Thursday, November 15, 2012

English fashion in the Middle Ages (1)

During this time period mens garments transformed far more quickly as compared to other types of designs; in addition, both male and female used very items of clothing until their clothing ended up in such disrepair that they had to be entirely replaced. Moreover, often clothing was a mark of social divisions as stated in numerous legal guidelines.

Women's Fashion 1300–1500 

The majority of records on women’s fashion during the medieval period come from the mid-fourteenth century onwards. Around the year 1340 there was a change in women’s clothing, to tighter-fitting garments, lower necklines, and more curvaceous silhouettes; “tight lacing was used on women's clothes to create a form fitting shape which, girdled at the hips, created a long-waisted appearance”. Clothing was over-lapped and tightly bound; “The female chest was frequently exposed, yet the true structure of the female body was visually distorted…”. The corset became a staple in a woman’s wardrobe, and the open surcoat, a garment with an open bodice and a skirt that trailed to the ground, became “one of the most elegant inventions of the Middle Ages…”. In fact, by the end of the 14th century, the gown had replaced all garment items aside from the surcoat. The basic garments for women consisted of the smock, hose, kirtle, gown, surcoat, girdle, cape, hood, and bonnet. Each piece had designated colours and fabrics, for example “Materials used in the middle ages were woolen cloth, fur, linen, cambric, silk, and the cloth of silver or gold…the richer Middle Age women would wear more expensive materials such as silk, or linen”. The development of the skirt was significant for women’s medieval clothing, “The more fashionable would wear very large or wide skirts”. The petticoat made way for the skirt, which quickly became a popular garment because it “wraps rather than enclosing, touches without grasping, brushes without clasping, coasts, caresses, skims, strokes”. The headdress, in various forms culminating in the hennin was an important element in women's dress, often complicated arrangements of hair and fabric, sometimes including veils over the face or hanging behind the head. The importation of luxurious fabrics increased over the period, and their use widened somewhat spread from the top of the elite downwards, but clothing remained very expensive and relatively few items were owned except by the very wealthy. Medieval clothes provided information about the status of the person wearing them.

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