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Ancient British Clothing

Updated April 17, 2017

Most people understand the Celts to have been the people living in ancient Ireland. However, the first British people were also Celtic, at least until the Romans and Vikings invaded the island. Before their clothing was influenced by the Romans, early British peoples had their own sense of style.

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Ancient British men wore tunic shirts made from a finely woven wool. These tunics were dyed colourfully in a variety of shades. Some of the Celts wore tunics bordered with fringe for decoration. With the tunic, the man wore a type of covering over it called a "sagum." This cloak is thought to have been made from animal hide and was generally dyed in blue or black.


There were several types of trousers that men wore in ancient England. Some of these resembled the shorts seen in modern times that are cut above the knee and are close-fitting. This style was borrowed by Roman warriors. Some of their trousers were slightly more baggy and even included sewn-in feet like the footsie pyjamas children in modern times wear. Others were bound at the ankle by the shoe strap. The trousers were held up by a tie at the waist or were secured with a belt.

Women's Clothing

Women did not wear trousers but often wore longer, more narrow versions of the tunic. They occasionally tucked a short tunic into a skirt. They also wore what is called a "chilton," which was similar to the wrapped garments ancient Greeks wore. If the woman was of royalty, she fastened the folds of her clothing with gold jewellery. This description is expressed by James Robinson Planché of the costume of the Queen of Boadicea in his book "British Costume: A Complete History."

Shoes and Hats

For their feet, the ancient British wore a type of shoe made from one piece of leather, similar to a sandal. Archaeological studies have uncovered shoes made from straw. Hats and caps also were worn by the men in shapes that would be considered unusual today. Some of them resembled hats worn by the Shriner's organisation but with a more rounded top.

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About the Author

A writer since 1995, Brooke Turner has been published in the "Duluth News Tribune" and "Ashland Daily Press," as well as various advertising publications. She is a freelance copywriter and the owner and operator of Blue Quill Writing Services in Ottertail, Minn. Turner also maintains two blogs: The Blog of Brooke and Blue Quill Writing.

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