A Five-Minute Guide to Medieval Fabrics

medieval fabrics - 14th century fresco by Andrea di Bonaiuto

I don’t know about you, but I often read descriptions of medieval clothing and want to know more about the fabric: what did it look like and what was its texture?

Fashion Old and New: Weaving and Tailoring in the Early Medieval and Early Modern Period

Anglo Saxon pin beater made of animal bone. Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, 400-800 AD. Courtesy of Cotswold Archaeology.

Fashion fan? Interested in medieval and early modern textiles? Then this was your session. 2 papers from opposite ends of the spectrum: Early Medieval weaving and Early Modern Tailoring.

Papers on Medieval Prosopography: Session #47 at KZOO 2015

Pieter Brueghel - Kermesse (The Feast of Saint George)

Three fantastic papers on Prosopography from #KZOO2015.

Sewing as Authority in the Middle Ages

Letter of Indulgence for the Herkenrode Abbey (Source: Flandrica.be | Limburg Provincial Library) [CreativeCommons BY-NC-SA BE 2.0]

Analysing manuscripts, relics, indulgences, and even a bishop’s mitre, the article argues that stitching was a way to enact, or intensify, the ritual purpose of objects, whether that was ceremonial, devotional, or authoritative.

Move over Milan! Late Medieval and Renaissance Fashion in Venice

Cesare Vecellio's Venetian fashion

Milan may be Italy’s current fashion capital, but Venice had an important role to play in the development of the Italian fashion and textile industry since the late middle ages and renaissance period.

Of sagas and sheep: Toward a historical anthropology of social change and production for market, subsistence and tribute in early Iceland

Medieval hunt - images of sheep

This dissertation deals with the formation of chiefdoms, communities, ecclesiastical institutions and state, and with production for market, subsistence and tribute in early Iceland in the context of climatic change and ecological succession.

Working women in thirteenth-century Paris

Medieval women at work weaving.

This thesis examines the role of women in the Parisian economy in the late thirteenth century.

Women’s Devotional Bequests of Textiles in the Late Medieval English Parish Church, c.1350-1550

Medieval woman reading

My investigation is set within the context of the current high level of interest in the workings of the late medieval parish.

Time, space and power in later medieval Bristol

Medieval Bristol - Robert_Ricart's_map_of_Bristol

With a population of almost 10,000, Bristol was later medieval England’s second or third biggest urban place, and the realm’s second port after London. While not particularly large or wealthy in comparison with the great cities of northern Italy, Flanders or the Rhineland, it was a metropolis in the context of the British Isles.

Women in early towns

The Viking Age: Ireland and the West: Papers from the Proceedings of the Fifteenth Viking Congress

What do we know about women’s role in these societies? What did women do and how numerous were they? And did they pay the same role in Viking-Age proto-towns as in more developed medieval urban communities?

Estreitement bende: Marie de France’s Guigemar and the erotics of tight dress

Women 12th century

This article examines the change in women’s fashion that occurred during the 12th century. Garments went from loose and flowing to tightly fitted, featuring belts and laces. The author examines this cultural change through the romance stories complied in the “Lais” of Marie de France, specifically one featuring the character of Guigemar.

How to pleat a shirt in the 15th century

Medieval Clothes Fragment

Based on the shirt fragments from the 15th century found at Lengberg Castle in East-Tyrol this paper describes the methods with which these shirts have been pleated, what type of stiches have been used for sewing and how the trimming strips were fashioned. Seventeen textile fragments could be identified as parts of shirts, fourteen of which feature either partially or totally pleated areas. Two sleeves with textile buttons and button holes, two sleeves with button holes, one sleeve with a textile button, one neckline and five fragments being either sleeve or collar are pleated on their entire width. One shirt each is pleated partially on the front, one of them with a preserved textile button. One sleeveless shirt is pleated at the shoulder.

Persian silk worn by Vikings, researcher finds

Vikings-Persian-Silks - photo courtesy University of Oslo

When the Oseberg Ship was discovered in Norway in 1904, more than one hundred silk fragments were found among its artefacts. New research has shown that these silks were probably purchased from Persia through a trade network.

Two dozen and more Silkwomen of Fifteenth-Century London

Late Medieval Women

This article attempts to record systematically all the silkwomen of London who were daughters or wives of London mercers between 1400 and 1499.

Looming Danger and Dangerous Looms: Violence and Weaving in Exeter Book Riddle 56

16th century depiction of a loom

I was inside there where I saw a wooden object wounding a certain struggling creature, the wood turning; it received battle-wounds, deep gashes.

From Flax to Linen: Experiments with flax at Ribe Viking Centre

From Flax to Linen Experiments with flax at Ribe Viking Centre

The archaeological record shows that linen was an important part of Viking Age clothing. Linen cloth developed gradually from being virtually nonexistent in Scandinavia at the start of the first millennium AD…

The Queen of Sicily’s Paris Shopping List, 1277

Charles I of Anjou and Margaret of Burgundy

Sarah-Grace Heller examines a letter sent by Charles I of Anjou, King of Sicily to one of his agents in Paris, where he provides a detailed order of textiles and clothing that he needed to have purchased.

Acquiring, Flaunting and Destroying Silk In Late Anglo-Saxon England

The silk buskins in which Pope Clement II was buried.

This paper will argue that vibrantly coloured silks and other elaborate textiles were ubiquitous in England in the late Anglo-Saxon period.

Handspinners of the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance

medieval spinners

The Handspinners of Paris, France: In 1270, a royal judge, Etienne Boileau, compiled “Le Livre de Metiers” (The Book of Trades) which contained the ordinances of 100 Parisian craft guilds. By consulting the surviving tax rolls of 1292, 1300, and 1313, it is possible to determine the extent to which these crafts were practiced.

Life, Death, Fate and Female Embodiment: Weaving in Viking Age and Medieval Iceland

Michele Hayeur Smith

Video of a lecture on medieval Icelandic textiles.

Technological Development in Late Saxon Textile Production: its relationship to an emerging market economy and changes in society

medieval looms

The process of change from domestic textile production in early Anglo-Saxon England (5th – mid-7th century) to the more commercially based, organised industry of the late Saxon period (late 9th – 11th century) is a long and complex one.

New research on how the Bayeux Tapestry was made

bayeux tapestry

A University of Manchester researcher has thrown new light on how the world famous Bayeux Tapestry was made over 900 years ago.

Coptic Dress In Egypt: The Social Life Of Medieval Cloth


Coptic textiles in most collections present a very rich iconography, somewhat derived from classical traditions, which has also attracted the attention of art historians. Very little of their work, however, has made any headway in our understanding of the contemporaneous meanings of Coptic textile images and other decorations.

Cultural Identity and Dress: The Case of Late Byzantine Court Costume

Byzantine Court and Ecclesiastical Costume

At the earliest stages of its development, ceremonial costume was often a more ornate and luxurious version of contemporary attire. It’s use in a ritual context, however, resulted in its becoming imbued with a symbolic significance, a significance that epitomized the political and religious ideology of the state in general and the self perception of the ruling class in particular.

The fabric of society: The organization of textile manufacturing in the Middle East and Europe, c. 700 – c. 1500

Middle Eastern textile

In recent years several attempts have been made to use institutional theory to explain this divergence between the Middle East and Europe. Most of these attempts focus on the organization of international trade.

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