Middle Ages spans a huge amount of time - call it roughly
(depending on exactly who you ask) around 400 AD to about
1500 AD, more than 1000 years. Stop and think a moment about
how much fashion has changed in the last 200 years alone...
Americans are no longer wearing the kind of clothes that George
Washington would have worn! Similarly, clothing fashions changed
enormously throughout the Middle Ages, and different regions
had differing modes of dress at times.
the medieval person, clothing and dress always had a special
meaning. The symbolic aspects of a given garment, and not
simply the utility functions such as protection, played a
significant role in medieval society. Costumes composed a
part of courtly life as well, their special meaning having
been defined and refined by members of the aristocracy for
their own use. One of the main functions of a given garment
was to distinguish social rank as precisely as possible.
also was symbolic of a person's profession. Workers and peasants
wore coarse, heavy clothing that was durable and which would
protect them against injuries while performing heavy labor.
Craftsmen in various guilds often worked with dangerous chemicals
and thus wore protective aprons and smocks, just as modern
chemical workers do today. Within the Church, various types
of garments differentiated between the ranks of priests, between
the various orders of monks and nuns, and set the religious
apart from the laity.
meaning of colours also played an important part in the Middle
Ages. Green, for instance, stood for love, grey for sorrow,
yellow for hostility. Blue, partly because of its connection
with the Virgin Mary, became the colour of fidelity, and was
allowed to be worn by everyone from the 13th century. In the
Low Countries, however, this was the colour for adulterous
wives. Red, on the other hand, was strongly connected to the
nobility. It is notable that black and grey, colours of lower
status people in the Early Middle Ages, in the 15th century
were worn by the high aristocracy and royal personages.
reason why clothing was important was that the manufacture
of thread, cloth, and finally clothing were all major industries
in the Middle Ages. There were no machines to make these items
- spinners spun wool or flax into thread by hand, weavers
wrapped the thread onto looms by hand and wove cloth, individuals
sometimes made their own clothing or else a tailor/seamstress
was hired to make clothing. Without machines to make these
processes quick and easy, every bit of thread or cloth produced
cost both many hours of human labor, and accordingly those
laborers had to be paid.