Duties of Medieval Tailors

Only the wealthy could afford the services of skilled tailors.

Medieval tailors constructed clothes for a small segment of the population. Their work was heavily bound by tradition and limited resources. They were hired to create all types of clothing, from underwear to silk gowns. A variety of materials added to the repertoires of some tailors for creating diverse types of clothing. Other tailors worked in highly specialized shops, where clothing materials and templates allowed them to create more copies of specific garments.

1 Learning

Medieval tailoring techniques were generally passed from master to apprentice through rote learning and repetition. Styles were limited by the variety of tools available and the tight supply of materials. Creative or radical adjustments in technique were generally impossible, because tailoring methods were learned and determined with particular sets of construction templates. Tailors' materials were worth more than their time, so they generally opted for working more rote hours over wasting materials by experimenting with them.

2 Materials

Medieval tailors had to procure and shape various materials into clothing. Many peasants simply made, found, stole or inherited the clothes they wore, which were often shapeless and made of rougher materials. Wealthier people could hire tailors. The aristocracy and royalty had enough money to wear custom-tailored silk gowns. Silk was worn just as much to be seen as it was to be felt. Only the wealthiest could afford silk undergarments. Some other materials tailors used were: leather, bernet, perse and sandal.

3 Underwear

Men's underwear, called hosen, were among the most complex and difficult pieces of clothing to tailor. They required precise fitting around the feet, legs, knees, pouch and buttocks. Not only was precision aesthetically demanded, but it was required to conserve material, optimize warmth and prevent snagging. The buttocks area had to be able to stretch for sitting and standing. Tailors worked in specific hosen and hood shops to custom-tailor this sensitive type of clothing.

4 Clothing Construction

Most clothes were made from wool produced on weaving looms. These looms produced areas of material to be hand-sewn using various stitches. Tailors had to make precise measurements, and adhere to well-established designs to make optimal use of every inch of material. Looms wove the cloth in grid fashion, enabling them to stretch more effectively at certain angles than at others. Tailors took advantage of the stretching capacity to create firmer and stretchier sections for different regions of the body.

Greg Turin is an artist and certified art educator with over five years of experience writing about art. His work can be found at websites such as Deviant Art and Sonic Eclectic. He received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Binghamton University as well as a Master of Arts in art education from Brooklyn College. He has learned and taught guitar since 2001.