Fashion changes with time, and what you wear depends in large part on your socioeconomic status. This is as much true today as it was in medieval times. The Middle Ages spanned the years between the end of the Roman Empire in AD 476 until the 15th century. And although many aspects of medieval fashion changed through those years, some aspects remained set in stone, even required by law.
Priests and others who worked with the church had their own fashions much like some religious denominations do today. They wore woolen cloaks or habits that touched the floor, and covered their heads with linen. Benedictine monks and nuns wore black and the Cictercians wore white or undyed fabric.
The Upper Class
The upper class and the nobility wore the most lavish fashions, and sometimes those fashions were rather unusual. One law, passed in 1463, permitted upper class men to wear skirts so short that they showed their buttocks -- lower-class men were not allowed to do the same. The elite, such as the King, Queen and noblemen, wore clothing made of gold thread. In addition, the women wore much longer skirts, and the men wore longer coats. Long clothing represented great wealth. Bright colors also represented greater wealth; especially red, as crimson dye was very expensive. Wealthy women also wore elaborate hats in the shapes of butterflies, flowers and other objects. Sometimes, they also wore turbans or large, pointy headdresses. Wealthy men wore patterned hose under their short skirts.
The peasants were the poorest class, and their clothing reflected this. Many didn't have the money to dye their clothes, so they wore dull fabrics. Men and women wore simple linen underwear. Men wore wool tunics, and women wore wool gowns. The wool was rarely washed, but the linen underwear was washed on a regular basis. To cover the head and protect against the elements, men wore woolen hats and women wore linen wimples. During cold weather, peasants wore sheepskin cloaks.
Accessories and Jewelry
Fur was an important accessory for the nobles and the upper class. Warm and soft, it was often used to line the inside of clothing, but only the wealthy could afford such clothes. Along with gold thread, clothing was sometimes accented with silver, but again, only the elite could afford it. Jewelry was another important accessory for the upper classes; especially ring brooches and diamonds. Jewelry became so lavish and popular that, as with some clothing styles, rules were passed to dictate who could wear what. Knights, for example, could not wear rings.
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