (especially in the court of Elizabeth I) after Columbus brought the first feather fan to Queen Isabella from the Americas. They were mostly more for decoration than for practical use and were decorated with jewels and made of ivory and expensive feathers. Catherine de Medici made the folding fan popular which was usually attached by small chains or ribbons to the girdle. Handkerchiefs also became important in signifying wealth and power. Sumptuary laws were passed prohibiting the lower class from using them. They became increasingly decorative, edged with lace and embroidered exquisitely. Lace and perfume made their first appearances during the


At the beginning of the Renaissance, clothing started to become rounder and fuller. Women’s clothing began with high waistlines, square necklines, and finestrella sleeves. However, waists continually lowered until they became extremely low, tapered, and v-shaped by the end of Elizabeth’s

reign. Sleeves became rounder and had to be stuffed. Necklines remained square, though in the second half of the period they were often risen to the neck to accommodate the

ruff. The farthingale was perhaps the biggest contribution of the Renaissance. When first used, is was conical in shape with wire hoops graduated in size (often called a “Spanish

farthingale”). However, by the end of the era it had widened into a conical barrel shape (“French farthingale”). The increasing size of the farthingale needed a lot of material to furnish it, and laws were passed to try to curtail their use (these laws were very much ignored). Skirts also became shorter so they might show pretty high-heeled shoes and even glimpses of stockings. Needless to


say, during the entire Renaissance the desired female figure was shifting to a silhouette of wide shoulders, a long, narrow waist, a flat chest, and full hips, which was mostly modeled after the slight but ever so influential figure of Elizabeth I. Another interesting phenomena with women’s fashions was that women would pluck their foreheads and sometimes entire eyebrows to have the appearance of a high forehead, and therefore intelligence, which was so worshipped during the Renaissance.

Men’s clothing began with accentuating the shoulders and chest. They wore tunics and

doublets reaching the knee, belted at the waist and stuffed in the chest and upper sleeves. Usually jerkins, often fur-lined, were worn over. Flat, wide hats were worn. Shirts were cut full and gathered at the wrists and necks. However, by the end of the period, short, pumpkin-shaped trunk hosewere worn with tight hose to show off a man’s legs and men began wearing corsets to slim the torso. They also acquired the v-shaped waistline as women did. Peascod-belly doublets became popular, as well as leg-of-mutton sleeves, short capes, and more vertical caps often decorated with feathers. Ruffs and matching cuffs were essential.

Women wore the low-crowned hat in the same fashion as the men. Women either wore their hair with

elaborate structures in their hair like the Germans or with just a kerchief. They had the hair covered with

some kind of headdress. Some names of headdresses are: crescent, kennel, gable, transparent

half-dome bonnet, or the gorget and wimple. Peasant women wore the cote of the earlier period and

handkerchiefs or collars around their neck.

Most men's hair was bobbed but the length of your hair was chosen by individual taste. They could be

straight or curled according to the nature of the wearer. As the sixteenth century advanced men wore

their hair shorter almost like modern hair. The men wore variations of the low-crowned, brimmed cap

and was often turned up all around or with just one side turned up.

Overall, Renaissance fashions were characterized with a new scale of opulence and extravagance never

quite reached in the Middle Ages. Jewels, pearls, gold, lace, and techniques such as slashing and

puffing were used unscrupulously. Jewelry became very important during this time period to denote

wealth and position. Fashions truly reflected the love of art, discovery, and new inventions that defined

the Renaissance.

Colors of this period are strong, often dark colors. Black velvet was a staple fabric of

the period, especially in headdresses. White linen was another accent against colors of gold and

burgundy for collars and wrist ruffles.


Notable Renaissance Costume Elements

Flat Cap—A hat that is flat with soft crown and moderately broad brim often associated with Henry VIII.

Jerkin—A short velvet or leather jacket, usually sleeveless, similar to a vest/waistcoat.

Upper Hose—Upper hose or full trunks that extended from upper thighs to waist.

Nether Hose—The stockings that covered the lower edges of the leg. They were usually rolled above the knee and secured by garters.


Kennel/Gable Headdress—Resembles in outline the pediment of a Greek temple. Its essentials were the piece that goes over the front part of the head and covers the ears and the veil or bag cap covering the rest of the head. With the formal styles of this headdress, no hair was visible, that at the forehead being covered with rolls or folds of cloth. There were

however, linen coifs shaped in the same outline which left the parted hair visible on the forehead. The front roll was of diagonally striped material or velvet. The kennel consisted of a stiff plane covered with rich material, pieces of which extended down the sides and might be pinned back on themselves. The cap at the back, joining the kennel, was like a bag with a square bottom. One side was turned back and pinned to the other at the back of the head. The bag was generally of black velvet.

French/Crescent Stuart Cap—A heart shaped cap worn by Mary Stuart. .

Bridged Sleeves—Sleeves created by tying segments together at a bridge often bridged at the shoulder.


Cod Piece—A pouch like appendage made from the same fabric as the jerkin or upper stocks and fastened by ties or buckles; a decorated covering for the opening in the front of the breeches; forerunner of the fly.

Simar(re)—A robe for men, derived from chimer or chimere, and

ecclesiastical garment very much like it in shape. The neck part was somewhat on a double breasted line, with no collar in back, but with wide revers turned back from the front edge of the robe. The robe was worn either ungirded or confined at the waist by a narrow silk scarf, knotted with one loop and two ends.

Slashing and Puffing—Vertical, horizontal or diagonal slits in the fabric of the garment, through which appeared a different fabric. Often the shirt was the garment which puffed through.

Panes—Loose, vertical bands on


Funnel Sleeves—Sleeves that start big and tighten toward the cuff.

Order of the Garter—An honor bestowed by the King and the person was given a special garter to wear.

Duckbill Shoes—Very wide square-toed, slipper-like shoes, often decorated with jewels, puffs or slashes.

Stomacher—False front or ornamental covering on the front of bodice.


Clocking—Embroidery on the socks at the ankle and sometimes on boots.

Chain of Office—A heavy chain worn by a man across the chest and

neckline as decoration; often denoted an organization to which he belonged.

Ladies' Hairstyles

Wearing their hair long, women did not wear bangs. They scraped their hair back from the

face to expose the forehead. Ladies braided and then coiled it -- encircling the head, coiling

over the ears or forming 'horns' either side of the head. They covered these coils with

increasingly elaborate head coverings that developed from simpler medieval forms. Ladies

selected hoods and wimples with complex folds, high crowns, gables or peaks. Enclosing

their coils in hairnets and snoods, ladies decorated these with gold, pearls or semi-precious

stones. Poorer women wore cauls -- similar to snoods, these were cloth bags to cover the

coiled hair. Noblewomen might also wear cauls, but theirs would be elaborately decorated.


Renaissance society considered a large forehead to be beautiful. Ladies plucked all the hair

from the front of their heads to make the hairline recede. Ladies continued doing this into


the Elizabethan era -- consider portraits of Queen Elizabeth I with her high forehead and

plucked eyebrows. Hairlines had receded and hats were much smaller by the late 1500s

Read more :


Men's Hairstyles

Men of the early Renaissance shaved their facial hair. They cut their hair below the ears --

typically around chin length -- and wore bangs. Beards came into vogue later in the

Renaissance, and men cut their hair shorter. Henry VII of England, 1485 to 1509, wore the

typical Renaissance bob and bangs; Henry VIII, 1509 to 1547, is known for his trim beard.

Men of the Elizabethan era likewise had beards. Renaissance men covered their hair with

wide hats, caps or beret-like hats worn on the side of the head, trimmed with a feather or



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