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Middle Ages – Women’s Fashion

Women Medieval Costumes

There was a distinct divide in medieval women costumes that the peasants and the noblewomen wore, at least with regard to quality.

Wealthy women wore elegant tunics that fell to the floor. They were colorful and vibrant with luxurious fabric and intricate embroidery. Initially, fur was preferred on the inside of clothes for warmth, which was replaced by fur trim as the era progressed. Over time, dresses became more elaborate. Women wore two tunics, one more decorated than the other. Ornamental bands were used to embellish sleeve borders, necklines and the lower half of dresses. Girdle-like panniers created a bigger hip shape. Jewelry such as silver and gold embellishments ornamented the clothing.

Medieval costumes for women in the lower strata of the society did not differ much from the elite, in terms of the type of garments they wore.  There were tunics just as with the noblewomen, but the material was of a clearly inferior class. The dress-like tunics or kirtles were made of undyed linen or wool and most women wore them over a shirt. Sumptuary laws prevented poor women from dressing with style. As per these laws, it was punishable for these women to wear expensive veils, embellished girdles, or even the colors purple and gold!

What of headwear then? By the 12th century, women's headwear has become something to behold. One style was the steeple headdress, which looked like a tall dunce cap and was embellished with a veil. Then there was the ram's horn headdress featuring two conical horns at the side of the head. But perhaps the most dramatic of all was the butterfly headdress, a steeple headdress where the fine fabric was held together by a wire structure in the shape of butterfly wings.

Medieval Women’s Clothing for Collectors and Reenactors

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