Medieval Clothing for Women Pirates

Written by martha mendenhall
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Medieval Clothing for Women Pirates
Female pirates adpated the garb of their male coutnerparts to suit their needs. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Pirates have roamed the high seas across the globe for hundreds of years, but women pirates have been a rare species. During the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, piracy moved into a "golden age," during which some legendary female pirates such as Mary Read and Ann Bonney emerged. Medieval and early renaissance clothing worn by female pirates was a combination of traditional women's garb and the iconic dress of the male pirates.

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Shirts and Corsets

Loose fitting, blouse-y shirts with a gathered neckline and loose sleeves were traditional for the medieval time period, but also suited the pirate lifestyle. Loose sleeves allowed for freedom of movement during ship deck duty or when engaged in hand-to-hand combat. These tops were often worn outside the trousers or skirt and belted or tied with a sash for a tunic effect. The belt also provided a good anchor for a pirate's weaponry of knives and guns. Women pirates still followed fashion trends, and in the later middle ages and early renaissance, corsets were worn similarly to vests, outside the shirt. Female pirates copied the waistcoat styles worn by their male counterparts and often sported corsets made of leather, velvet or brocade.

Trousers and Skirts

Female pirates felt free to choose how they would dress, so some decided to dress completely in men's clothes, while others adapted the look of the male pirates to suit female garments and others combined them. Skirts of the late middle ages were free flowing and female pirates might opt to wear these. Female pirates might also choose to dress the top half of their bodies in female attire, but don sailor's trousers to ensure ease of movement. Sailor's trousers of this time were wide legged and often cropped short, since boats were notoriously wet and this kept the ends of the trousers legs relatively dry.

Headgear

Pirates wore knitted stocking caps to keep their heads warm during chilly days and nights at sea. These hats also clung to the head, making them practical choices on-board a windy ship's deck. Some pirates wore scarves or bandannas around their brows or as a head covering. These served to keep the sweat and hair out of the pirate's face, but also proved a cooler choice than a stocking cap in hot weather. Pirate women might wear any of these head-coverings to suit the situation and the weather. Wealthier female pirates might choose, as their male counterparts did, to flout their prestige by wearing a highly fashionable hat adorned with feathers or jewels. Pirates wore these hats for show when they weren't subject to the wild sea winds.

Accessories

Female pirates, if they were part of a successful crew, had access to contraband jewellery. Bracelets, necklaces and brooches of gold, silver and precious stones were received in payment for piratical services rendered, and female pirates wore their booty. Male and female pirates were renowned for their gold hoop earrings, worn to display their wealth, but also for the relief from seasickness that the pressure to the ear lobe provided. Pirates were also known to adorn their hair, and since many pirates of the Middle Ages wore their hair as long as the women, both sexes braided in fancifully coloured ribbons. Both sexes wore sturdy boots, which sometimes extended all the way up to the thigh and were worn over leggings.

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