Monday, March 15, 2010

Thirteenth Century Costume

The neckline was of an oblong cut; the sleeves were snugly laced. The stockings matched, as did her pointed yellow slippers. Around her hips was knotted a kirtle of purple samite. Next came a surcoat of fine plum wool, embroidered along the trailing hem and around the wide armholes in an intricate pattern in gold thread. The armholes were open almost to the knees, making the surcoat more of an apron than a gown. Margot clucked over the saffron dress in disapproval. “In my young days, nice young ladies did not wear yellow – only hussies.” ~from The Night's Dark Shade by Elena Maria Vidal
One of the most exciting aspects of writing a historical novel is researching the clothing. Here is a general description of thirteenth century apparel from Medieval-Life:

From the 11th through the 13th centuries, medieval clothing varied according to the social standing of the people. The clothing worn by nobility and upper classes was clearly different than that of the lower class.

The clothing of peasants during the Middle Ages was very simple, while the clothing of nobility was fitted with a distinct emphasis on the sleeves of the garments. Knights adorned themselves with sleeveless "surcoats" covered with a coat of arms....Fine leather shoes were also worn. Imports such as turbans and silks from the East were common for the more fortunate of society.

As with today, clothing styles of medieval men changed periodically. At the end of the 13th century, the once loose and flowing tunics became tighter fitting. Besides tunics, the men also wore undershirts and briefs covered by a sleeveless jacket and an additional tunic. Stockings completed the ensemble. Men's medieval clothing also consisted of cloaks with a round opening that was slipped over the man's head. Such cloaks were worn over other clothing as a type of "jacket".

Early medieval women's clothing consisted of "kirtles", which were tunics worn to their ankles. These tunics were often worn over a shirt. When the women were in public, they often topped the tunics with an even shorter "kirtle." Of course the more affluent women wore more luxurious clothing than those of the less affluent lifestyle. Women, especially those who were married, wore tight-fitting caps and nets over their hair, which was wound in a "bun" on their heads. Other women wore veils over their hair, which was left either hanging loosely, or braided tightly.

A knight, a prince, and a Templar.

A knight's family.

Hospitallers of St. John. (They could be Sir Gaston and Sir Martin.)

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3 comments:

Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

Fascinating - I wonder why yellow was considered improper. I thought yellow (like purple) was always considered a sign of wealth and privilege.

These color plates are just gorgeous. Such detailed and lovely work.

elena maria vidal said...

Aren't they lovely, Tristan? They are from an antique German book, as far as I can tell. I don't know why yellow was considered improper earlier in the middle ages. I think it had been a color worn by prostitutes but by the 13th century it was socially acceptable, to everyone but Margot, that is.

Julygirl said...

That is a lot of fabric. It is no wonder the cloth merchants were rich.