The period in history between the 5th and 15th centuries is known as the medieval times. In the Western Europe it is also known as the Middle Ages. This age began with the fall of the Roman empire to the invading Germanic tribes. Western Europe was broken down to many kingdoms, and there was a collapse of the trade system and people began to turn to farming for a living. This led to the rise of feudalism in Europe. The beginning of the medieval ages started with the 'Dark Ages' as the learning culture of the ancient Greek and Roman civilization disappeared. This period ended with the onset of Renaissance.
During the medieval period, people wore loose linen and wool tunics. As the age progressed, clothing became more distinguished and men and women of different professions wore clothing different from each other. Men wore woolen pants under the tunics. Kings and noblemen wore long tunics that touched the ground.
Women wore 'kirtles'. These were tunics that reached till the ankles. Shirts were worn over them and when in public, women often topped the tunic with a shorter 'kirtle'. The noble women wore luxurious clothing. Married women wore tight-fitting caps and nets over their hair. They would wear a 'bun' hairstyle on their heads and some would wear veils over their hair, that would be braided tightly or left to hang loosely.
From 900 A.D to 1000 A.D
- Clothing in the early middle ages were very tight. This was because tight clothing could display the elegance of the female form.
- The long tunic was fastened at their waist and closed at the wrist area, in case there were sleeves. Many women wore tunics without sleeves.
- Their clothing also consisted of two tunics and a veil that was thrown over the head and could be falling down in the front and behind, thus, covering the entire neck.
- Queens, princesses and noblewomen, wore an additional long cloak that was lined with ermine.
From 1000 A.D to 1100 A.D
- During this period, their clothing consisted of two tunics. One of the tunics was longer than the other. The longer one was worn underneath the shorter one.
- Sleeves were tight and reached the wrist in length. They were pleated in many folds.
- Ornamental bands adorned the lower part of the dress, the neckline and the sleeve borders.
- A girdle encircled the waist, just above the hips.
- A finely worked veil was fastened over the head and covered the shoulders and hung down till the feet. The veil completely covered the hair, proving that visible long plaits were not in fashion.
- The underdress was worn in different colors, whereas, the gowns and outer tunics were mostly white.
From 1100 A.D to 1200 A.D
- During this period, clothing consisted of a cap that was made of linen with lappets that hung over the shoulders.
- The robe was fastened with long bands attached to the sleeves, near the wrists around the waist.
- A round buckle near the collar fastened the tight gown and two bands made of cloth material around the neck formed a look of a necklace.
- The women wore a long cloak and closed shoes that were now made pointed. There were colored bands attached to the shoes, that were tied around the ankles, showing the shape of the foot.
- Along with a head-dress, medieval women wore a broad band that was tied under the chin. This helped framing the shape of the face.
- Women also wore surcoat that was a large wrapper with sleeves. It was worn over the upper part of the robe. Later on, women began to wear surcoats without sleeves.
From 1200 A.D to 1300 A.D
- This was a period of luxury and medieval clothing consisted of jewelry made of gold, silver, pearls and precious stones.
- The women wore large belts made of solid gold.
- They wore gowns with tight bodices.
- Tight jackets were worn over the bodices, that reached a little below the hip and were trimmed with fur.
- They also wore plait hairstyles that fell near the side of the face, till the neck and were decorated with pearls, gold or silver ornaments.
- They wore pointed caps with turned up borders and hair clustered in thick curls on the side.
- The gown was fastened with a row of buttons in the front, with long and tight sleeves with small slit at the wrists.
- They wore long, pointed shoes, with richly embroidered clothing.
From 1300 A.D to 1400 A.D
- During this period, clothing included coats and surcoats that trailed on the ground.
- They wore hats that had a wired framework, covered in embroidery or laces.
- A silken net was worn to keep the hair back.
- The surcoat turned into a wide and trailing coat that was kept back on the shoulders and draped at the lower part of the body.
- The external corset was worn in the front and behind, without concealing the fine outlines of the bust. A steel busk encased in rich lace work, kept the corset in place and was made of silk during summer and fur during the winter season.
- Women adorned the false hair and wore nets that permitted the mass of false hair to be seen hidden behind the padded puffs.
From 1400 A.D to 1500 A.D
- This was the beginning of the famous Renaissance period and an era of fine arts and literature. Clothing in this era consisted of dresses with short trains and long sleeves that were hanging and embroidered or fringed.
- Dresses became shorter and were trimmed in a very costly manner.
- Women wore large rolls of headdresses that were mounted with a high conical bonnet.
- The necklines became slightly low, to display necklaces.
- The ruffs and small collars were brought in fashion by Catherine de Medici, queen consort of King Henry II of France.
- The medieval renaissance clothing of women that were tight at the waist, became more full around the hips. They used large padded rolls in an arrangement of padded whalebone and steel.