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The Middle Ages, also known as the Medieval period, is dated by some scholars from the 5th century to the 16th century. This period was marked by many changes. The medieval period is divided into three periods: The Early Middle Ages, the High Middle Ages and the Late Middle Ages.
Being well-groomed was not about the wide variety that we have today. Clothing during the medieval period was also restricted to the social status one belonged to. The elite class had a different style of dressing as compared to the peasant folk.
The wealthy were seen in highly fashionable attire. The lords during the period were seen adorned in silks and luxurious fabrics. The Sumptuary Laws that were passed during this period were interesting. Special tailors created clothing in the medieval period for the royals. With the Sumptuary Laws being enforced, people who violated the same faced severe penalty. These laws enforced rules such as the wealthy class of the society would be the only ones seen wearing fashionable clothing. A violation of the same would result in loss of property or heavy fines as well!
Fashion for the common folks was all about loose linen or wool. Men were generally seen in tunics, which went all the way down to their knees. Tunics that were really long, were seen for special events. Such tunics were also combined with long pants. These pants were generally made of wool. For the cold winters, one often saw the use of cloaks.
Women, apart from long tunics, also wore under-tunics made of wool and teamed it with a cloak if they stepped out of the house. These tunics were available in a wide range of colors and sometimes they also adorned fancy hats to strike a statement.
There were certain garments that were considered to be a status symbol for women who belonged to the upper classes. Brighter colors, rich materials, long jackets, elaborate garments, tunics worn with surcoats etc, were all a part of fashion. Women also preferred to wear gowns and used an array of headdresses to make a mark. Leggings and hose were also found in use during this period, but it was not considered to be a mark of the wealthy people. The rich classes were also known to import clothing from other countries such as silk cloth, bleached linen and dyed or patterned prints. On the other hand, people who belonged to the lower segment of the society often wore homespun wool and used colorful borders, which were woven into the fabric in the loom.
During the Medieval times, people also wore togas and trousers apart from tunics. Wide gowns often had embroidered edges to add a touch of design to the entire ensemble. Women's gown often had long sleeves and trailing. Amongst the headdress worn by women, a high double horn headdress was considered a symbol of pride. Laced sandals and pointed shoes formed part of the footwear.
During this period, women's dresses were high which covered their neck and such dresses often consisted of two tunics along with a veil that was worn over the head. Sleeves for the dresses were often long and pleated, sometimes with decorative ornamented bands. These bands were also used on the lower portions of the dress. Women soon began wearing surcoats, which were also worn by males later on. Surcoats were large coats wrapped around the upper portion of the robe.
A great amount of extravagance could be seen in the Middle Ages when gold, silver and other precious stones were used on the clothing. Dresses in that case were seen richly embroidered or decorated. During the later period, the external corset also came into use. This was worn with a display of lace work and was crafted in silk for the summers and fur for the winters.
During the later period of the Middle Ages, the long trails that were worn earlier shortened to a great extent. High conical bonnets were also added to the dresses. Ruffs and small collars were introduced later on. The dresses had relatively lower necklines, which enabled women to wear necklaces as well.
Thus we see, how fashion in that age was dictated by social status and various other factors associated with the people during this period.