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Room 5
The 12th and 13th Centuries - The Appearance of Leggings

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In the 12th century, the French kingdom overcame the feudal system. Paris, which was the seat of the kings and the gathering place for the aristocracy, set the fashion trends for all of central and western Europe. The church lost its monopoly on setting cultural and religious norms with the founding of cities and universities.


Knighthood and its clothing played an important role in fashion during the Crusades.

The fashion of the 12th and 13th centuries was strongly influenced by knighthood, which played an important political and cultural role during the Crusades. Knights were the liaison to the sophisticated customs and highly developed textile and clothing culture of the Orient.


Robe-like clothing and chain-link armor of knights during the first Crusade.

The emphasis on the body required new technical methods for making clothing, which brought about the invention of cutting techniques and fastening options such as ribbons or buttons. Fashion trends were set by the women of the aristocracy. For the most part, men's clothing adapted to that of women - by the 12th century, the long men's skirt was firmly established (men's feet were still visible under the skirt, though; women's were hidden).



In the 12th century, the clothing of aristocratic women was trend-setting.

The legs and feet of women were considered intimate and were a strictly covered secret. In a much cited anecdote about a Spanish princess, the following is said: "When Johanna of Navarra, the bride of Philip the Beautiful of France (end of the 13th century), was traveling through Europe on her way to Paris, the elders of a city offered her precious woven silk stockings as a bridal gift. Johanna's butler threw them in the dirt and said with disgust: "don't you know that the queens of Spain do not have legs?"


Stockings tied beneath the knee seem to have been worn under the long skirts of men and women in the 12th and 13th centuries. Depiction of grooming from a French Book of Hours.

Women probably wore knee-length stocks which were tied beneath the knee, while men wore visible leggings.



The leggings were attached with ribbons to the belt of thigh-length breeches (the "reduced" form of trousers worn as underpants, similar to swimming trunks). Leggings developed into stocking-like legwear, which was usually not knit, but rather cut from colored cloth and sewn. A fine, elastic cloth for making stockings was "Scharlach" (a red-dyed woolen cloth), which was mainly produced in the southern Netherlands.

As it seems, leggings were already linked to each other to form tights as early as the 12th century. When the grave of Henry VI. (1190-1197) was opened, he was found wearing something similar to tights. A knotted silk belt was lying on top of the skirt made of yellow fabric. Several green and red silk strings were attached to the belt, and these were looped through the skirt and through holes in the tights and tied together.


Typical fastening for leggings (long stockings) - belt attached to breeches (underpants), 12th century.


The first examples of decorated, sewn, knee-length stockings were worn in the 11th century by princes and the high clergy. For ceremonial occasions, stocking were richly ornamented, for example the coronation stockings of German emperors.

English bishop's stocking,
sewn and decorated with woven,
ornamented gold ribbons,
app. 1100 AD.

Pontifical stockings
of Pope Clemens II. (died 1047),
1st half of 11th century.

Stockings of the German Regalia, beginning of the 13th century.


The knitting technique and the material silk (also for stocking production) probably became known through the Crusades in the 11th and 12th centuries. Knit stockings were rare, though, and did not become common until the 16th century.


Knit pontifical stocking, app. 1100 AD.


In the cities of Italy and France, the bourgeoisie class developed much faster than in Germany. The bourgeoisie, who had become wealthy, no longer wanted to lag behind the aristocracy in regard to fashion, and began wearing luxurious clothing. Due to this, so-called sumptuary laws (laws meant to limit luxurious clothing or other goods) were enacted in Italy and France in the 13th century. These laws also had the purpose of securing the "traditional clothing" privileges of the ruling class.


Since the end of the middle ages, dress codes regulated the clothing of society, which was divided into classes.


Class distinction was supposed to be visible in clothing. This led to the fact that the clothing of the lowest class - the peasants - remained unchanged over centuries. Peasants wore wide or tight pants with shirtwaists.



to room 6: The 14th and 15th Centuries