Fashion of Middle England and its Image in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Fashion of Middle England and its Image in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Petra Štěpánková

Bachelor Thesis, Masaryk University – Brno, Faculty of Education, Department of English Language and Literature, Brno (2012)


This thesis deals with the main features of fashion in medieval England and focuses particularly on the second half of the fourteenth century. It compares period clothing with its image in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales . Thus the first part depicts the way of dressing in the late Middle Ages and includes the descriptions of male and female attires worn by people of all ranks. The second part examines costumes described in the Canterbury tales and focuses especially on the main characters. 

Introduction: This thesis aims to confront the image of medieval English fashion in Chaucer‟s Canterbury Tales with reality. It tries to ascertain to what extent clothing described in this piece of writing was true to life. This paper deals with the matter of fashion in Medieval England and concentrates primarily on the second half of the fourteenth century, when the author of The Canterbury Tales lived and was composing his most celebrated work. This period is usually called the “late fourteenth century” and corresponds to the reign of the king Richard II who ruled the country for twenty-two years since 1377 to 1399.

Geoffrey Chaucer, often called the father of English Poetry, stands as the most highly regarded English poet of the Middle Ages. He is studied by students all over the world and beloved by teachers, scholars and readers. Much had been written about Chaucer himself and his works, especially about his Canterbury Tales.

Being the best-known of Chaucer’s works, The Canterbury Tales are also his longest writing, numbering 17 000 lines or thereabouts. It is a unique piece of work bringing together people of various temperaments, yet coming from assorted ranks. By portraying so miscellaneous personalities, Chaucer aimed to create a lively image of medieval society. The Canterbury Tales provide readers such a faithful delineation of medieval life, including the way of clothing, that even a contemporary reader can easily imagine the joys and sorrows of everyday living in the Middle Ages.

Click here to read this article from Masaryk University – Brno

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