We left off with the barbarians defeating the Roman Empire and its collapse circa 476 CE. Constant war and disorder ensued between those tribes governing the collapsed empire, leading to the dark titling of this period as the Dark Ages, part of a larger period entitles the Middle Ages (500CE – 1500CE). Wow, that’s a long time.
Being that there was constant turmoil, people lived meagerly, and by the feudal system.
Fashions of the Middle Ages include:
- bowl haircut
- ram’s horn headdresses
- steepled headdresses
- tonsure haircut
- gloves as a fashion accessory
The Roman Catholic Church ruled during this period, the Crusades happened, and so did the Black Death/Plague/Bubonic Plague.
In the eleventh century medieval fashion got a twist. With emerging monarchies in France, England and Spain, courts with real wealth were created and it became fashionable to spend money on clothing. Wealthy people had their servants customize their clothing, and here we have the emergence of the tailor.
Wealthy people could afford to have their servants modify their clothing, and they helped invent several new fashions, including hose for men’s legs, houppelandes (a long, tailored outer robe), and other decorative wraps.
One of the real innovations in medieval fashion was that men’s and women’s clothing began to develop in completely different directions. Women continued to wear long robes, but the robes were now made in separate pieces of fabric, with a snug-fitting top or bodice matched to a flowing, bountiful skirt. Men’s tunics, which had once reached to the ankle, got much shorter, until by the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries they ended at the waist. Men also wore tight-fitting hose that showed off the shape of their legs.
One of the primary causes of this fashion revolution was the emergence of the professional tailor. In the past, people had made their own clothes or, if they were wealthy, they had servants make clothes for them. For most this meant clothes were fairly simple. In the developing kingdoms of Europe, however, skilled craftsmen began to organize themselves into guilds, or organizations of people with similar trades. One such trade was tailoring, making, repairing, and altering garments. These tailors developed their skills and soon made tailoring a job for men instead of women. By 1300 there were seven hundred tailors working in Paris, France. Tailors across Europe developed new methods of cutting and sewing that allowed for closer fitting, more intricately tailored clothing. The impact of professional tailoring can be seen in the clothes of the late Middle Ages but really became pronounced during the Renaissance of the fifteenth century and beyond.
“Clothing of the Middle Ages“. Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. Ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. Vol. 2: Early Cultures Across the Globe. Detroit: UXL, 2004. p297-300.