Medieval female fashion between 1000 and 1300

An overview of medieval female fashion from 1000 to 1300 (11th and 12th century) with lots of images from the source material as well as a short description of each type of garment. This post is focused on the upper classes.

The early medieval period does not have as much variation in the female dress as the later periods, but it does have some beautiful garments. It is interesting to see the female dress go from simple cotes and mantles over the elaborerte wide sleeved bliaut in the 1100’s and back to simpler cotes and cyclas in the 1200’s.

My personal favourite is the 1200’s fashion. If I didn’t have any restriction on which period to create a dress for that is the style I would go for. It just seem so comfortable and lovely.


It is very hard to find good pictures of female dress from the 1000’s but I found a few. It isn’t quite enough for me to dare to say something of trends yet.


In the 1100’s women started wearing cotes/tunics/gowns/kirtles with a close fit to the body.

Full skirts, and long flaring sleeves were characteristic of upper class fashion for both men and women. Under the outer dress they would wear a cote with tight sleeves, sometimes it would seem very long ones as they wrinkle around the wrist.

In the first half of the 1100’s the sleeves were flared but not huge, while they could get quite large towards the latter part of the century.

Decorations on the sleeves and around the neckline seem to be common among noble woman. Women are not depicted wearing belts in this period.


Women of the French court wore a loosely fitted tunic called a cotte or a form-fitting bliaut over a full chemise/shift with tight sleeves. The bliaut had a flaring skirt and sleeves tight to the elbow and then widening to wrist in a trumpet shape. A bliaut apparently cut in one piece from neckline to hem. The fitted bliaut was sometimes worn with a long belt/cincture that looped around a slightly raised waist and was knotted over the abdomen; the cincture could have decorative tassels or metal tags at the ends.

Bliaut: Excessively long sleeves – fitted to a degree above the elbow, and opening wider below – and sometimes simply elongated cuffs. The lowest part of the sleeve is often square.Tight fit on the torso. Neck openings – can be round, keyhole, or V-shaped, often decorated with embroidery, woven braids of applied silk bands in contrasting colour. Sometimes the long sleeves are knotted for practical as well as aesthetic reasons. 1



Dress for women was modest and restrained, and a narrow belt was the uniform. Over the cote was worn a cyclas. More wealthy women wore more embroidery and their mantle, held in place by a cord across the chest, might be lined with fur. Women, like men, wore hose and leather shoes.

Cote or kirtle

Many of the pictures of woman in the 1200’s just have them wearing their cote and perhaps a mantle rather than the later period’s elaborerte surecotes. The cote is sometimes richly decorated. The cote of the 1200’s has fitted sleeves and a fairly loose body. It is sometimes belted, sometimes not.

It would seem that some cotes had open armpits so the sleeve could be pulled back and out of the way.

Cyclas  1200’s

For a long time noble women would wear surcotes with large armholes showing off the tunic underneath that would be of a different fabric. In the 1200’s woman would wear cyclas almost like the one the men would wear. A Cyclas began as a rectangular piece of cloth with a hole in it for the head. Over time the sides were sewn together to make a long, sleeveless tunic.


Over the cote many noble woman would wear some kind of surcote. Not all of the examples form the 1200’s are cyclases.


The gardecorp came into fashion in the 1200’s. The garment is wide in the body and has long sleeves. The sleeve are cute open near the armpits so that the arm can pass though when the warm of the sleeves are not needed. The length wary from knee to full length. They often have a hood that is worn up or down. The fashion lasted until some time in the 1300’s. Though variants turn up later. They evolve into the split-sleeve houppelandes of the 1400’s2 It is also possible that some of these are sleeves of cotes being open and pulled back.

Capes or mantles

Both men and women in the 1200’s seems to have worn very simple mantles. Like with the men it is mostly noble women wearing the mantles.


About the post

This is an image based research post on what woman wore between 1000 and 1300. My main interest is Northern Europe but because scarcity of images from part of the period, pictures from all of the medieval world is used. I try to be exact as possible with dating and naming the sources. In a few case that I find no source, that is also mentioned in the description of the image. I know many other people have done similar things and I link to some of them and I am grateful for everyone who takes the time to not just study but also write about the medieval period.

You can find a post on the female fashion for head wear and hair styles in the period here. And I have large post on what the common people wore in the middle ages here. If you are interested in medieval underwear you can find that here.

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