The Inside Scoop: Medieval Fabric Linings

Medieval times brought about a stylish array of fashions for women.  As is the case in historical periods, attire reflected social status and said a lot about a person.  While the outer appearance changed over time, the inner garment linings remained fairly consistent.  And the higher a woman was on the social ladder, the more options she had to select from when it came to the feel of the fabric on the skin.  Let’s take a look.

Beginning in the early Middle Ages and carrying on straight through the late Midle Ages, homespun linen was the way to go.  It provided a cost effective way for women to line their garments and create undergarments.  This was done by gathering flax and turning it into long fiber strands, which were spun into thread, and then the thread was used to weave fabric.  Thus, this fabric served as the basis for underdresses and chemises.

Another form of linen brought about in the early Middle Ages was fine linen.  This material was delicate and smooth, in contrast to coarse homespun linen.  By the late Middle Ages, fine linen was being produced widely in sewing shops.  Fine linen was quite intricate with 200 threads per inch and ranged from dark and thick to thin and see through.  This cloth was featured in dress, sleeve, and bodice linings, as well as undergarments, and was seen as a wealthy commodity, although it was fairly affordable for all women.

Medieval Chemise (Linen):

Medieval Chemise (Linen)

For the elite and nobility, there was yet another option besides homespun and fine linen.  This was a linen and silk blend, which combined both fibers together to make a luxuriously soft material.  This fabric was light and sheer and made its way into linings for upper class dresses and undergarments as well.  In some areas, linen and silk blend was legally banned from anyone except for those of high social status.

Going one step higher and one fabric richer was pure silk, reserved exclusively for nobility and royalty.  Because this fiber was imported from the Far East, it came at a steep price.  As it was not easily washable, it was used mainly for sleeve and bodice linings and to accent color or embroidery on dresses.  It took on several variations from thick and sturdy to thin and delicate.  Silk was indeed a lavish fabric that was desired by all.  Unfortunately, not everyone could get their hands on it.

Detachable Sleeves Linen Blouse:

Detachable Sleeves Linen Blouse

One last fabric that is worth mentioning is cotton.  While it seems like everything is made of cotton today, this was not the case in the Middle Ages.  In fact, cotton was extremely rare back in the day and imported from the Middle East to Europe.  Over time, cotton started to spread and was used for garment linings.

To see our collection of medieval women’s clothing including bodices, chemises, and linen and silk linings, visit

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