Since my novel is set during the Middle Ages, I tried to reflect the clothing they wore at that time. We must remember that style comes in an out over the passage of time. Example, look at bell bottoms, popular 40 years ago, but not today (Thank goodness). It is the same when we look back at a specific time in history, only a few years and the style of clothing can change dramatically.
As with any style of clothing, even today, your wealth or ranking in society dictates what you will, or can, wear. Royalty of course had a higher quality and more colorful outfits then those of less noble birth. The commoners wore what they could make or buy for a very cheap price, and also for functionality and protection against the weather. The clothes you wore determined who you were in the culture, and you were bond to wear that type of clothing.
One of the characters I describe in my book is a merchant. How the merchants dress showed how rich he was. The merchant in my novel was somewhat prosperous; he wore fine red linen, and his sleeves were covered in ermine fur.
An event in my novel which shows the formal wear of the weather occurs during a dance. The dance, or ball, was a place of celebration where people would gather to have a form of entertainment.
The heroine in my story is attending a ball. She wears a burgundy colored dress with a black cape with cords that tied in front of her. Her hair was weaved behind her head with a silver thread intertwined in her hair.
Of course, my heroine dances with the hero of the story at the ball. He is clad with a black jacket over a dark tunic with silver-colored thread running through it. They perform a dance called a slipping circle dance, where the couples would hold hands then turn sideways.
Not everyone in medieval times was royalty; most weren’t, and their clothing reflected this. The hero of my story encounters a peasant on the street:
William noticed one man staring at them, he wore nothing more than a length of burlap which covered him. The burlap was encrusted in mud and dirt and was tied around his waist by a piece of worn rope. On top of his head was another piece of burlap formed into a triangle which he used as a hat, while two pieces of burlap were tied around his feet as shoes. The man’s face was thin and drawn in as if he had not eaten in his entire life.
Many people wore burlap as clothing in this time frame. (Burlap is also known as hessian cloth in some countries) Burlap is a woven fabric made from the jute plant or sisal fabrics and is sometimes combined with other materials. It was a strong material and provided some protection for the rains.
Whenever you talk about the medieval times, people always wonder about knights. We think of knights with full suits of armor, which is untrue. Suits of armor were very expensive, and could take a knight years and years to afford it. Many knights wore semi suits of armor, bits and pieces until they could get the whole ensemble together. During this clothing transition, many would wear chainmail, which was a very effective against arrows, but did allow the force of a blunt object to do severe damage to them.
A simple form of armor described in my book is called a haketon. In medieval times, there were many variations of this type of jacket. Sometimes, it was merely a thick jacket with padding like a heavy quilt. Later, it developed into a leather jacket, than chainmail was added for further protection.
Clothing is a vital part of any culture, and we can learn so much from their design and appearance. We must remember that clothing is also a reflection of the social-economic status of the person wearing them. We must always keep this in mind, when we go back and look at a previous period in time and pray that in future lifetimes, that no historian studying us ever finds a pair of bell bottoms.
Next Time: Medieval Construction