Medieval society was made up of several classes, each with distinct attire.

Medieval Dress-Up Ideas

by Hilary White

Revisit a time when kings and queens ruled, valiant knights slayed dragons and handsome heroes rescued fair maidens. Whether you're heading to your local Renaissance fair or attending a costume party or medieval-themed wedding, draw inspiration from the different classes of this feudal society and fulfill your quest for the perfect dress-up look.

1. Royalty and nobility

Look like royalty by donning garments that mimic the luxurious fabrics worn by the ruling class, including velvet, silk and linen with heavy embroidery and fur embellishment. Ladies can opt for long dresses with long sleeves and tight, lace-up bodices worn with a wimple, while men should wear a long tunic cinched at the waist and paired with an overcoat. Kings, queens, lords and ladies of the nobility favored clothing in rich jewel tones such as emerald, burgundy, deep red and purple. Be sure to add royal accessories, such as a crown and scepter. Also, no court is complete without a jester, dressed in a colorful horned hat with bells and harlequin tunic. Knights of the court wore a tunic and tights under steel-plated or chain mail armor, which covered them from head to toe. Wear a simple tunic and chain-mail headdress, and carry a sword and shield to more comfortably channel this look.

2. Tradesmen, merchants and peasantry

There is a wide assortment of medieval working class attire, as the working class consisted of people as varied as peasants, merchants, craftsmen, huntsmen, entertainers and outlaws. Working-class garments for men were usually basic tunics made of simple fabric in earth tones, such as taupe, brown and tan, to hide stains and soil. Stockings were typically worn as well. Wenches wore off-the-shoulder peasant-sleeved blouses under a laced bodice and full skirt. You can even go with a gypsy-inspired look by adding a colorful headscarf and coin belt. Finish any outfit with flat leather lace-up boots.

3. Clergy

Religion figured prominently in medieval times, the church consisting of the pope, bishops, abbots, priests, monks, friars and more. A loose-fitting black or brown wool robe with a hood, leather sandals, and a large cross worn around the neck is a simple way to convey a monk or friar. For a woman dressing as an anchoress, a plain black dress with a wimple and cross is best.

4. Fantasy costumes

Though magic was considered to be a source of evil in medieval times, it was nonetheless featured in Middle English literature, such as "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and other Arthurian stories. For costume ideas, take a cue from medieval-inspired films like "Excalibur" and "The Hobbit." Wizards can wear a flowing white tunic and cape, and a long white beard and wig capped with a tall pointy hat. Elf warriors of both sexes can wear green cloaks with brown leggings and pointy elf ears to complement costume bows and arrows.

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