13th Century Scottish Women's Dresses

Updated February 21, 2017

Thirteenth century Scotland was relatively poor compared to the rest of Europe and England. As such, the clothing worn by the Scottish was made from more loosely woven cloth of wool or linen, of coarser quality and duller colours. In feudal times, the nobility sported the finest clothes and the classes under them wore what they could afford. Women in Scotland in the 13th century dressed according to their class, but Scottish women in general donned a kirtle (underdress) with sleeves, sleeveless tunic, shoes, girdle or belt and head covering. Shawls were worn for extra warmth.


Depending on her station in life, 13th century Scottish women started getting dressed with a kirtle or underdress. It could be made of wool or linen, dyed in different colours or not dyed at all, with wide or narrow sleeves. For the poorest women, this might be the only garment she wore besides a belt and head covering of some kind. The kirtle was a simple A-line garment that depended on the belt or girdle at the waist or hips to give it shape.


The tunic, which fit over the kirtle, was usually sleeveless and sometimes only seamed at the shoulders so the rest of the garment was open at the sides. The tunic could be belted along with the kirtle or worn loose with only the kirtle belted underneath. For Scottish women of means, the tunic would be a different colour than the kirtle and possibly of a finer fabric. Mid-century, the textile industry advanced technologically and better fabrics became available to more people in Scotland.


In 13th century Scotland, shoes were basically a piece of leather, sewn to fit a foot, and turned inside out after it was sewn so the seams were on the inside. When the soles wore out, new soles were stitched to the uppers. Walking was the only way of getting around for most people in Scotland and shoes received rough treatment. In wet and muddy weather, a wooden shoe called a patten might be worn. For wealthier women, shoes for indoors might be made of dyed leather or made of fabrics other than leather.

Head Covering

Thirteenth century Scottish women who were married wore their hair covered. For this purpose, various head coverings were available including wimples or barbette and snood. A wimple was a piece of fabric, draped over the head to the shoulders and held in place by a band around the forehead. A barbette was a band set on top of the head, worn over a foundation cap that passes under the chin. A woman wearing a barbette could have her hair gathered into a net snood at the back of her head.

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About the Author

Patricia Neill began writing professionally in 2000, spending most of her career as managing editor of “Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly.” Neill published political satire at and other libertarian websites. She also has an essay in “National Identification Systems: Essays in Opposition." Neill holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Nazareth College of Rochester.