Linking your favorite traveling artists across the globe
People wore dull coloured clothes
When you think of medieval commoners, you probably think of people wearing brown and grey sackcloth in unbecoming styles. The truth is that in the Middle Ages, all classes of people wore colourful garments. Contrary to popular belief, colours such as Royal Purple were not forbidden for all but the nobility. In truth, the concept of Royal Purple (which was closer to blue than purple anyway) dates to the days of the Roman Empire when purple was made from a rare mollusk, the Murex. By the Middle Ages, this mollusk was extinct and even peasants could make a fine purple from a mixture of madder root (red) and woad (indigo) or certain lichens that grew on rocks. Many bright colours were available for common folk to wear. Unlike today, clothing was not only sewn in the home, but the materials needed to make the cloth were also produced by the women of the family. Everyone had flax growing in her back yard. From this they spun linen yarn which they wove into cloth. Most people also had sheep. Sheep were shorn a once or twice a year and their fur was spun into wool yarn and woven into fabric. Using only homespun textiles did not preclude commoners from having nice clothing. We often think of wool are being scratchy and linen as being tablecloth material. The itchiness associated with wool is actually a product of the chemicals we modern people use to finish the fabric, not the wool itself. Most people who are "allergic to wool" are actually allergic to these chemicals. Both wool and linen can be made into many varieties of cloth, from very thick and rough to fine and even sheer and every texture in between.
Clothing did not have to remain the colour of the original fiber. Plants from the garden were boiled to make many colourful dyes: purples, blues, yellows, reds, even some greens. Clothing was sometimes left " natural," but it was more often bleached white or dyed. Linen turns white if left out in the sun yet it does not dye well. Dyed linen often faded nearly to white, so it was left white more often than not. This made it ideal for underclothes. When white linen got dirty or stained, it was simply hung out in the sunlight and became white again. Wool, on the other hand, takes dye very well. Outer clothing was usually made from wool and dyed bright colours. Subtle pastel colours, such as those prevalent today, were simply not prevalent in the Middle Ages. When dyeing fabric, timing and heating are essential. In order to produce consistent colours, these factors must be carefully controlled. Even today, colour can vary greatly from dyelot to dyelot. Medieval people dyed fabric in pots over open fires. They did not have timers or temperature gauges. Therefore, they used as much dye as possible to impart colour to the cloth. Pastel colours were not nearly as common as brights.
Truth be told, medieval people would have rarely worn brown or grey clothing. Browns and greys are much more difficult to dye than the bright colours they did wear.
© 2023 Created by Rev. Allen M. Drago ~ Traveler. Powered by