Home » History » Peasant dress throught the ages – Part Two

Peasant dress throught the ages – Part Two

In part one we saw the Medieval poor and how they dressed in whatever they could afford to piece together. Today, I will look at the next section in history: the Tudors. Although to many this may seem like the same thing, I feel that fashions changed considerably for the rich, less so for the poor, but nevertheless I find it interesting. 


Women wore a thick woollen kirtlea square-necked ankle-length dress with a fitted, laced bodice and full skirts. Sleeves were tied or pinned onto the bodice, showing the smock underneath and probably an apron over the top to keep the dress as clean as possible.

Women kept their heads covered at all times, often with a tight-fitting linen coif. 


 The men wore long hose, loose breeches, shirt and a thick belted ‘jerkin’ similar to a long waistcoat. 

A merchant or farmer might wear a leather doublet (a thick, quilted upper garment), over breeches. Daggers and purses were hung on leather thongs from the belt. Hats and caps would also have been worn, probably to keep warm and to avoid washing the hair. Thick cloaks would also have been worn in the winter. 


In this scene from a painting, we see the rare image of the back of a dress. There is a black V shape, which could extend to the front and be some sort of parlet. I think there might be a gold-coloured clasp of some sort at the tip of it, perhaps to pin it to the bodice to prevent it from riding up. The green dress is probably her best, as the sleeves are attached which means that this dress wouldn’t be worn in conditions which would require the wearer to detach the sleeves, for instance in doing labour, or hard and hot work. Her apron is the same colour as the lining of her sleeves and from her belt we can see a purse and a key swinging – perfect pickings for thieves! On her head she wears some sort of linen cap with a reasonably riding structure to frame the face. Although I wouldn’t wish to jump to conclusions, I might think that this is a German painting, as the style is a bit different to English painting of the time and the headwear is more Flemish or German than English. 

The man wears a dark jacket with a red shirt underneath and from his belt hangs a dagger or knife. His beige trousers are reasonably loose and in his hat he has a feather, which influences my feeling of Germanity in this portrait. 

The totally out of proportioned child bottom left wears a miniature version of adult clothing, with a cap and apron. 


The image on the left is of a slightly more wealthy, bourgeoise, couple, but the image on the right I think might show merchants perhaps, because the ladies’ clothes are not fine and they wear aprons and modest necklines filled in with plain white part lets. Their bodices do up in the front, showing that they might not have a maid to help them dress and they don’t have sleeves to their dresses. Note that they are either wearing a cap or a black hat. 

The man on the right  wears tight hose and breeches with a loose shirt and a doublet. His shirt has a small ruff. The gentleman on the left is slightly better dressed, with a dark blue jerkin with gold trimmings and white hose and breeches. Both men wear black hats.  


These images depict field workers harvesting in late summer. In the pictures you can clearly see the detachable women’s sleeves which a re often different colours to the kirtles. The back of the bodices have the same V shape as in the painting above, and in the top left picture there appears to be the same type of black parlet-neck-fill in thing. As usual, all wear some form of headwear, and the women wear mainly coifs with one wearing a wide brimmed straw hat to keep off the sun. All the women wear aprons and the men wear loose clothing which would allow them to work freely without being restricted. 


Here we see much the same thing, with the woman on the left wearing clearly a coif or some form of head covering under her hat. She is barefoot. One of the men has holes where his knees are in his blue hose and one man wears no hose at all.   


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