12th Century Costumes

Written by louise harding
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12th Century Costumes
12th-century clothing was simple in construction. (maids of the knight 2 image by iChip from Fotolia.com)

The 12th century spanned from 1101 to 1200 A.D. and is referred to as the High Middle Ages. This time is remembered for, among other things, the Crusades. The Crusades were battles waged to control the Holy Land. Because of the Crusades and ongoing Moorish invasions of Europe, Middle Eastern costumes were prevalent among foreigners. Throughout Europe, costumes were dictated by class and wealth. The upper classes wore costly fabrics while the peasant classes wore garments constructed from homespun linen and wool.

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Costumes for European Women

Costumes for 12th-century women consisted of an underdress, overdress, head covering and cloak. The underdress, referred to as a chemise, resembled a long-sleeved nightgown and often doubled as nightwear. This garment was usually constructed of white linen or cotton. The overdress was tightly laced in the back with a variety of necklines. Tight upper sleeves ended in loose cuffs so large they sometimes brushed the ground. The inner cuffs featured contrasting decorative fabric. Head coverings of caps, veils and headbands of embroidery or gems were common. Peasant women wore a loose dress resembling the underdress or a crude tunic.

Costumes for European Men

12th-century costumes for men were simple in construction, but could be elaborate in fabric. Men wore a tunic, hosen, a belted gown and a cloak. Peasant men wore long tunics paired with thick, crude hosen. A man's tunic was a type of undergarment that doubled as nightwear and featured close-fitting sleeves. Made of silk or light linen, it was usually knee-length. Men did not wear trousers, but instead wore hosen, a form of stockings, that ranged from knee-length to waist-length. The tunic and hosen were then covered with a decorative gown with wide cuffs. Wools, silk and fine linen were used in gown construction. Belts, worn low on the hips, were constructed from leather or fabric and were often highly ornate. Cloaks were worn for both warmth and fashion.

Costumes for European Children

Noble children's clothing in the High Middle Ages mimicked the clothing of adults in style and finery. Peasant children wore mainly tunics and bare feet. Homespun, crude hosen were sometimes worn by boys. Aprons of various styles were sometimes worn by peasant girls over their tunics as most children, as well as lower-class adults, usually owned only one change of clothing.

Medieval Moorish or Middle Eastern Costuming

The Moors, originating from Africa and also called Arabs and Saracens, began invading Europe in the 8th century. Moors in long flowing robes would have been a common sight throughout many parts of Europe, and though the distinctive garments worn were vastly different than European styles, the garments would not have been seen as overly strange. As with the European upper classes, wealthy Moors wore fine gowns of multiple layers. Long, pendulous bell sleeves, referred to as angels' wings, were common. Robes were worn over chalvars (full Turkish trousers) and sashes were worn around the waist and head. Silk, linen, wool, cotton and mohair were popular fabrics. Brocades influenced by China were used to fashion the robes of the nobility. Cloaks were worn for warmth.

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