Medieval clothing in France. 11th to 13th century.
In France, as in Germany, the dress of the eleventh century was a development from the fashions of previous periods, though here the change was accomplished more quickly. This was already so evident at the opening of the thirteenth century that from that time onward French fashions became the standard for the upper classes among all the peoples of Central Europe.
In the eleventh century the style of the men’s long, tight-sleeved tunics and of their leg-wear was exactly the same as that prevailing in Germany. In France, as in Germany, the dress of the upper classes was distinguished from that of the lower orders by a superior quality of material (silk), by the length of the garments, and by richness of trimming.
During the twelfth century women’s dress remained for a considerable time without change. Women were wearing at that time a long, fairly wide over-garment, the cotte hardie, held by a girdle. Men wore the same garment. It was high at the neck, and could be tightened by means of a draw-string. Over this was worn another similar garment or a cloak. The headdress was a kerchief.
The men also wore a long-sleeved tunic reaching to the knees, tight hose fastened by tapes to a waist-belt, and a cloak fastened by a buckle or brooch. The footwear consisted of ankle-shoes or high boots. All these were similar to those worn in Germany. Women’s dress, however, gradually underwent so many slight alterations that it finally took on another character.
The coat no longer showed a gradual increase in width from the shoulders to the foot. It was now made to fit tightly under the bust (Fig. 173), the fullness beginning at the hips. In order to secure this tight fit both front and back pieces were shaped from the bust to the hips ; the waist was made with a broad band, through which ran strings which could be tied behind as the wearer thought fit.
The other great change from previous fashion was in the sleeves. These were much wider at the top, but as tight as before at the wrists, where they were now buttoned. Another style of sleeve (Fig. 176) fashionable at this time for over-garments was very tight from the top to a point more than half-way down the forearm, where it suddenly became extremely wide. This wide portion was a separate piece sewn to the sleeve proper as a cross-piece, so that its length made the width of the sleeve. In the twelfth century the cloak was rarely worn by Frenchwomen. It had been almost entirely supplanted by the ordinary over-dress. The headdress at this time was either the kerchief as before or an actual cap. Women’s footwear was still exactly the same as that worn by the men.
A HISTORY OF COSTUME BY CARL KOHLER EDITED AND AUGMENTED BY EMMA VON SICHART. New York 1813/1930