The clothes that people wore in the Middle Ages changed during the medieval period: from simple Roman style to sophisticated and fancy Gothic style. The attire of the early medieval era was a mix of Roman and Barbarian elements, but late medieval costume transformed into a noble outfit. There were dozens of various garments used in the Middle Ages, most of which suited both men and women with little differences. Let’s review top-10 most popular articles of clothing used in the medieval period.
# 10 Chemise
This is an undergarment, a long shirt. It was used by both men and women throughout the whole medieval period. The male chemise was a bit shorter (mid-thigh or knee-length) than a female one (ankle-length). This garment was sewn from linen or hemp cloth. Its cut was simple.
But there was one trick used by medieval women: they attached kind of little pouches inside the chemise, which served as a bra, supporting and visually enlarging the breasts. Especially when a woman put extra layers of fabric or tiny pillows inside these pouches. Sort of like a modern push-up bra.
# 9 Cotte
It was a loose shirt made from wool, linen, or other fabrics and worn over the chemise. Men’s cotte was mid-thigh-length, women’s cotte – ankle-length. The simple and unfussy cut of cotte hasn’t changed for several centuries, only the fabric and color did change.
The fashion of late Middle Ages dictated for the female dress to have a low and tight-fitting bodice. That’s why peasant women, who didn’t have servants and dressed themselves, started to add a lacing at the front or side of the cotte. Such a cotte could be called a “corset”.
# 8 Braies
This is a precursor of modern underpants. Originally, braies were loose mid-calf-length trousers. But with time, they became shorter and shorter. By the 15th century, braies turned into something very similar to modern swimming trunks. Though, the length varied according to the season, climate, and social class of the owner. The main material of braies was linen, but wool and cotton were also used. The noblemen could afford silk braies.
# 7 Hose
Over braies, men wore another pair of pants – so-called “hose”. It is a transitional clothing article between underwear and outer garments. Originally, these were tight-fitting stockings that were attached to the belt of braies with cords. Since the 14th century, they were sewn together, into a single garment – pants. At the same period, long and pointed toes of hose were fashionable. People put wool hards inside the toes to keep the needed shape. The hose could be made from linen, wool, or even silk.
# 6 Doublet
It is a kind of camisole worn under the armor. A doublet was put on top of a chemise. This piece appeared in the 14th century and was a quilted jacket. It could be used in the 14th century as the armor itself because it protected the body pretty well. At the same time, a doublet became a part of a civil male outfit. A civil doublet looked like a vest with or without sleeves. This garment was always made from 2 or more layers of dense fabric – fustian, cotton, or wool.
# 5 Pourpoint
By the mid-14th century, a cotte was replaced by a pourpoint, a short jacket with narrow sleeves. At first, a pourpoint was used by knights under their armor, but later, it became outerwear. This article of clothes was popular among both noblemen and peasants. Wealthy males wore a pourpoint with long decorative sleeves that hang to the floor. Unlike the doublet which could be an outer garment, pourpoint was hidden under the cloak or mantle most of the time. The best material for pourpoint was wool, linen, or suede, but there are items made from dense silk, velvet, and brocade. By the end of the 17th century, pourpoint was out of fashion.
# 4 Cottehardie
This garment was the first tight-fitting piece of clothing in the Middle Ages. It appeared at the beginning of the 14th century. Cottehardie was a mid-thigh-length camisole that accentuated every curve. Its cut consisted of 4 pieces: 2 front and 2 back parts. Also, it had a long row of buttons, which helped to make the garment skin-tight.
Female cottehardie was a long and tight-fitting as well dress, with a low bodice. The upper part of the cottehardie had to sit tightly on a female body, so the garment was equipped with lacing at the back and a row of buttons at the front.
# 3 Surcoat
This type of clothing appeared in the 11th century. Originally, it was a military outer shirt, worn over the armor. A civil surcoat became a wide and thick mid-calf-length or ankle-length outer shirt. In most cases, it had long sleeves.
Female surcoat was the outer dress, sleeveless and beltless. Also, it had large cutouts at the sides, which reached the mid-thigh.
# 2 Houppelande
This garment appeared in the 14th century. It was outerwear, a floor-length wide robe with long triangular-shaped sleeves. The collar of houppelande was a stand-up collar and it sometimes reached the chin and ears.
Noblewomen wore a female variant of the houppelande. Its shape was similar to the male one. The only difference was the absence of a cut at the front or sides of the attire. The main materials used to make an houppelande were wool, satin, velvet, and silk.
# 1 Coat, cloak, mantle
A fur trimmed coat or mantle was a part of a female outfit in the 13th century. In the 14th-15th centuries, this garment became also used by men. Originally, it was a rectangular piece of cloth with a hole for the head and without any buttons or clasps, similar to a Mexican poncho. It was mid-thigh-length. Around 1436, another variation of this garment came into fashion – it was a round piece of fabric rather than rectangular.
A mantle or cloak became extremely popular from the last quarter of the 14th century. This sleeveless semi-circle piece of cloth was worn on top of all other garments. It was an irreplaceable item for travelers and warriors. If needed, the cloak was equipped with a wide hood and lining.