In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Dress

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Anthologies
  • Exhibition Catalogues
  • Museum and Other Catalogues
  • Tailoring
  • Furs
  • Accessories, Purses, and Pouches
  • Regulation of Liturgical Dress
  • Regulation of Non-liturgical Dress
  • Conservation
  • Theoretical Approaches
  • Terminology in Britain
  • Terminology in Europe

Medieval Studies Dress
Gale R. Owen-Crocker, Elizabeth Coatsworth
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 June 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 June 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0150


The study of dress, including as it does both under- and outerwear and indications of age, ethnicity, gender, status, and occupation, is perhaps the most intimate form of social and cultural history. Evidence includes primary material, much of which is archaeological, though a surprising amount of medieval clothing has survived above ground, usually, but not exclusively, ecclesiastical. The topic is often approached through art history, documentary sources (both literary and nonliterary), and, increasingly in recent times, social theory. Approaches through vocabulary at their most basic level discuss the meaning of documented clothing terms, but also reveal semantic change and the code-switching that was typical within the multilingual cultures of late medieval Europe. Many writers have worked within geographical or chronological divisions, but there are also wider-ranging comparative studies. Apart from ecclesiastical dress and examinations of the clothing of royalty, there are relatively few studies of particular social groups, and for this reason the authors of this bibliography have included such writing as there is on issues such as maternity clothing, underwear and children’s garments.

Reference Works

Owen-Crocker, et al. 2012 is a dedicated encyclopedia of medieval dress and textiles of the British Isles. Dress is covered in detail for the earliest English period in Owen-Crocker 2004, and Walton Rogers 2007 examines early Anglo-Saxon dress through an analysis of textiles. There is a shortage of scholarly and specific works on later dress, and Cunnington and Cunnington 1973 and Piponnier and Mane 1997 remain the most used sources. Christie 1938 and Schuette and Müller-Christensen 1964 provide overviews of the most luxurious and ecclesiastical vestments, with the former still invaluable for its coverage of English examples, and the latter less focused on one area but ranging across western Europe. Both contrast with regional studies of garments, such as Ewing 2006, and of vestments, such as Durian-Ress 1986 (cited under Museum and Other Catalogues), in which a range of vestments of varying materials, techniques, costliness, and quality appear. See also Johnstone 2002 (cited under Liturgical Garments).

  • Christie, A. G. I. English Medieval Embroidery: A Brief Survey of English Embroidery Dating from the Beginning of the Tenth Century until the End of the Fourteenth, Together with a Descriptive Catalogue of the Surviving Examples: Illustrated with One Hundred and Sixty Plates and Numerous Drawings in the Text. Oxford: Clarendon, 1938.

    The only (remarkably) comprehensive and comprehensively illustrated catalogue of all embroideries known as opus anglicanum, and therefore incidentally the only catalogue of ecclesiastical vestments believed to have been made in England, though now located across museums and ecclesiastical treasuries throughout Europe.

  • Cunnington, Cecil Willett, and Phillis Cunnington. Handbook of English Mediaeval Costume. 2d ed. London: Faber and Faber, 1973.

    Still an established textbook despite its age. Lacks notes, but has a bibliography. Illustrated by line drawings, sourced. First published in 1952.

  • Ewing, Thor. Viking Clothing. Stroud, UK: Tempus, 2006.

    A wide-ranging, generously illustrated account that shows the fashion-consciousness of Viking people and their love of fine fabrics, drawing on art (picture stones and manuscripts), archaeology, and text. It also considers textile production and techniques and the use of furs.

  • Owen-Crocker, Gale R. Dress in Anglo-Saxon England: Revised and Enlarged Edition. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2004.

    A guide to English dress c. 450–1080s, giving a broad regional and chronological picture with details of exceptional examples. Concerned to explain the usefulness and limitations of different sources for different periods, whether text, art, or archaeology.

  • Owen-Crocker, Gale R., Elizabeth Coatsworth, and Maria Hayward, eds. Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles c. 450–1450. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2012.

    Considers secular, military, and ecclesiastical dress, both in general terms and in relation to surviving individual garments, and the significance of particular garment names, with individual bibliographies. Examines archaeological, documentary, and artistic sources. Includes consideration of change and fashion.

  • Piponnier, Françoise, and Perrine Mane. Dress in the Middle Ages. Translated by Caroline Beamish. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

    A wide-ranging social history of dress in later medieval Europe, arranged thematically, with glossary and bibliography, but without notes. First published as Se vêtir au Moyen Âge (Paris: Société Nouvelle Adam Biro, 1995).

  • Schuette, Marie, and Sigrid Müller-Christensen. The Art of Embroidery. Translated by D. King. London: Thames and Hudson, 1964.

    Illustrated catalogue of embroideries from the 4th to the early 20th century, mostly western European and with many examples of early and late medieval work (mainly ecclesiastical vestments). Originally published as Das Stickereiwerk (Tübingen, Germany: Verlag Ernst Wasmuth, 1963).

  • Walton Rogers, Penelope. Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England, AD 450–700. CBA Research Report 145. York, UK: Council for British Archaeology, 2007.

    Innovative book by a leading expert in archaeological textiles. Despite the regional and chronological limitation suggested by the title, comparative evidence ranges over a wide range of places and times.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.