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. Barbarian nomads wore clothing made of fur, wool, and leather. They wore long trousers, some of which had attached feet. 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 part of the Age of Renaissance was the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The clothing during that period spoke much about the social standing of the wearer. One could largely distinguish between aristocracy or nobility and the lower-downs. In fact what one wore was extremely important, as compared to the present day scenario.
The rich wore fabrics such as velvet, satin and cotton, whereas the poor wore flannel and other cheaply available fabrics. It may surprise some how cotton was regarded as a rich person’s clothing. In those days, cotton was not easily available as compared to today and was imported from India and America, levying a high taxation. Amongst the common fabrics were flax and wool. Wool was spun into a form know as tweed.
Men of the Renaissance Age commonly wore boots, pants, a shirt, a vest and a hat. Women would be seen wearing shoes, an over and under skirt, a shirt, a bodice, and a hat or snood. They generally braided their long hair. Curls were a mark of beauty. Children after the age of years would wear what the adults wore.
It is believed that during the Renaissance, clothes wore such an important treasure that those belonging to the upper classes of nobility and aristocracy would spend all their earnings on what they wore. The women finely decorated their dresses. Typical Renaissance clothing was not just limited to England, which was ruled by Queen Elizabeth, but its influence spread to other European countries such as Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Flanders, and Poland.
Today, Renaissance costumes are more about fun. While it is completely outdated, yet it forms a theme for costume parties and fancy dress balls. While the clothing of that age did have its own charm and class, yet it would be inconvenient and extremely expensive an option to wear today. Especially considering the layers of cloth required. Yet, Renaissance costumes remain a subject of intricate study amongst prospective fashion designers.