When it comes to selecting the right materials for your medieval or Renaissance costumes, historical accuracy is very important. By paying close attention to the history of the time period, the various class systems, and the materials available, you’re sure to find the right garment for your next fair or costume party. Here are a few tips to selecting the right fabrics from the experts at Historical Clothing Realm.
Very few fabric types were available during the medieval and Renaissance eras. Linen was one of the most common fabrics used during this time period. It’s actually a plant-based fabric derived from flax or linseed in northern Europe. Cotton wasn’t as common during this era and had to be imported into Europe from Africa and India. It was sometimes woven with linen to produce a fabric called fustian that was very dense but at the same time very durable. Wool harvested from sheep was very popular among the Viking clans of the north, although more expensive compared to linen. Prized for its ability to keep the wearer warm and dry, it was commonly used to produce military uniforms and traveling gear. Silk was rare since it was imported from Asia, which also made it very expensive.
Throughout the medieval era and well into the 1900s, a person’s status often dictated the style of clothing they wore. Since silk and wool were more expensive, they were often reserved for those who could afford it, namely royalty, nobility, and wealthy merchants. Peasants, artisans, and members of the church usually wore linen and sometimes cotton. When a shirt or pair of trousers became too worn, it was patched or recycled into blankets and smaller clothes for the children.
Your status also determined the color of your clothing. Natural linen was usually off-white or dull yellow. Blue, yellow, and brown dyes weren’t uncommon during this era. Deeper colors like hunter green, burgundy red, and royal purple had to be imported and it took longer for these colors to set into fabrics. Naturally, they were more expensive and usually only worn by the upper class.
When you start shopping for Renaissance period clothing, strive for historical accuracy and always check the fabric labels.