The Medieval Woman

Note: Due to the great religious conviction of the Medieval Era, much of the art contains strong religious context. I do not put up any religiously-affiliated works with any religious intentions; I present them as art, and so they should be taken. So please proceed and enjoy, artistically!

L’Adorazione del ponte and detail
Piero Della Francesca

These women are wearing long bliauds belted with cloaks. The pink garment of the woman with the blue sleeves is perhaps a surcoat, a garment which came to be worn in the fourteenth century. It was open at the sides and in some cases belted.

This fresco is a prime example of Medieval women’s hair. It was vogue in Italy for women to pull their hair tight against their head up from their face, usually parted Madonna style. In the detail and in following paintings in this exhibit you may notice how far back the woman’s hair line must be. Medieval women plucked their eyebrows, going so far as to pluck back their hair line to promote the beauty of the forehead. They also shaved the short hairs at the nape of their neck.

Dame Nature Gives Her Orders to Genius, Flemish

This woman wears a pink cotehardie beneath a white surcoat with a cloak around her arms. Over her hair is a reticuled headress, or golden net caul. Cauls were usually fashioned of gold braid and wire, with the checkered openings filled in with silk. A low metal band or jeweled crown usually held them in place as one does here.

St. Nicholas giving thanks for his birth, Gerard David

These English women wear a famous Medieval head fashion: the wimple. The standing woman on the right has her wimple folded in turban form, which was also very fashionable for men, though in richer fabrics. The wimple, known as the couvrechef in French, consisted of a square of sheer cotton or linen, often with a gorget, or neckcloth, which was attatched to the wimple or other head piece with pins. The women to the far right, in bed, wears one with her wimple. The wimple and gorget was worn due to the strong influence of Christianity as a sign of female modesty.

These women wear cotehardies over bliauds; the middle woman wears a black stomacher, or vest piece, with a belt. Hanging from the belt of the woman to the left is a chatelaine, in which household tools and small personal items were carried.

Giovanna Tornabuoni degli Albizi, Botticelli

This panel of an Italian fresco shows another woman in the Medieval wimple, though her hair is in looser waves.

Proceed to the Second Page of Medieval women's clothing.
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