Medieval Costume Ideas

Medieval Character Costume Ideas

Spanning roughly 1000 years, the Medieval period lasted from the 5th century through to the late 1400s. Prior to this time there were a number of invaders of Ancient Britain following the fall of the Roman Empire. These included the Danes, the Vikings, Saxons and Normans. For this period there were a lot of myths and legends arising, including those of dragons, knights, wizards, sorcerers and heroes such as King Arthur and Robin Hood. Nowadays, many of the costumes from this period would also be suitable for ‘Game of Thrones’ re-enactments and parties, although the fictional land of Westeros, portrayed in the books, is of indeterminate location and time.

Here are a few ideas and costume choices for the period:-

  • Baron – During the medieval period, the Barons (such as Simon de Montfort) were extremely influential and wished to display their wealth by dressing in      expensive outfits, often made of velvet or velour. The costume would consist of a long robe or tunic with a matching or contrasting coat on top and a hat. Fur trimmed collars also denoted wealth.
  • Boadicea (Boudicca) – Warrior Queen of the Iceni Tribe who fought the      Romans.  Xena the Warrior Princess is one possible role model, although others might channel Keira Knightley’s warrior-like Guinevere from the 2004 film ‘King Arthur’.
  • Chancellor – A Chancellor was essentially an administrator and financial advisor, and hence important in anyone’s retinue. Long robe and hat with suitable decoration and (sometimes) a chain of office.
  • Edward I  (Reigned 1272-1307)  Costume could consist of a knee-length buttoned tunic in heraldic colours with fur trim. Male tights or leggings.  The headdress is a close fitting hood in white fabric or chain-mail style material, topped with a circlet crown.
  • Edward, The Black Prince – Eldest son of Edward III.  Despite his nickname, black armour may not be entirely practical, so a variation on the Medieval costume used by Rowan Atkinson in the first Blackadder series may be used. The addition of suitable heraldic devices or a surcoat should distinguish the two! If you want to go for the armour approach, bear in mind replica armour can be very costly and heavy to wear and also not very practical.
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen – A powerful queen of Early Times. A simple Medieval gown and crown as befits a queen.
  • Executioner – More often than not dressed in black, the hooded mask and suitable weaponry (although a sword may prove more practical than an axe as a prop) are essential items for this character.
  • Friar Tuck – The religious member of Robin Hood’s band of ‘Merry Men’Monks, friars, etc. were important and influential in Medieval times in that they, unlike many, could read and write. That said, Friars and monks come in a variety of plain colours. Hooded brown robes are the obvious choice,  but both grey and black also exist.The robe usually has a matching collar, rope belt and cross.
  • Henry II (reigned 1154-1189) – A long simple Medieval robe with cloak and crown will suffice for this costume. As an alternative, chain mail armour, a sword and shield of the late 12th Century.
  • Herald – Although of lowly status, the herald acted as messenger for his master. In addition to the standard doublet and hose, his costume would involve either a tabard or cloak, inset with his master’s coat of arms.
  • Jester - There are various styles of Jester that can be found. Most versions available concentrate on a two-tone breeches and tunic approach, which will serve well for most periods.
  • Joan Plantagenet – Now known as the Fair Maid of Kent.  Married Edward, the Black Prince amongst others. Medieval gown.
  • John, King (Reigned 1199-1216) – King best known for signing of the Magna Carta. Also supposedly king at the time of Robin Hood. Tight mid-length tunic with dagged or serrated lower edge to facilitate movement. Two belts. The first to hold in the tunic at the waist, the second to hold the sword and      scabbard.
  • Knight – There are many costume variations available for the Knight, but probably the most classic look (and the one generally available) is the one for Saint George, Patron Saint of England (see below).
  • Maid Marion – The female member of Robin Hood’s outlaws, but one who initially acted as an informant for Robin within the court of the Sheriff of Nottingham. One of the most popular female costumes for a medieval theme. A simple Medieval dress in Blue or Green with gold trim finished off with a circlet headdress.
  • Minstrel – Doublet, hose (possibly parti-coloured), plus instrument.
  • Norman – When William the Conqueror invaded in 1066, he and the Normans brought with them their own style of armour and helmets.
  • Peasant/Serf – From Norman times onwards, peasants dressed for warmth and practicality, using homespun coarse materials. Men and women wore similar garments to each other often in dull browns and greens.  Various forms of smocks with hoods were also in use. In the latter part of the period, doublet and hose featured with styles being similar to the rich, albeit in much cheaper materials.
  • Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart.  Reigned 1189-1199.  A basic chain mail looking balaclava and suit, over which a surcoat with the lion’s emblem is placed. Bassinet helmet, if available.
  • Robin Hood – Robin is both a folk legend and English hero. With a number of incarnations to choose from, much may depend on the image you wish to adopt. On the one hand there is the green castellated tunic, trousers/tights and the feathered cap of Errol Flynn. On the other, are the earthier browns and greens of Herne the Hunter. In either case, some form of bow, arrow and quiver, are fairly essential accessories.
  • Saint GeorgeCrusader-style costume similar to Richard I. Chain-mail effect tunic, white surcoat/tabard with elongated ‘St.George’ red cross. Sword or lance for dragon-slaying!
  • Saxon – Costumes were made of plain colours with trim around the necklines.       Decorative brooches and buckles were also worn.
  • Sheriff of Nottingham – A Medieval surcoat with fur collar, decorative tunic, tights and hat.
  • VikingThe horned helmet is the obvious starting point.  This needs to be      coupled with fake fur tunics and cloaks, thick leggings and suitable weaponry.

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