What was the streetwear in vogue during the Middle Ages? Is that even a relevant question, you may ask. Did fashion as we know it today exist 10 centuries ago? The answer is a resounding yes. Of course, London was not the cosmopolitan hub it is today, Paris had not understood the concept of the runway, and Milan’s luxury houses Gucci, Prada, and Versace were in the very very distant future. But, there was enough going around. And it is no stretch to state that the razzmatazz of today’s haute couture finds its base on the bold men and women who paraded their stuff around a thousand years ago.
Let’s start with the gentlemen. In the early medieval period, men’s attire comprised loose tunics, togas, trousers, and sandals. There also wore undershirts with briefs which were covered by a sleeveless jacket, extra tunic and stockings. Cloaks with round openings, which enabled the most comfortable on-and-off, was the “jacket” of that time. The end of the Middle Ages saw hoses replacing trousers, at least with the aristocrats. That was complemented by jackets with pleating and also a tunic with a surcoat. Tighter clothes and pointed shoes (longer points meant higher status) also came into vogue.
As for the ladies, they wore full-length tunics that covered their ankles. This style was called “kirtles” and it was worn over a shirt. The ladies wore shorter kirtles outside their homes. Affluent women wore more luxurious clothing. No surprises there. Fashion and social classes were connected – it was easy to figure out who belonged to nobility, who was single or married, etc. For instance, married woman wore tight fitted caps and nets over their hair which was tied into a bun. Some women wore veils over their heads with the hair hanging loosely under the veil. During the end of the medieval period, women gowns flowed more, headwear became a thing, and clothes became tighter.
Wool was the material of choice for garments with and linen was used for undergarments. Brighter coats and longer jackets indicated wealth.