12th century underwear

From Cunnan
Revision as of 18:08, 19 October 2005 by Conrad Leviston (talk | contribs) (→‎Women: link fix and typo)
Jump to navigationJump to search


  • braes (loose linen underdraws) with a slit to allow toilet visits. The slit was probably not laced in our period, just constructed in such a manner that it would stay overlapped unless pushed apart.
  • hose (stockings) over that wool (generally) and most long and tied at the waist, but some only knee high
  • shirt - a linen tunic, worn next to the skin. absorbs the sweat from your body, protecting your tunic. Generally white or natural linen coloured, as this garment was washed more often than the tunic, and linen could easily be naturally bleached back to white.


  • most evidence for no underpants. see 12th Century Female Hygiene for details of how menstruation could be manged without underpants. The saying "who wore the pants in the family" seems to date to this early, and some stories recite instances of men impersonating women (eg for military reasons) being caught because when they ran the braes under their skirts were noticed.
  • hose - generally presumed to be knee high, as braes are needed to tie longer hose to. We have little evidence for shape (no extant hose, above ankles not shown in pictures), but they are presumably the same as men's knee high hose. The multiple layers of skirts (chemise, tunic and in colder weather or outside possibly an extra tunic) would serve to keep the women's legs much warmer than the men with only one layer of fabric from a pair of hose, thus longer hose were not needed, and impractical when going to the toilet.
  • a natural/white linen chemise/shift served the same function as the man's shirt, but was generally floor length.
  • there are a few 12th C tests mentioning breast binding. The fashion was small firm breasts, and larger women who wished to be at the height of fashion wrapped their breasts with strips of linen to reduce their size.

less active men

  • occasionally some monks and scholars might not wear the braes and long hose. The practical advantages of the hose are mostly for riding and manual work. Monks generally wore floor length habbits, so like for the women, long hose and braes become suprefluous. They probably wore short hose (except asthetics who went barefoot) and no underpants.
  • clerical albs are similar to the chemise and shirt - an linen undergarment, in this case often close to floor length.