A Visual Guide to the Various Styles of Clothing Worn at Various Times

This is a quick visual guide to clothing worn between 500 and 1600
in the Knowne Worlde using primary sources.

Time and Place Description Female Male

500-700 A.D.


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.


700-900 A.D.



900-1100 A.D.




1000s German Coat

Provenance unknown

Bayeaux Tapestry

11-1200 A.D.


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.

Jamb Figures
Cathedral, Chartres

Enthroned Virgin and Child, 1130–1140

French; Carved in Burgundy
The Cloisters Collection, 1947 (47.101.15)

Jamb Figures
Cathedral, Chartres

Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, ca. 1175–1180;

English; Made in Canterbury, Kent
The Cloisters Collection, 1984 (1984.232)

12-1300 A.D.


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 in Europe.

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 lengths.

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.


Count Eckhart and Uta
c. 1245
Cathedral, Naumburg

13-1400 A.D.


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.

The Wedding of Mary and Joseph
Giotto di Bondone, c. 1303-1305

The Birth of the Virgin
Rinuccini Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence

Choir of Virgins
Giovanni do Milano, 1365

Giovanni Boccaccio
Des cas des nobles hommes et femmes
(Of the Fate of Illustrious Men and
Women) France, ca. 1520. Vol. 2, leaves 1b, 2a Vellum

Pourpoint of Charles de Blois
Lyon, Musee Historique des Tissues

Marriage at Cana
GIUSTO de' Menabuoi

14-1500 A.D.


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.

Christine 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.
607, Parchment

Octavien de Saint-Gelais (b. 1468-d.1502), Translation of Ovid's Epistulae heroidum 1496-1498, Manuscripts Department, Western
Section, Fr. 875, Parchment


15-1600 A.D.


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.

Sofonisba Anguissola

"Group of Children"