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Medieval costume detail

During the 11th and 12th centuries

The years concidered here cover the medieval period from the time of the Norman Invasion in 1066 AD to the end of the reign of Henry I in 1135.

The information for this page has come from several books; The Handbook of Medieval English Costume by C. Willet and P. Cunningham, A Hstory of World Costume by Carolyn Bradley, English Costume by D.C. Caltrop and Costume 1066-1966 by J. Peacock. Each book varies in detail but the general information has been extracted to provide a rough guide to medieval costume worn in this period.

Men - Clothes

Type Details

The Tunic, Cote or Cotte was an outer garment worn over the upper body reaching down to knee or calf. Either tight fitting or loose over chest, but wide at bottom forming a skirt. Put on over head through circular neck. Neck either plain or with slit of four or five inches down the front. Sleeves loose either to elbow or to tight-fitted wrist. Bands of embroidered decoration or different coloured cloth around the neckline, bottom of skirt and around ends of sleeves. A belt or 'girdle' tied around the waist to shorten the skirt.

The Super-Tunic was worn occationally over the tunic but more often in place of the tunic. Loose and circular in shape; the super tunic had a hole at the centre for the head. Either the same length or just shorter than the tunic. Wide sleeves to teh elbow.

Legware On the legs were worn Braies or Breeches. These were loose fitting trousers of wool or cloth. The trousers were generally bound at the knees and ankles. Leg bandages were also worn. These were strips of cloth wound around the leg in a spiral or in a criss-cross manner to the knee.
Underware Shirts were worn under the tunic. Loose fitting with tight sleeves. The neck of the shirt showing above the opening of the tunic. Shirts usually white in colour.
The Cloak Over all was worn a cloak. A loose wrap in rectangular or circular shape. Could be long to the ankle or just to the knees. Circular hole at centre for the neck. Fastened over the right shoulder or under the chin using a large brooch. The cloak could also have a hood.
Key men in this period

Men - Hair

William the Conqueror brought with him the fashion of shaving the back of the head with the remainder of the hair brushed forward, but this strange look was not copied for long. Normally hair was cut short and the younger men were clean shaven. Shoulder length hair became more common towards the end of the period.

Men - Headware

Commonly bare-headed. When headware was worn it was either a close-fitting cap or a hood with a tube-like point.

Men - Footware

Leather shoes or short boots fitted to the shape of the foot. A slit at the instep fastened with thongs. Some decoration for important people. Flat heel.

Women - Clothes

Type Details
Outer The gown or kirtle was similar to the man's tunic but usually reached to the ground. Either loose or close-fitting bodice. Sleeves long and tight at the wrist. A belt or girdle was worn at the waist or hip to gather the fabric in. The neck was similar to the man's and had a slit of a few inches. The edges were decorated with needlework or strips of material.
  The super tunic was worn by women as well as men and was the same in design. The ends of the sleeves were very wide and extended past the wrists and could be used as muffs to keep the hands warm.
Underware A chemise or smock was worn under the tunic. The chemise was again long and reached the ground. It had long sleeves tight-fitted at the wrist. Usually plain white with coloured stitching at neck and wrists where it could be seen.
Legware Simple stockings or hose reaching to the knees.
Key women in this period
St. Margaret of Scotland, Sister of Edgar the Aetheling ( - 1093)
Matilda, daughter of Henry I (1102 - 1167)

Women - Hair and Headdress

Young women and girls were able to be wear their hair down but older and married women tended to cover their hair. The hair was covered by a veil, coverchief or wimple. This piece of cloth alowed a small piece of hair to be seen on the forehead but it covered the rest of the hair and hung down around the shoulders and sometimes around the chin.

Women - Shoes

Simple shoes shaped to the feet similar to the man's.

Women - Accessories

The belt or 'girdle' was the most decorative item. Depending on the wealth of the woman the girdle could be made of silk and gold thread, or made of leather and metal links inset with jewels. A poorer woman's girdle would be made from wool.

Women - Colours

White, dark-purples, red or yellow tunics. Red, grey or blue cloaks. Black shoes. Blues and greens also worn.