Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Everyone’s Crazy about a Sharp Dressed Squire

“For apparel oft proclaims the man,” was penned by William Shakespeare in “Hamlet”. It is somewhat true; the way we dress can be a visual description of the job we perform and our position in this world we live in.

As I have stated in my earlier blogs, we should try to categorize the Middle Ages as one big time frame. This is especially true when discussing clothing and fashion. Look at the time frame we live in, examine our attire and compare that to clothing worn in the 1940’s. Both woman and men would have been arrested in the 1940’s for wearing something that is commonly worn today. Since the Middle Ages expanded hundreds of years, trying to classify them into one period would be wrong.

First, I want to say I am not going to mention much about knight’s armor. I am reserving an entire blog about this topic later.

In my upcoming novel, I describe a man dressed in a piece of woolen material. It was common for someone of poor income to wear the bare necessities to survive. This is the case of this man in my book; he wears just a piece of woolen cloth that hangs over his body like a poncho, and is tied around his waist with a piece of old rope. For this man, and others in his status in society, clothing was nothing more than protection from the elements. Money to buy this protection dictated the style of clothing, as in this situation, it was merely a piece of wool.

As I just stated, clothing for some was merely protection for the elements. Other clothing was a statement, a way to show your status in society.

A knight meets a merchant on the road; the merchant asks the knight if he may travel with him to the next city. The merchant is wearing fine red-colored linen; his clothes were pleated in several areas. His sleeves near his wrist were covered in white ermine fur. This merchant dressed elaborately to demonstrate how prosperous his business was. This was the medieval example of dressing for success.

Sometimes, you broke out your best clothes to wear for an event or special occasion.

In my writing, I describe the clothing worn at a ball being held at the castle. Our hero, a page, wore a black jacket over a dark-colored tunic. His sleeves had silver-colored threads that ran from the shoulders down to his wrists.

Our Hero page is attracted to a young girl who also attends the ball. She wears burgundy colored dress with a black cape with cords that tied in front. Her hair was weaved behind her head with a silver thread intertwined into her hair.

Although, I did not address this in my novel, because this piece of clotting did not match the time frame of my novel, I want to talk about a codpiece.

Men once wore hose separated into upper and lower parts. The lower hose covering the legs and were similar to today’s tights. The upper hose concealed his thighs and groin area. We would compare the upper part similar to a woman’s skirt today.

Over a period of time, it was fashionable for the hemline of the upper hose to be raised. Eventually, they raised the hemline so high that it was necessary to cover the exposed genital area, so a codpiece was invented. The codpiece at this time was simply a piece of cloth.

Men’s ego or arrogance took over and over time, the codpieces got larger and larger. Even after men stopped wearing the upper hose and went to pants or britches, and even though it was obsolete, the codpiece remained. It soon became a status symbol to wear a huge codpiece; these codpieces were sometimes made of wood or metal. Ultimately, the codpiece was even adapted to knight’s armor.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, as always leave a comment or a question.

Next time: Now we look at knight’s armor


  1. The codpiece, who knew. I guess it took a lot longer for women's hems to start moving higher!

  2. Wow, this is interesting. You've really done some research here. I love the codpiece info, that is so funny. I'll be looking forward to the knight's armor piece.

  3. I am new at the writing business, but have always been a part time historian. I like to research as much as I can when I write about a topic. I will say history is not black and white and sometimes certain historians have different opinions on a topic, which makes history more fun.
    The knight weapon and armor will be some of my favorite writings too. I collect medieval weapons and have learned how to use them. It will be an interesting topic.
    Thanks for the comments.

  4. This article on fashion and clothing worn in The Middle Ages is so fascinating. I often wish I was alive during the time when women always wore hats (in fact, everyone wore hats) and dressed in fine clothing. I feel that today we have very little fashion sense.

  5. It might be nice to be able to wear the clothing. The problem is very few could. Most people during the time were barely able to survive, the rich was the only ones who could actually show any style with their clothes.
    Thanks for the comment.

  6. That was really interesting. I know little about the dress and the associated customs of that time period. It was fun reading about that. I had no idea how and where a codpeice came from, but now I understand. That was fun information to share.

  7. This was so interesting. Though I do love to read historical fiction and often from that time period... The Middle Ages, there isn't much mention of clothing! The visuals I imagine come from movies and TV shows..some of which have tried to stay true to those details. The codpiece...how funny! I'll look forward to the knight's armor post :)

  8. The functional origins of clothing are interesting. In European societies they changed markedly as horse riding became prevalent. You do a good job of illustrating the contrast between function and prestige

  9. I suppose that clothing in the Middle Ages depended on one's status and the ability to afford to be a sharp dressed squire. The minimal outfit was just to protect the person rather than to decorate him or advertise his wealth.

  10. Hello
    You have really done research about dresses and I really liked information about Codpiece.
    Dresses really represent your status and your job. The way you have described about dresses of merchant and the hero on ball .... I really enjoyed that.
    I also agree that many dresses that are in common use today can be a trouble to someone using in 1940's.
    According to my belief we are advised to dress nicely and it should represent our position in society. If one do not have new dress but the old dress should be cleaned properly.

  11. Thank you everyone for commenting.
    Even today the way you dress can show your status in society and also influence others. Some things will never change.