Medieval commoners’ clothing 1000-1550

While the fashion of the nobles changed quite a lot between 1000 and 1550, the clothing of the common people, particularly the peasants, changed but slowly. There were however changes both the the male and female dress. This post is mostly peasants and workmen and other country dwellers. I think I will do a separate post on artisans, craftsmen, merchants and other city dwellers. My focus here is on Northern Europe.

For an overview on clothing in the middle ages read more here

Men’s clothing

Underwear

The inner most layer was the for the men consisted of braies, a shirt and some kind of hose or stocking. The inner layers were made by either linen or less common wool. If you want to look more at the underwear I have a huge post about that here. As you can see form the pictures working men, particularly peasants would often strip down to their braies to work in the field.

Work clothing

Over their shirt and braies working people would wear a belted tunic for most of the period and some kind of hose – short or long. For most jobs they did not wear special work clothing. The exception were the leather apron of the smith and the apron worn while sowing. The outer layers were made of linen or wool.

1000-1300

In the 1200’s working men would wear a short coat or tunic with a belt over their shirt. The tunic would be split up the front and could be tied up if needed. Under the tunic they wore long braies that could be used as shorts in hot weather or while doing dirty work. Over the braies they wore chausses tied to the belt or with a drawstring. 1

1400-1500

During the 1400’s some commoners started wearing shorter and tighter doublets ranter than loose tunics. Many others still wore the loose tunic and old fashioned chausses.

1500-1600

Merry making

Woman’s clothing

Underwear

The inner most layer was the for the women consisted of a shift of linen and short stockings tied under the knee. The inner layers were made by either linen or less common wool. If you want to read more about female underwear have a look here.

 

Work clothing

Over the under shift women would wear a dress. In the first part of the period it would be very loose but it became a fitted cote or kirtle toward the latter part of the period. Women would often wear an apron to protect their clothing. The outer layers were made of linen or wool.

Feast wear

Since most of the period pictures I have found of peasant feasts have both men an women in them I will have them combined.

If you could afford clothing just for festive occasions and perhaps church you would, since it is a great opportunity to show off to the neighbors. The clothing seem to be simpler version of what-ever was the fashion at the time. Probably produced in wool rather than silk and brocade. More likely than not there would be pretty details of lace and needle work.

The Dancing Peasants, late 1400’s
Dancing peasants 1400's
The Dancing Peasants, late 1400’s

I want to take a closer look at The Dancing Peasants. Below is a description of the clothing seen in the picture.

From the left: The first woman is wearing a red striped surcote ouverte with a blue cote with fitted sleeves under it and a white kerchief stuffed into her neckline. She is wearing black pointed shoes.

The man in front of her is wearing with shirt with a very loose tunic with a hood attracted or a chaperon in the same color over that. On his legs he is wearing white hose without feet. He is also wearing a coif and a small hat decorated with leaf.

He is dancing with a woman in a dusty red (sur)cote over a white cote or shift with fitted sleeves. She is wearing a very red chaperon with a floor length tale and a twig with red berries. On her feet she wears small black shoes.

She has her partner’s sleeve. He is wearing a blue surcote with “reversible” sleeves and a beautiful pattern. The cote has a huge hood. Underneath he is wearing something with black sleeves and red hose. Over that he has short black boats. On his head he wears a small black hat with a upturned edge.

In front of him is a woman wearing a little black hat with beads over her visible long blond hair, which looks to be tied at the neck. She is wearing a red cote with not visible shift under. She also have a white kerchief stuffed into her neckline. Unlike the other women she is wearing a white apron around her waist.

To her right is a barefooted fellow with rolled-up white shirt sleeves under a red waistcoat – which seem to be laced. Over that he wears a thin black belt with a purse tucked behind him. He is wearing what looks like red pants – but is properly a joined hose without feet rolled up to the knee. His waistcoat has hole to tie a hose to tit but his hose is not tied to it. It seem that he the waistcoat is meant to be worn with a different hose – perhaps it is an older or borrowed piece of closing.

To the left of the tree is a man in a red chaperon which has fallen off his head. He is wearing what looks to be a blue jacket. It is fairly loosely fitted. He is either wearing black hose with feet or black boots.

Out to the right a musician is playing on a bagpibe. He is wearing a loose blue tunic, grey hose and a very red chaperon worn on top of his head like a hat.


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