how to

Hard truths: All the layers are important.

I love “how to get dressed in x year” videos.  They are fantastic, sometimes (!) accurate and means that I can dress for my future access to a time machine quickly and wear all the correct layers.  Anyway, this was going to be a rant about how older clothing is more complex due to shifting beauty standards and construction technologies throughout the ages, but instead I thought, “Nah, let’s look at how to put clothes on….”  And then it turned into a thing anyway.

I’m gonna focus on women’s clothing since that’s what I understand best and also, there are more videos of women’s clothing in general.   Sorry bros.  Start putting your clothing on on camera and we’ll talk.

500 year overview:

12th Century

14th Century

15th Century

Late 15th Century


Which brings me to an important point, actually.  Look at the layers.  Everyone starts with their base chemise, a gown or tunic and then some other gown or tunic.  This is to keep warm and to maximize the body temperature maintenance aspects of all these individual pieces.

Look at how many interchangeable pieces there are, especially as we get to the early 15th-Elizabethans.   If you don’t have many pieces of clothing, you’re gonna want to mix and match them for variety, right?

Look at the base layers.  This is to keep your stuff clean from the inside out.

Headwear keeps your head warm and your hair clean.

Most pieces have a purpose.  If they don’t have an obvious purpose, you have to ask why.  Why does this one piece look useless?    Usually it’s so you can display wealth and you’ll see more useless pieces on the outer garments than the undergarments, in general.   What’s the point of displaying wealth if no one can see it anyway?  (If you’re rich enough to embroider everything, then… wow. )

When you’re looking at something you want to make, looking at the effort that would have gone into creating that garment at the time is important.  It lets you know where you can cut corners and where you can’t.

Does your outfit seem like a lot of work now that you really think about it?  It was.  Time to get crackin’ and make some things anyway!  Being naked isn’t a great option either.


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