Clothing Answers

What did serfs wear?

Clothing for men in the middle ages started with a set of breeches, much like a loose pair of boxer shorts of pajama bottoms, usually about knee length. These would be fastened at the waist with a lace like a long shoelace. Over the breeches would be a set of hose, essentially leg length socks, that would be fastened with ties to the breeches. A set of simple leather shoes would finish the clothing for the lower body. Shoes in the middle ages were basic, and wore out quickly, needing to be repaired or replaced frequently. Shoemakers consistently show up as one of the most common craft professions in the tax documents and other urban records of the middle ages.
Over the lower body garments the next layer was a shirt, usually of linen. Linen, which is make of the fibers of the flax plant, was preferred for clothing that would be next to the skin. The shirt was considered an undergarment, and was somewhere between thigh and knee length. Over the shirt was a tunic, usually of wool, of the same length of the shirt. In colder weather an additional layer, such as an overtunic or a mantel (basically a sleeveless coat) would be added. Hats and head coverings were common, the most basic of which was a simple coif, a cloth head covering tied under the chin.

During hot weather or strenuous physical work not all of these layers would have been worn. When working in the fields a man might remove his tunic, or during hard work during the height of summer strip to the waist.

Women's clothing was similar, with a few exceptions. They generally did not wear breaches, their hose were usually only knee length, and their shirt and tunic were long, reaching to ankle length. Women typically covered their hair. Those of lower income like serfs or peasants would have done so with a simple cloth strip as a head wrap.

Both men and women generally wore a leather belt over their tunic. Virtually everyone in the middle ages carried a knife at their belt, both as a eating utensil and a tool. Garments usually did not have pockets, so other items would be carried in pouches or small bags at the belt, or tied directly to the belt.
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