The Medieval period covered a wide period of time from about 1066 to 1485, and it was a thrilling time in fashion, especially for the royalty. The feudal system was in full swing in Europe and sumptuary laws kept finer clothing from the peasants and lower classes. The elaborate clothing for medieval kings and queens was of only the finest fabrics and brightest colors.
The dyes to color the clothing of the time were expensive and only the nobility could afford them. Kings and queens tended to stick to the brighter royal colors of red and blue. Red dye came from an insect found in the Mediterranean. Green was created by lichen and Dyerswoad was used for blue.
Fabrics for royalty, such as velvet and silk, were usually imported, and only royalty were allowed to wear gold and purple silk. The Crusades had a tremendous impact on fashion due to the many exotic fabrics brought to Europe, such as satin. Fur from animals was popular, particularly ermine and fox.
Clothing for royalty and noble women consisted of many layers. Their undergarments were made up of breeches, hose and chemise and covered by an underskirt of linen or silk. On top of the skirt was a long gown that flowed behind the noble woman and that gown was covered by a luxurious tunic. Special castle shoes were worn for inside the castle and a second set of wood and leather shoes slipped over the castle shoes for excursions outdoors.
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Royalty adorned their clothes with embroidered lace and gems to add more luxury to their wardrobe. Fur trimmed the mantles of the dresses as well as cuffs for men. Royal women initially wore their hair in a silk cover, but hats emerged as the preferred style in the later Middle Ages. As the period continued, hats became more garish and larger and often were pointed.
Brock Cooper attended Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill. He was a reporter for seven years with a daily in Illinois before branching out into marketing and media relations. He has experience in writing everything from press releases to features on a variety of subjects and forums. His work can be seen in NewsTribune newspaper, Chicago Parent magazine and several websites.