What to Wear
Clothing for the medieval stallholder woman

Thanks to Hollywood, many people do not have an accurate picture of medieval clothing. Those crushed velvet dresses with the batwing sleeves which lace up under the bust are all wrong. So are those wenchy corsets with the off-the-shoulder peasant tops. Deep purples, blacks... all wrong.

Women of all classes usually covered their hair, either with a veil or a hood or a wimple. Many women in cultures today still wear a veil, but back in the middle ages, almost all women did. Earrings were not generally worn, nor decorative necklaces. Crosses and signs of devotion were popular. Pilgrim badges and rings were the most popular form of jewellery. Most pilgrim badges can be bought online at very little cost and some of them are quite hilarious and rude! Rude badges were the height of wit in the middle ages!

Working class merchant women
You are not a peasant but neither are you a noble, and you should dress accordingly. Sumptuary Laws strictly prohibited the wearing or selling of rich purple cloth to anyone other than nobles. Middle class people were permitted many colours but blue of all shades was very popular. Peasants wore unbleached or brown cloth, with blue for attending church or festivals.

It was not uncommon for the women to have an outer dress with pin-on sleeves so the sleeves could be removed showing the white or plain coloured linen undergarment. Bare arms were not seen at all, unless the sleeves are rolled up for wet work- like washing. Merchants often lived in the town and had access to brighter colours and nicer dress accessories- belts, jewellery, hoods. Everyday people, dress in blues, greens, browns and yellows of brightly coloured wools and linens. Red was the most popular colour for hose and hoods. Shown at left, a "Crowned A" pewter badge.

Food and drink vendors
People involved with the production of food or beverages or the cooking and serving of food wore basic tunics, had their hair covered with a hat or coif or veil if a woman and as today, wore aprons of white or unbleached linen as you would today to protect their clothing. Their clothing was practical with sleeves that were fitted enough not to drag into food or just wide enough to roll up as we would do today. Shoes styles today are dictated by Workplace Health & Safety and should be enclosed leather and protective. Not sports shoes. If you are a food or drink vendor, you are required to have your hair tied back. You might also like to wear a hairnet. Hairnets are medieval.

Musicians and entertainers
Entertainers and musicians were usually travellers. Their clothing was practical and simple. Bright colours and patterns were worn- stripes, chevrons (v shapes) and particolour tunics the most often seen. Particolour tunics are made following the same basic tunic pattern only using 2 different colours of fabric; one colour on one side, one colour on the other side with the opposing sleeves in the opposite colours.

Colour Options
Just because some colours were limited to some layers of society, it doesn't mean your colour options are limited or ugly.

Naturally dyed cloth was capable of some very pretty shades, and the trick here is to mix and match well. Some browns are very pretty teamed with red or blue or yellow
. Shown above are a selection of naturally dyed wool with traditional colours. All of these colours are suitable for stallholders.

Styles and Examples
Clothing styles of the Middle Ages consisted of usually at least three layers. The undergarment called a chemise, an underdress or kirtle and outer dress or surcote. Layers are an easy way to keep warm, change your look and add extra colour into your wardrobe. If your clothing is lined you would line with a different colour so that as you walk or hitch your dress up, there is a flash of another colour. Lining is for those who want either more warmth or colour or to hide machine sewing. A reversible surcote gives you two different looks over the course of a weekend.

The design of your underdress should be the basic tunic or the laced kirtle if you are a more experienced sewer. Your overdress or surcote can vary greatly. It can be fitted, have shorter sleeves and hem, have wide sleeves or have large cut-away armholes (known as a sideless surcote). The surcote or overtunic shows off the dress underneath. How to make easy patterns for all of these is on the BASIC CLOTHING PATTERNS & TUTORIALS page. Be aware that the basic tunic will hang like a sack on a coathanger and even when you first put it on, until you add your belt which pulls it into place. You might find a suitable long, skinny, leather belt at an Op shop for only a few dollars.

Pictured at left is a stallholder from Inner Spirals wearing a very simple 12th century tunic which has pretty bands of embroidery around the neck and sleeves. Using two contrasting colours for the different layers and short sleeves on the top tunic makes a very pretty outfit. The yellow dress is one layer. The green overdress is a second layer.

Example 1
Very basic woman's outfit

- Basic T-tunic in solid, suitable colour.
- No front seam- only 2 side seams in total.
- No lacing. Pulls on over the head.
- Long, thin, undyed belt looped down front.
- Small leather bag on belt.
- Small leather money pouch.
- Rectangular veil worn in a variety of ways.
- Could also have a circlet of flowers.
- Could add pewter badge.
- Could add white apron.
- Could add coloured hood without buttons.
- Can be worn with a surcote over the top.

Example 2
Easy 12th century women's outfit

- Basic T-tunic long-sleeve underdress.
- Basic T-tunic short-sleeve overdress.
- Long, thin, coloured belt looped down front.
- White headband underneath veil.
- Long white veil pinned to headband.
- Bags and pouches hanging from belt.
- This style of outfit has a shorter overdress.
- Could add embroidered bands to neck, hem and sleeves.
- Could have square or V shaped neckline.
- Could have white wimple to go with veil.
- Could also be made from wool.

Example 3
Townswoman or merchant woman outfit

- Laced, fitted kirtle in solid, suitable colour.
- Long, thin belt looped down front.
- Long, white linen apron.
- Small leather bag & money pouch on belt.
- Wool hood with linen lining and buttons.
- Hair plaited at the sides of the head.
- Pewter pilgrim badge on hood.
- Dress has gores added for fullness.
- Can be made of wool.
- Can be worn with a short or long veil.
- Lacing holes not more than 2.5cm apart
- Can be worn with a surcote over the top.

Example 4
Woman's wide-sleeve T Tunic

- Tunic with wide sleeves using 4 seams.
- Must have undertunic with fitted sleeves so bare arms do not show.
- Wide sleeves lined with contrasting fabric.
- No lacing, pulls on over head.
- Worn with thin leather belt or woven belt.
- Worn with veil, hairnet and circlet.
- Can have embroidery bands over neckline, hem and sleeve seams
- Can have square, round or keyhole neckline.
- Could add extra triangular gores for fullness.

Example 5
Basic woman's particolour tunic

- Basic T-tunic pattern
one half one colour, one half another colour.
- Halves can have horizontal stripes or patterns. One half could have geometric patterns instead of solid colour. V shape shown here.
- Worn with thin, coloured leather belt.
- Worn with pouch and bag on belt.
- Could be worn with a veil and circlet.
- Could be worn with a coloured hood.

The finishing touches
Finishing touches make a world of difference to the way you look. You can also try these:

- A long white apron, or if you don't have one, just tuck a rectangle of white linen into your belt.
- A hood with or without buttons up the front or with a fancy scalloped edge at the bottom.
- A surcote can be worn over the basic T-tunic.
- A circlet of flowers over your veil.
- A pewter Pilgrim Badge pinned on your clothes or hood
- A rectanglular, fabric tasseled bag.
- Round or u-shaped leather pouches which can be coloured and have different coloured drawstrings!

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