A List of Medieval Garments and Clothes from the Middle Ages in No Particular Order (useful for writers!)
With pictures and a bonus list of 30 Early Modern articles at the end!
This glossary of medieval clothing terms will be updated yearly as new items are brought to my attention, so please comment if you know one I missed. There’s a note on my sources at the end. The dates associated with each garment are simply the first known use of the terms according to my sources. I hope you enjoy!
Chaperone / Chaperon (15th century)
A long-tailed hat or hood, sometimes resembling a turban with a tube of cloth hanging over the shoulder or wrapped around the neck. A chaperone can come in the form of many different creative shapes. See capeline below for more information.
Burlet (14th century)
A fur- or cloth-covered ring of wicker, or just a roll of cloth, worn on a woman’s head, sometimes very narrow with a V-shape over the forehead.
Bag hat (14th century)
A male hat consisting of a bag and a burlet. The bag often droops stylishly off to the side.
Gugel / Liripipe (12th century)
A hood with a trailing point or long tail. Sometimes, liripipe only refers to the trailing tail of a hood.
Houppelande (14th century)
A unisex cloak-like outer garment with flaring sleeves.
Tippet / Tipet (14th century)
A shoulder scarf with hanging ends.
Poulaine / Crakow (14th century)
A shoe with a long pointy end.
Breacan / Brechan (16th century, at least)
Belted plaide, known today as kilts.
Frock (14th century)
Any loose outer garment, especially a simple one worn by a cleric.
Pallium (12th century)
Worn by a pope or archbishop, a decorated white woolen scarf-like band resting on the shoulders.
Caftan / Kaftan (ancient Mesopotamian origin)
A man’s thin, ankle-length and loose-fitting shirt common in the Middle East and Ottoman Empire, often belted.
Surplice (13th century)
A long, loose white linen vestment worn over a cassock by clergymen.
A bedtime cap worn over the hair, often accompanying bedclothes.
Brooch / Breastpin (13th century)
Also called a cloak pin, for holding certain garments and their parts in place across the breast.
Braccae (1st century)
A Latin word for trousers, referring often to the woolen trousers worn by ancient Gauls and Celts.
Perclose (14th century)
In the 14th century, perclose meant an enclosure to partition a space. By the 16th, parclose was a verb that meant to enclose. In 17th-century heraldry, a perclose was the knotted and buckled part of a garter.
Myrtle (term used to mean “garland” since 16th century, but myrtle garlands were worn since ancient times)
In heraldry, an oval garland; a garland made of myrtle.
Leglet (15th century)
A decorative leather or textile band for the leg.
Armlet (15th century)
A decorative leather or textile band for the arm.
Wristlet (15th century)
A decorative band for the wrist, either attached to a garment like a cuff or separate. Also, a wrist-band supplying a functional application, as in hawking for instance, or a leather wristlet in a gauntlet.
Orle (Old French)
A decoration for a helmet in the form of a wreath with fabric on it.
Nabcheat (Middle English)
A layman’s hat or cap.
Togeman / Togman (Middle English)
A layman’s coat, cloak or mantle.
Gartel (6th century BC)
Yiddish for “belt,” a sash worn around the waist by Jews during prayer.
Gusset (Late Medieval)
Extra material, typically in the shape of a triangle, sewn into a pre-existing garment to enlarge an area of it, an example being in the armpits of shirts. This technique was commonly used to add chainmail to the armpits of gambesons, although those were called “voiders”.
Tucker (word first used in 18th century but origin of style much older/unknown)
Feminine accessory cloth tucked into the low neckline of a dress like a bib, the exposed end often being triangular.
Alb (12th century)
A full-length white vestment worn by clergy with a cincture at the waist.
Hatpin (late medieval fashion)
Though they became popular collectables when women started wearing large hats like the mobcap in the 19th century, hatpin also refers to a decorative pin for a hat, often holding a feather, with no practical function, worn by prestigious men and women alike in the Late Middle Ages even if they had a different name.
Petycote / Petticoat (15th century)
A man’s padded undercoat worn under a doublet and over a shirt; a woman’s (often padded) under-tunic or the skirt of her riding habit.
Chausses / Chauces (15th century)
Pantaloons; padded hosen for the legs, often worn under chainmail or plate armor.
Hosiery (term is from the 18th century but concept is ancient)
Hosen, socks, stockings and tights collectively. Example: “the laundress collected all the hosiery for the routine wash.”
Chemise (13th century)
A woman’s baggy nightdress or roupa.
Pelisse (14th century)
Typically a cloak, often for military application, worn over a coat, similar to a surcoat, occasionally with fur around the collar. Also, the word is used to refer to an 18th-century dress for women, a 19th-century jacket for hussars as well as many other pre- and post-medieval garments.
Décolletage (French fashion starting in 15th century, but word is from 18th century)
A low neckline on a woman’s dress, revealing cleavage. Made popular by Agnès Sorel. Adjective is décolleté.
Regalia (16th-century term, although regalia has existed since ancient times)
The elaborate formal dress of royalty or high status ceremony, appearing differently across cultures. Also, the symbolical paraphernalia of a sovereign: a crown and scepter.
Woolens (11th century)
Clothing made from wool (the modern noun comes from the 11th-century adjective “wullenan;” 14th century “wollen”.
Riband (15th century)
A ribbon used as decoration, sometimes worn in the hair of medieval women like a form of clothing. It came to be known as a bandeau by the early 18th century.
Baldric (14th century)
A belt worn from shoulder to hip designed to hold a weapon or a musical instrument of war.
Doublet (14th century)
A stylish jacket for men, close-fitting at the waist, loose in the arms and hips.
Pourpoint (14th century)
A man’s quilted doublet, often seconds as armor.
Tunic (12th century)
A belted, slip-on overshirt reaching near or past the knees, with or without sleeves.
Tabard (14th century)
A coarse garment without sleeves, typically worn by poor monks; a coat worn over a knight’s armor, sometimes emblazoned with bearings.
Jerkin (16th century)
A man’s tight-fitting overshirt, often sleeveless and made of leather with a short skirt.
Gabardine / Gaberdine (16th century)
A layman’s smock-like outer garment made of coarse fabric; a man’s gown. Today, the term may refer to a coat made of gabardine fabric which is a soft yet durable twill-woven worsted or cotton.
Surcoat (14th century)
An outer garment for both sexes, often of rich material, typically worn over armor and bearing heraldry.
Smock (11th century)
A woman’s full-length undergarment; a shift. See chemise.
Cloak (13th century)
A long, loose outer garment worn on the shoulders over clothes or armor by both sexes, typically to protect against weather if not for formality.
Cope (13th century)
A elaborate cloak worn by priests and bishops during ceremonies.
Cape (13th century)
A cloak with a hood (like Little Red Riding Hood‘s); an ecclesiastical cope.
Cowl (10th century)
Commonly referring to a woman’s hood, but originally was a monk’s hooded and sleeveless garment. From Latin cucullus which means the hood of a cloak.
Coif (13th century)
A distinguishable white cap worn by lawyers; a nightcap; a skullcap; an ecclesiastical head-dress worn by Jewish priests; a padded textile, leather or chainmail cap typically worn under a helmet and tailored to fit tightly around the chin. Today, the term also refers to a balaclava.
Wimple (12th century)
Worn by many medieval women and some nuns, a cloth covering worn on the head that wraps around the neck and covers the chin.
Kerchief (15th century)
Similar to a wimple or a shawl, a cloth used to cover a woman’s head.
Trousseau (13th century)
A bride’s outfit of clothes and house-linen collected for a wedding.
Napery (15th century)
House-linen; household linen in general, applicable to clothing if linen clothes were cleaned with bed-linens by a laundress for example.
Pantofle (15th century)
A slipper; any kind of indoor shoe, especially one with a cork sole; an Oriental shoe. Shoes with cork soles were also known as chopine in Spain and Italy by the late 16th century.
Caligae (plural) / Caliga (singular) (1st century, at least)
Worn by Roman legionaries, heavy hobnailed sandals. Soldiers who wore them were often called caligati (booted ones).
Patten (14th century)
A clog or sandal with a raised sole for elevating feet above the ground, often used to assist in walking through mud. A patten was also an accessory to go over a pre-existing shoe to raise elevation like small stilts.
Burnous / Burnoose (worn since ancient times, hence Greek word birros)
A long, loose hooded cloak worn by Arabs.
Talith (since Biblical days)
A fringed shawl worn over the head by Jews, especially during morning prayer.
Ephod (14th century)
A Jewish vestment for priests.
Motley (14th century)
Particolored clothing often worn by jesters.
Kirtle (9th century)
A man’s tunic or coat reaching to the knees, often worn singularly as a man’s only body garment. But, by the 13th century a kirtle more often meant a women’s gown; an outer petticoat or skirt for women. Also, a kirtle meant a coat or covering in general, as in “a kirtle of plaster on the wall” for example.
Pteruges / Pteryges (Greek)
Technically armor, not clothing–strips of defensives material hanging over the thighs on Greco-Roman armor. I included this term for the sake of fantasy authors who want a word for describing such constructions on fantasy clothing. Also, pteryges refers to a leather aventail-like flap hanging from either side of some Greco-Roman helmets, or protective leather flaps in general.
Breech / Breeches (10th century)
A garment worn at the waist and only stretching down to the knees; a man’s skirt; breechclout; loincloth. Interestly, a breechclout was known as a moocha in parts of Africa. Also, breeches (britches) was a term used by the 15th century to simply mean trousers.
Caul (14th century)
A net for women’s hair, either in the form of a close-fitting cap, a netted cap or an ornamented head-dress.
Dag (15th century)
Dag originally meant, in the 14th century, a dirty lock of wool on the underside of a sheep. But, by the 15th century, a dag came to be used to mean one of the ornamental scallops or laciniations at the margin of a garment, hence “a dagged sleeve.”
Stole (10th century)
A narrow strip of linen or silk worn over the shoulders as an ecclesiastical vestment, somewhat similarly to a modern scarf. Deacons wore stoles over the left shoulder only.
Gouna (Byzantine Greek)
A fur-lined garment, related to Old French goune (gown). A fur-lined gown from Byzantium.
Casaque (Middle French)
A gown. Casaque is the origin of the word cassock, which is a black ankle-length gown worn by clergymen starting in the mid-16th century. A casaque, being a gown in general, is not to be confounded with the modern gown which usually means a woman’s dress.
Chasuble (14th century)
An ecclesiastical sleeveless mantle worn by the celebrant at mass, often with gold embroidery.
Orphrey (14th century)
A gold embroidered garment of any kind. Although orphrey usually means gold embroidery in general, it would not be wrong to say “he wears orphrey” or “he donned orphrey.”
Miter / Mitre (14th century)
A tall and pointy headdress worn by abbots, bishops and popes, often white and gold in color.
Biretta (10th century)
A square cap with a pompom and three flat projections on top, worn on the heads of Catholic clergymen.
Capoch / Capouch / Capuche (16th century, at least)
A hood attached to a monk’s gown.
Scapular (7th century)
A tabard-like cloak suspended by the shoulders, worn by clergymen. There is also a much shorter version that reaches all the way around the shoulders, like shown here.
Capeline / Chapperon / Chaperonne / Chaperoon / Shafferoon (Late Medieval/Early Modern)
In heraldry, an open hood.
Capuchon (Late Medieval/Early Modern)
According to A New Dictionary of Heraldry (1739), a hood “all clos’d in every way.”
Chaplet (15th century)
A circlet or coronal of either flowers, leaves, gold or precious stones. Also, a garland or wreath for the head.
Maunch / Manche / Emanché / Mancheron (12th century)
In heraldry, a sleeve with a flaring end.
Signet (14th century)
Such as the royal signet, an official seal used in place of a signature, often on the front of a ring (or annulet), used for authorizing documents.
Diadem (13th century)
A crown of a martyr, often applied to mean aureola; a decorative cincture worn around the head.
Chappeau / chapeau (Middle French)
A cap of dignity worn by dukes, being scarlet velvet on the outside and fur on the inside. The term is also sometimes used to refer to general headwear that protects from the weather, for men or women.
Bonnet (15th century)
In Scotland, a boy’s or man’s cap. Also, elsewhere, a word for various caps, but chiefly a cap worn within a coronet. Medieval bonnets are not to be confounded with early modern ones for women.
Kjafal (Viking Age)
According to “Eirik the Red’s Saga” (chapter 8), “a hood at the top but no arms, and was open at the sides and fastened between the legs with a button and loop.” Was worn by Viking Age Scots, and “they wore nothing else.” Image from https://lavalhallalujah.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/vinland-sagas-kjafal-matches-the-st-lawrence-perfectly/
Léine / Layna / Saffron shirt (8th century)
Irish ankle-length shirt of linen, often yellow. Image from http://www.gaelicattire.com/Gailearai.htm
Brat / Brot (8th century)
Irish rectangular cloak-like mantle with decorative fringe on the borders and extra fringe-work around the head and shoulders. Image from http://www.gaelicattire.com/brat.htm
Lumman (8th century)
An early Gaelic mantle, often confused with the brat.
Triúbhas (8th century)
Tight-fitting trousers that are often baggy above the knees; Gaelic trews.
Knitwear (term is from 19th century but general concept is ancient)
Knitted garments in general; knitted clothing; vestments made from the process of knitting as opposed to other cloth making practices.
Chapournet (16th century, at least)
A little hood 🙂
If you enjoyed this, then check out my list of medieval fabric!
30 BONUS Early Modern Articles!
(clothing and accessories that are definitely post-16th century but still historical, awesome and useful for writers to know)
- Tam o’ Shanter
A Note on My Sources
No other lists of medieval clothing were consulted in the making of this glossary. Every single one of these terms I found while reading books. Curiosity led me to write them down. I used the online Oxford English Dictionary to find most of their meanings and dates of origin, although I reworded the definitions to remain accurate while avoiding plagiarism and wrote vaguely when I was uncertain about a term’s first known use. All photos besides those cited are in the public domain, but most of them come from Manuscript Miniatures and Pinterest. As always, it would be prudent to remember that this is a blog post and not a peer-reviewed article. My goal was to create a resource for medieval fantasy authors. This will surely be a helpful resource for me when I’m trying to write descriptive scenes in my fantasy books. Check back yearly for regular updates because I’ll be adding more items to this list as I find them in my reading.
Don’t forget to leave a comment if you know any medieval dress or attire that I missed. Thanks for visiting!