Medieval women wore full length tunics that covered to their ankles. This fashion in the Middle Ages was known as “kirtles”, and it was often worn over a shirt. When in public, the women often wore an even shorter kirtle over the tunics. The richer and the more influential the woman was, the more luxurious her clothing was. To the end of the Middle Ages, [...] women gowns became more flowing and more emphasis was put into headwear with hair dresses and turbans. Lacing of women’s clothes became tighter and more form fitting. A girdle at the waist was worn to create the appearance of a long waist. Gowns and sleeves were longer and trailed more and tunics were narrowed and later evolved to become the doublet.
Women were expected to cover her hair after marriage with a veil. This sign of Christian chastity and modesty lasted for all of the Middle Ages and is still seen in some parts of Europe today. A young woman would either fashion two plaits on either side of her head or wear her hair loose.
The highly developed and international complexion of the medieval fashion business, in which merchants were able to trade across the continent with samples of English broadcloth or fine Italian silk, gives some credence to arguments which rely on foreign influences as an explanation for fashion change. The dramatic evolution of fashionable form in the mid-fourteenth century is certainly resonant with the heightened language of commerce and a new material worth that arguably takes clothing into the sphere of a 'modern' fashion system.
And while the Church still dictated the types of clothing worn especially by women, clever designers found ways to embellish clothing and add interesting touches. Berthold of Regensburg, in 1220, played with the contrast of high fashion and women's vanity and the ideals of the Church when he said: "It is not enough for you to show your pride in your very buttonholes; you must also send your feet to hell by special torments." Obviously, the wearing of clothing now meant more than comfort in this early pun ridiculing fashionable footwear
When you think of medieval commoners, you probably think of people wearing brown and grey sackcloth in unbecoming styles. The truth is that in the Middle Ages, all classes of people wore colourful garments. Contrary to popular belief, colours such as Royal Purple were not forbidden for all but the nobility. [...] Unlike today, clothing was not only sewn in the home, but the materials needed to make the cloth were also produced by the women of the family. Everyone had flax growing in her back yard. From this they spun linen yarn which they wove into cloth.
The Medieval clothing of the Noble women consisted of many layers of clothes. They wore underclothes consisting of breeches, chemise and hose. The underclothes in Medieval Clothing were covered with an underskirt usually made of yellow or white linen or silk. The underskirt was covered with a long, trailing gown, or dress, with wide sleeves. The gowns were made of velvets, furs, silks, lace, cottons and taffeta. The hem and the neck of the gown (dress) and sleeves were often decorated with gems and lace. The gowns were covered with long over tunics called bliauds. Tabards and Surcoats were also worn over the gowns and dresses. These clothes were covered with full length mantel. The mantels were trimmed with an expensive fur and pinned at the shoulder with a broach.
The elegant appearance of the women garments recalls that of the Greek and Roman women. Their dresses were at times so tight as to display all the elegance of their form, whilst at others they were made so high as to completely cover the neck (cottes-hardies). The cotte hardie, which has at all times been part of the dress of the French women, and which was frequently worn by men, was a long tunic reaching to the heels, fastened in at the waist and closed at the wrists. Queens, princesses, and ladies of the nobility wore in addition a long cloak lined with ermine, or a tunic with or without sleeves. Often, their dress consisted of two tunics, and of a veil, which was thrown over the head and fell down before and behind, thus entirely surrounding the neck.
Clothing traditions in Europe developed slowly at first, with only minor changes in basic costume until about the eleventh century. After the eleventh century, trade, travel, and wealth increased, and clothing became more sophisticated. By the end of the Middle Ages, Europe was developing distinctive and refined costume traditions of its own.
During the early Middle Ages, the difference in masculine and feminine profile was not very pronounced: both sexes wore a long tunic called a "bliaut," belted at the waist, and perhaps a cloak. This is not to say men and women looked alike -- men wore beards and their hemlines sometimes crept up to the knee -- but rather that both sexes were still in skirts. It was only later, corresponding to the development of armor, that a strong differentiation began to manifest itself.
Technically, the Medieval era can be divided into the Dark Ages (400-1000 A.D.), the Early Gothic period (1000-1200 A.D.) and the Late Medieval period (1200-1400 A.D.). [...]during the Dark Ages[, w]omen's clothing was based upon the general design of the tunic. A loose tunic was worn over a sleeved, fitted tunic. While clothing during this first period tended to be more plain, Celtic style jewelry pieces were being developed simultaneously becoming popular. The Early Gothic period saw a widening of sleeves and hems, often flared and using far more fabric than before. [...] The upper, noble classes also grew during this era, as personal wealth was gained by survivors of the Black Plague. The fashionable, wealthy classes experimented with often extreme styles, from hooked shoes called "poulaines" to cone-shaped hats with long veils.