113 Fashion and Clothing in the 14th Century

Fashion finally comes to town in the 14th Century. At the start of the century people are wearing what they've been wearing for centuries. By the end of it there are a wide variety of styles people may choose. At the same time, Edward tries to keep everyone in their traditional roles through the Sumptuary Law of 1363. 

113 Fashion and Clothing in the 14th Century

 

A few changes in fashion

At the start of the 13th Century, you wore a long gown that hung from the shoulders, or alternatively you wore a long gown that hung from the shoulders. 

Pre 14th Century

 

Then in the mid 14th Century enraged chroniclers started noticing changes – clothes like the Cotehardie became more figure hugging, sleeves began widening, hood and liripipes were in. 

Cotehardie and hoseMid 14th C 14th Century Hood
By the end of the 14th century, chroniclers were apoplectic – Doublets, a padded Cotehardie, could be terribly short, coloured hose showed the outlines of the male buttock, shoes could be pointy to a daft degree. 

  Late 14th C Clothes

 

Want to know more? There's a nice blog here, the History of European Fashion. 

The Sumptuary Law 1363

Introductory preamble

The preamble to the Statute is briefer than the outraged start to the 1574 act, but makes its point:

Also, that people of handicraft and yeomen, shall neither take nor wear cloth of a higher price for their vesture or hosing than within forty shillings the whole cloth by way of buying, nor otherwise; nor stone, nor cloth of silk nor of silver, nor girdle, knife, button, ring, garter, nor ouche [a jewel] ribbon, chain, nor any such other things of gold or of silver, nor any manner of apparel embroidered, enamelled, nor of silk in any way; and that their wives, daughters, and children be of the same condition in their vesture and apparel; and that they wear no veil of silk, but only of yarn made within the realm, nor any manner of fur, nor of budge,2 but only lamb, coney, cat, and fox.

Also, that esquires and all manner of gentlemen under the estate of a knight which have not land or rent to the value of £100 a year shall not take nor wear cloth for their clothing or hose of a higher price than within the price of 4 marks the whole cloth, by way of buying or otherwise. . . and that their wives, daughters, and children be of the same condition. . . . But that esquires, which have land or rent to the value of 200 marks a year and above may take and wear cloths of the price of 5 marks the whole cloth, and cloth of silk and silver, ribbon, girdle, and other apparel reasonably garnished of silver; and that their wives, daughters, and children may wear fur turned up of miniver, without ermine or lettice [a kind of whitish grey fur] or any manner of stone, but for their heads.

Also, that carters, ploughmen, drivers of the plough, oxterds, cowherds, shepherds, swineherds, dairymen, and all other keepers of beasts, threshers of corn, and all manner of people of the estate of a groom, attending to husbandry, and other people that have not forty shillings of goods nor of chattels, shall not take nor wear any manner of cloth but blanket and russet, of wool, worth not more than 12d, and shall wear girdles of linen according to their estate; and that they come to eat and drink in the same manner that pertains to them, and not excessively. And it is ordained that if any wear or do contrary to any of the points aforesaid, that he shall forfeit to the king all the apparel that he has so worn against the form of his ordinance.

So, here’s a little table, as an easy to use guide

Who you are

Qualification

What you can wear

King

Anointed by God

Anything – push the boat out, be wild and magnificent as you can manage

Magnates

Lords with Lands worth £1,000 annually

No restrictions

Knights

Land worth 400 marks annually

Pretty much what you want, but no weasel fur, ermine or clothing with precious stones sewn in.

Knights

Land worth 200 marks annually

Cloth worth no more than 6 marks (£4) for a whole cloth.

No cloth of gold. No use of Miniver or ermine or clothes with jewels sewn in.

Esquires

Land worth £200 per year

Cloth worth no more than 5 marks (£3 1/3rd ) for a whole cloth.

No cloth of gold, but they can wear cloth of silk or silver and Miniver or Weasel, but no ermine or clothes with jewels sewn in.

Esquires and Gentlemen

Land worth £100 per year

Cloth worth no more than 4 ½ marks (£3) for a whole cloth.

No cloth of gold, silk or silver, precious fur or enamel work.

Merchants

Goods to the value of £1,000

Cloth worth no more than 5 marks (£3 1/3rd ) for a whole cloth.

No cloth of gold, but they can wear cloth of silk or silver and Miniver or Weasel, but no ermine or clothes with jewels sewn in.

Merchants

Goods to the value of £500

Cloth worth no more than 4 ½ marks (£3) for a whole cloth.

No cloth of gold, silk or silver, precious fur or enamel work.

Yeomen and their families

 

Cloth worth no more than £2 for a whole cloth.

No jewels, gold, silver, embroidery, enamelware poor silk; no fur except lamb, rabbit, cat or fox. Women not to wear a silk veil

Servants

 

Cloth worth no more than 2 marks for a whole cloth.

No jewels, gold, silver, embroidery, enamelware poor silk; no fur except lamb, rabbit, cat or fox. Women not to wear a veil worth more than 12d.

Everyone working on the land

Goods worth less than 40 shilling (£2)

No cloth except blanket and russet at 12d per ell. Belts of rope or linen.

 

3 thoughts on “113 Fashion and Clothing in the 14th Century

  1. David. Love the podcast. I’m in mourning between episodes. Loved the Thorn reference (ye = thee) today. Would suggest that you look at (or promote?) The History of English podcast. I’ve found it a very nice supplement to this – and quite fascinating as well.
    http://historyofenglishpodcast.com/
    At any rate, because of this podcast, I felt like I knew something when you dropped your linguistic nugget.
    Dennis Stevenson
    Arizona, USA

  2. Hi Dennis & Rob. Dennis, I have t say I loved that. Learned a fab fact today to boot. You know we talk about ‘liberal arts’? I’ve always wondered where that comes from – apparently it comes form the Romans – only free men (‘liberales’) were fit to study the subjects. Little facts like that – fun to know, and a good way of clearing a space around you in the pub!
    Hi Rob – very glad to get praise for that joke! The ultimate Dad joke I have to tell you…

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