A Visual Guide to the Various Styles of Clothing Worn at Various Times
This is a quick visual guide to clothing worn between 500
in the Knowne Worlde using primary sources.
Time and Place
Dress was fairly basic, consisting of a over-tunic and an under-tunic
for women and a tunic and trousers for men. Women were *generally* veiled.
There is wide debate on the extent of veiling. Regional differences can
be found in the detailing.
In England the underdress was called the "tunica" and the over
dress the "gunna".
Clothing was cut for minimal waste and was often woven to the needed
size. Patterns were based on straight lines and rectangles/triangles.
1000s German Coat
This is the beginning of the early Gothic period and evidence of conspicuous
consumption in the widening of hemlines and sleeve treatments. The simple
T Tunic is starting to give way to more elaborate clothing.
Late in the century, parti-coloring was introduced. This is color blocking
with one side different from the other.
English; Made in Canterbury, Kent
The Cloisters Collection, 1984 (1984.232)
The High Middle Ages bring unprecedented change to Europe. The Crusades
expose Europeans to a level of culture unknown for centuries. Clothing
is influenced in textile and embellishments. Velvet begins to be produced
The "bliant", which first showed up in the previous century
as a Norman garment, is still worn by both sexes. It is a loose full-cut
gown worn over the "shirte", or undergown. For women, the bliant
is fitted over the hips and held in place with a belt or girdle. For men,
the bliant is rather fitted to the waist and has a pleated skirt of varying
The "cotte" and "surcotte" began to be used as daily
wear and extended into the 14th century. The cotte was cut close to the
body with long sleeves. The surcotte was worn over the cotte and could
either be sleeveless or have wider cut sleeves.
With the introduction of the button by the Crusaders, the clothing became
tighter and much more form fitting. The "cotehardie", a fitted
dress that flares at the hips, becomes widespread. It had tight sleeves
to the wrist or knuckles. Over the cotehardie, a sideless surcoat as worn.
For men, the "poirpoint" was a tightfitting jacket closed in
the front with a row of buttons. It was worn with hose, and the emerging
codpiece. Shoes became attenuated with a long tip villifed by the Clergy.
As the emphasis moves from the
Gothic vertical to the horizontal, the "houppelande" makes it's
appearance. The houppelade had a deep plunging V-shaped neckline and very
wide skirts attached below the breast. Sleeves became very baggy and dagging
was used on sleeves and hems.
de Pisan (b. 1364-d. after 1429), Le
Livre de la Cité des Dames (The Book of the City of Women), Paris,
around 1405, Manuscripts Department, Western Section, Fr.
de Saint-Gelais (b. 1468-d.1502), Translation of Ovid's Epistulae
heroidum 1496-1498, Manuscripts Department, Western
Section, Fr. 875, Parchment
The High Renaissance brings an explosion in textiles, colors, patterns,
textures and an ever increasing refinement of taste. The body is no longer
the arbitor of fashion, rather the clothes begin to mold the person.
The first documented corseting comes from this era. While the previous
tight-fitting cotehardies did to some degree shape the figure, it is with
the encasing in boning that the transmogrification of the body begins.