1100–1200 in European fashion

Table of Contents

1100 –1200 in European fashion

In the twelfth century, European fashion remained largely unchanged in its basic cut, with variations mainly seen in details. Over time, however, garments started to become more form-fitting and similar for both men and women, a trend that continued into the 13th century. For men, knee-length tunics were common attire for most activities, while those of the upper classes preferred long tunics paired with hose and mantles or cloaks. Women typically wore long tunics or gowns, with a close fit to the body, full skirts, and long flaring sleeves being characteristic of upper-class fashion for both genders.

During this period, two distinct styles of dress coexisted for men. The first was a short (knee-length) costume, which evolved from a blend of the everyday dress of the later Roman Empire and the short tunics worn by the invading barbarians. The second was a long (ankle-length) costume, which traced its origins to the clothing of the Roman upper classes and was influenced by Byzantine dress. These two styles reflected the diverse cultural influences present in medieval European fashion.

Country : European

Hugh, Abbot of Cluny, Emperor Henry IV, and Countess Matilda of Tuscany, 1115. The Emperor and the countess wear robes and mantles trimmed with bands of gold embroidery. The countess wears a linen
Hugh, Abbot of Cluny, Emperor Henry IV, and Countess Matilda of Tuscany, 1115. The Emperor and the countess wear robes and mantles trimmed with bands of gold embroidery. The countess wears a linen

Evolution of Medieval Men's Fashion

During the medieval period, men’s fashion reflected a blend of influences from the declining Roman Empire and the cultural influx of invading barbarians. Two distinct styles coexisted: a short knee-length costume, combining elements of Roman and barbarian attire, and a long ankle-length garment inspired by the clothing of the Roman elite and Byzantine dress. These styles represented both practicality and social status, with fabrics and furs playing significant roles in defining luxury and comfort.

Wool remained the predominant fabric across all social classes, while linen undergarments gained popularity for their comfort and washability. The elite indulged in silk garments, imported from Byzantium and Andalusia through various trade routes. Fur linings, particularly vair sourced from squirrel fur, provided warmth and luxury, often adorning the mantles of the wealthy as depicted in illuminated manuscripts.

A notable addition to medieval fashion was the bliaut, a long outer tunic with full skirts and tightly fitted sleeves. Initially featuring a moderate fit and a slight blousing over the waist belt, the bliaut evolved to emphasize a tighter fit from shoulder to hip, with the belt wrapped twice around the waist and knotted in front. This French fashion trend transcended gender boundaries, becoming a staple for both men and women, showcasing the evolving tastes and styles of medieval Europe.

Warrior wears a bliaut or form-fitting outer tunic with full skirts and wide sleeves over long blue hose. The garment worn underneath the bliaut has striped sleeves. His belt wraps around the wais
Warrior wears a bliaut or form-fitting outer tunic with full skirts and wide sleeves over long blue hose. The garment worn underneath the bliaut has striped sleeves. His belt wraps around the wais

Men's Clothing in the Middle Ages

Gemini from the Hunterian Psalter shows the twins in knee-length tunics over chausses and shoes with pointed toes. England, c. 1170
Gemini from the Hunterian Psalter shows the twins in knee-length tunics over chausses and shoes with pointed toes. England, c. 1170

During the Middle Ages, men’s clothing underwent significant changes, reflecting shifts in fashion and societal norms. The typical attire consisted of layers of garments, each serving a specific purpose and often showcasing the wearer’s social status.

Shirt, Braies, and Chausses:

Underclothes formed the foundation of men’s attire, comprising an inner tunic or shirt with long, tight sleeves, along with linen drawers known as braies. These were often worn beneath tailored cloth leggings called chausses or hose, which evolved in style from loose-fitting to more form-fitting garments that reached above the knees. The newer hose was designed to be worn with drawers tucked into them, secured in place by a girdle.

Outer Tunics and Doublets:

Over the undergarments, men wore outer tunics fastened at the waist with a belt. These tunics, known as bliauts, were often made of wool or silk and featured wide-sleeved designs with gored skirts. Additionally, short, fitted garments like doublets became fashionable, providing additional layers of warmth and style.


Headwear varied depending on social class and occasion. While men of the upper classes often went hatless, lower-class individuals commonly wore the chaperon, a hood with an attached shoulder-length cape. Small round caps with rolled brims and straw hats for outdoor work were also prevalent during this period.

The evolution of men’s clothing during the Middle Ages was influenced by practical needs, changing fashion trends, and societal roles, resulting in a diverse array of garments that reflected the complexities of medieval life.


Women's clothing

Chemise and Tunic

Women’s attire during this period typically comprised an undergarment known as a chemise, chainse, or smock, usually crafted from linen. Over this, they would wear one or more ankle-length tunics, also referred to as gowns or kirtles. Working-class women often opted for tunics belted at the waist and reaching down to their ankles.

Meanwhile, women of the French court favored a more sophisticated ensemble, consisting of a loosely fitted tunic called a cotte or a form-fitting bliaut worn atop a full chemise with snug sleeves. The bliaut featured a flared skirt and sleeves tapering tight to the elbow before widening out to a trumpet shape at the wrist. Another style, the bliaut gironé, gained popularity mid-century, comprising a fitted upper portion with a finely pleated skirt attached to a low waistband.

In England, the prevailing fashion diverged slightly, with garments featuring wide wrists but lacking the trumpet-shaped flare from the elbow commonly seen in French attire. Additionally, some variations of the fitted bliaut were accessorized with long belts or cinctures, which encircled a slightly raised waist and were often knotted over the abdomen, sometimes adorned with decorative tassels or metal tags at the ends.

Figure of Grammatica showing the trumpet-sleeved bliaut characteristic of the later 12th century, from the Hortus Deliciarum, c. 1180
Figure of Grammatica showing the trumpet-sleeved bliaut characteristic of the later 12th century, from the Hortus Deliciarum, c. 1180


In accordance with Christian traditions, married women adorned veils over their hair during the Middle Ages. Often parted in the center, their hair cascaded into long braids, sometimes augmented with artificial or even hair purchased from the deceased—a practice frowned upon by moral authorities. This custom underscored the cultural significance attributed to hair during this period, serving as a means of expressing social distinctions.

In England, a new addition to women’s attire emerged toward the end of the era: the wimple. Comprising a linen cloth covering the throat, and sometimes extending to cover the chin, the wimple was secured around the head beneath the veil. This garment further contributed to the intricate layers of clothing and accessories that defined medieval fashion, reflecting both religious and societal norms of the time.

Style Points

A woman is depicted wearing a bliaut, a garment cut in one piece from neck to hem and laced at the sides, over a chemise with tight sleeves, while donning a mantle tied with a double cord. This attire is showcased in the Cathédrale Saint-Maurice d’Angers, dating between 1130 and 1160. Another variation, the bliaut gironé, features a finely pleated skirt attached to a decorative waistband at hip level and is typically accompanied by a knotted girdle or cincture, as observed in the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres from the same period. A closer look at the knotted girdle worn with the bliaut gironé reveals the waistband of the skirt above the intricate knotting.

In another scene, Eve is portrayed spinning while adorned in a long bliaut with straight sleeves and a linen veil, around the year 1170. Additionally, depicted in the Hunterian Psalter are two women showcasing differing styles. One woman wears a veil and mantle, while the other, possibly reflecting English fashion of the time, leaves her hair uncovered, and her bliaut sleeves widen at the wrist, suggesting a fashion trend around 1170. Lastly, Queen Leonor of England, positioned on the far left, is depicted wearing a veil that envelops most of her body, illustrating a royal attire choice of the era.

Eve spinning
Eve spinning
Bliaut gironé
Bliaut gironé
Two women
Two women

Working Clothes

During the early Romanesque period, various regional schools of manuscript illumination emerged, each with its distinct influences and styles. The “Channel school” in England and Northern France drew heavily from late Anglo-Saxon art, while Southern France leaned towards Iberian influence. In Germany and the Low Countries, Ottonian styles persisted and influenced Italy, alongside Byzantine influences. Despite reciprocal influences, regional distinctiveness remained prominent throughout the 12th century.

Romanesque illuminated manuscripts typically focused on religious texts such as the Bible and Psalter. Each book would often feature large historiated initials and illuminated major initials, sometimes with elaborate cycles of scenes on fully illuminated pages. Examples include the St. Albans Psalter, Winchester Bible, and Parc Abbey Bible. By the end of the period, commercial workshops began producing illuminated manuscripts more widely, making them accessible to both clergy and laity.

European Fashion Female

The 12th century in Europe marked a significant transition in female fashion, as societal changes influenced clothing styles. During this period, women’s attire began to reflect class distinctions more prominently than before. Noblewomen often wore elaborate garments made from luxurious fabrics like silk and velvet, adorned with intricate embroidery and jewels, showcasing their wealth and status. These garments typically featured long, flowing silhouettes, with fitted bodices and voluminous skirts that emphasized femininity and elegance. Additionally, headwear played a crucial role in completing the ensemble, with women donning veils, wimples, and headdresses that varied depending on their social standing and the occasion.

As European society became more sophisticated and interconnected, fashion trends from neighboring regions began to influence female attire. The Crusades, for instance, facilitated cultural exchange between Europe and the Middle East, leading to the incorporation of exotic elements into women’s clothing. Fabrics such as damask and brocade, as well as design motifs like arabesques and geometric patterns, became fashionable among the European elite. Furthermore, the rise of trade routes during this period enabled the availability of new textiles and dyes, expanding the color palette of women’s garments. This era saw a departure from the plain, earthy tones of previous centuries, with rich jewel tones and vibrant hues becoming increasingly popular.

However, while the upper class enjoyed opulent fashion, the majority of women in Europe during the 12th century wore simpler, more practical clothing suited to their daily activities. Peasant women typically donned basic dresses made from homespun wool or linen, often cinched at the waist with a belt for ease of movement. Head coverings like coifs or simple veils provided protection from the elements while working outdoors. Despite the disparity in attire between social classes, the evolution of female fashion during the 1100s and 1200s laid the groundwork for the diverse styles that would emerge in the centuries to come, reflecting the dynamic cultural landscape of medieval Europe.

13th Century Clothing for Females

In the 13th century, European fashion for women underwent notable transformations, reflecting the evolving socio-economic landscape and cultural influences of the time. During this period, women’s attire was characterized by a blend of modesty and elegance, with garments tailored to accentuate the feminine form while adhering to societal norms. The typical ensemble consisted of several layers, starting with a chemise, a simple linen garment serving as a base layer, followed by a fitted gown, often laced or buttoned at the front.

One distinctive feature of 13th-century European fashion was the prevalence of the bliaut, a form-fitting gown with long, tight sleeves and a voluminous skirt. This garment, often made of luxurious fabrics such as silk or velvet, exemplified the status and wealth of the wearer. Additionally, women adorned themselves with ornate belts, jeweled brooches, and headdresses, further enhancing their ensemble’s elegance and refinement. The silhouette was characterized by a high waistline, accentuating the natural curves of the body, while the neckline varied from modestly high to more revealing, depending on the occasion and social standing.

Furthermore, the color palette of women’s clothing in the 13th century ranged from rich jewel tones to earthy hues, reflecting both personal preferences and the availability of dyes. Royal and noble women often donned garments embellished with intricate embroidery and embellishments, showcasing their affluence and taste. Despite regional variations across Europe, certain fashion trends transcended borders, facilitated by trade and cultural exchange. Overall, the fashion of the 13th century in Europe exemplified a balance between tradition and innovation, shaping the aesthetic sensibilities of generations to come.



Most frequent questions and answers

1. What was the Royal Fashion in the 1200s?

In the 1200s, European royal fashion epitomized opulence and refinement, reflecting the prestige and power of monarchs across the continent. Royal attire was characterized by sumptuous fabrics such as velvet, silk, and brocade, adorned with intricate embroidery and embellishments crafted from precious metals and gemstones. Men’s fashion saw the emergence of elaborate tunics and robes, often featuring ornate patterns and lavish fur trims, while women’s attire boasted voluminous gowns with exaggerated sleeves and intricate drapery. Royal garments were meticulously tailored to accentuate status and authority, with regal symbols and heraldic motifs woven into the fabric. Accessories played a crucial role in completing the royal ensemble, with crowns, scepters, and jeweled belts serving as symbols of sovereignty and majesty. Overall, royal fashion in the 1200s showcased the pinnacle of medieval craftsmanship and luxury, setting the standards for nobility and aristocracy throughout Europe.

2. What is European fashion style?

European fashion style is renowned for its sophistication, versatility, and timeless elegance. Rooted in history, European fashion draws inspiration from diverse cultures, art movements, and societal shifts, resulting in a dynamic and eclectic aesthetic. From the effortless chic of Parisian streetwear to the understated luxury of Italian craftsmanship, European fashion embodies a harmonious blend of tradition and innovation. With a keen eye for quality fabrics, impeccable tailoring, and attention to detail, European designers continuously push boundaries while maintaining a sense of refinement. Embracing both classic silhouettes and avant-garde designs, European fashion style exudes confidence, individuality, and a deep appreciation for the art of dressing.

3. What was fashion like in the 1550s England?

European fashion in the 1550s England epitomized the opulence and grandeur of the Renaissance era. The silhouette of the period was defined by elaborate and structured garments, reflecting the social hierarchy and status of individuals. Nobles flaunted extravagant attire crafted from luxurious fabrics such as silk, satin, and velvet, adorned with intricate embroidery and lavish embellishments like pearls and precious stones. Women’s gowns featured exaggerated cone-shaped bodices and voluminous skirts, while men donned doublets with padded shoulders and slashed sleeves, paired with fitted hose and embellished with intricate embroidery. Accessories played a significant role in completing the ensemble, with elaborate ruffs, jeweled belts, and feathered hats adding flair to the attire. Fashion in 1550s England was not merely a means of self-expression but a reflection of power, wealth, and social standing in a society deeply entrenched in hierarchy and tradition.

4. What is European men’s style?

European men’s style embodies a sophisticated yet effortless aesthetic, blending timeless elegance with contemporary flair. From the streets of Paris to the boutiques of Milan, European fashion for men exudes confidence through tailored pieces, attention to detail, and a keen sense of individuality. Embracing both classic and modern elements, European men effortlessly mix and match high-quality basics with statement pieces, creating looks that are refined yet approachable. Whether it’s the impeccable tailoring of Italian suits or the laid-back coolness of French streetwear, European men’s style emphasizes quality craftsmanship, subtle luxury, and a nonchalant attitude that sets it apart on the global fashion stage.

5. What is the European style of English?

The European style of English encompasses a unique blend of linguistic influences, shaped by centuries of cultural exchange and linguistic diversity across the continent. While rooted in British English, European English has evolved to incorporate elements from various European languages, reflecting the rich tapestry of cultures within the region. This style is characterized by its clarity, precision, and elegance, with a preference for formal expressions and nuanced vocabulary. Moreover, European English often emphasizes grammatical correctness and adherence to standardized spelling and punctuation conventions, reflecting a commitment to linguistic excellence. Overall, the European style of English serves as a testament to the continent’s linguistic heritage and its ongoing contribution to the global linguistic landscape.

European Fashion

European fashion is renowned for its sophistication, innovation, and timeless elegance, setting trends that reverberate across the globe. From the haute couture houses of Paris to the avant-garde designers of Milan, European fashion embodies a diverse range of styles that cater to every taste and occasion. With a focus on quality craftsmanship and attention to detail, European fashion seamlessly blends tradition with modernity, offering a curated selection of clothing and accessories that exude luxury and refinement. Whether it’s the understated chic of Scandinavian minimalism or the opulent extravagance of Italian glamour, European fashion celebrates individuality while maintaining an unwavering commitment to sartorial excellence. Embracing both heritage and innovation, European fashion continues to captivate and inspire fashion enthusiasts worldwide, cementing its status as a global powerhouse in the industry.

6. What was Queen Elizabeth’s fashion?

Queen Elizabeth I’s fashion was iconic and influential, reflecting the grandeur and elegance of the Elizabethan era. Her style was characterized by elaborate gowns adorned with intricate embroidery, jewels, and lace collars, known as ruffs. She favored vibrant colors, such as rich reds, deep blues, and luxurious golds, to signify her royal status. Elizabeth’s fashion choices were not only a reflection of her personal taste but also a means of asserting her power and authority. Her extravagant ensembles set the standard for European fashion during her reign, inspiring trends that endured for generations.

7. How tall was Elizabeth 1st?

Elizabeth I, the iconic queen of England, stood at an impressive height for her time, towering above many of her contemporaries at approximately 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm). Her stature not only commanded attention but also influenced the fashion trends of her era. Elizabeth’s regal presence set the stage for European fashion, as her court became a hub of sartorial innovation and extravagance. Her preference for intricate gowns adorned with jewels and elaborate ruffs sparked a craze for opulent attire among the nobility. This period witnessed the emergence of sumptuous fabrics, intricate embroidery, and voluminous silhouettes, all reflecting the grandeur associated with the Elizabethan era. As a trendsetter and style icon, Elizabeth I left an indelible mark on European fashion, shaping the aesthetic sensibilities of her time and leaving a lasting legacy that continues to inspire designers and fashion enthusiasts to this day.

8. Why did Queen Elizabeth the first wear makeup?

Queen Elizabeth I’s use of makeup was not merely for vanity but also served strategic and symbolic purposes in the context of European fashion and politics of her time. During the Elizabethan era, pale skin was considered a mark of aristocracy and refinement, as it signified one’s distance from outdoor labor. The queen’s application of white lead-based makeup, which gave her skin a starkly pale complexion, was not only fashionable but also served as a visual representation of her royal status and purity. Additionally, her use of cosmetics, including vibrant lip colors and rouge, allowed her to project an image of youthfulness and vitality despite her advancing age. Moreover, the elaborate and theatrical makeup worn by Queen Elizabeth I reflected the grandeur and spectacle of the Elizabethan court, reinforcing her authority and power over her subjects and foreign dignitaries alike. Thus, her makeup choices were as much a political statement as they were a fashion statement, solidifying her iconic status in the annals of European history.


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