What did men wear at night in the Middle Ages in Europe?

What did men wear at night in the Middle Ages in Europe?

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The question:

I'd like to know how did people, especially males, used to dress while sleeping in the Middle Ages in Europe.

I suppose the nightwear changes both according to the exact time period and to where in Europe (mostly because of the different climate, but culture might be another factor).

Why I'm wondering about this:

I know something about day dresses because of medieval fairs but at night I can only imagine tunics and maybe some form of underwear? I got told underwear did not exist at the time but I'm not sure Christianity would have allowed people to sleep together with nothing under the tunic.

Were night trousers, such as in modern pajamas, a thing?

A note if too broad:

If differences are really great, the tendencies for the middle-upper class (not poor, not noble) around the end of the Middle Ages period in Christian central and northwestern Europe (Germany, France, England) interest me more.

According to the description of events in medieval chronicles (namely the 14th century), no clothes at all were worn at night in Portugal. People really did sleep naked.

However, coifs might have been worn, though the chronicles do not mention them. This assumption of mine comes from images of the time, which sometimes (do note I say sometimes) show coifs worn by people in bed… even (or maybe especially) when those people were having sexual relations. On the other hand, most of these images are from non-Iberian sources so that the custom of wearing coifs to sleep may or may not have existed in Portugal.

Of course the people mentioned in the chronicles are nobles, with good beds, plenty of blankets and properly heated homes. People of lower standing might have slept with their clothes on for the simple goal of remaining warmer.

The chronicles in question are the ones by Fernão Lopes. I've got them in book (there are plenty of editions around, though they're mostly old and partial). I recall in particular detail a chapter in the chronicle of King Dom Fernando, where a lady is killed by her 'secret husband' on suspicion of adultery. He enters her chamber at night and she gets up from the bed, hurrying to cover her nakedness with a chemise. Note that her nakedness is mentioned as something natural .

This passage is the one quoted by Portuguese historians to attest that medieval people slept naked.

Here's the link to download a pdf of a 19th century copy of the Chronicle of King Dom Fernando.

There appears to be very little documentary evidence and quite a bit of debate on this. For example, see here.

The general consensus seems to be that they normally wore nothing, except sometimes a night cap. Picture evidence here.

Other commentators argue that they just as often wore a simple gown or smock, as argued here, without picture evidence.

The dyes to color the clothing of the time were expensive and only the nobility could afford them. Kings and queens tended to stick to the brighter royal colors of red and blue. Red dye came from an insect found in the Mediterranean. Green was created by lichen and Dyerswoad was used for blue.

Fabrics for royalty, such as velvet and silk, were usually imported, and only royalty were allowed to wear gold and purple silk. The Crusades had a tremendous impact on fashion due to the many exotic fabrics brought to Europe, such as satin. Fur from animals was popular, particularly ermine and fox.

Written in the Stars: Astronomy and Astrology in Medieval Manuscripts

Humankind has always looked to the sky in wonder, with a desire to understand our place in the universe. Eclipses, comets, and star and planet sightings mesmerize us and inspire awe. In the medieval world, from about 500 to 1500, astronomy was a required field of study. From London to Baghdad and beyond, students of medicine, philosophy, and even theology carefully observed the astrological relationship between the 12 signs of the zodiac and one’s physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Indeed, peoples of many religions believed that the radiant sun, full moon, twinkling stars, and distant planets held great power over their lives, the seasons, and daily activities.

The Getty Center’s exhibition The Wondrous Cosmos in Medieval Manuscripts (April 30 to July 21, 2019) invites you to marvel at the complexity of the celestial realm in European faith and science traditions, with a glimpse at how similar beliefs held sway in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The illuminated manuscripts show how astronomy and astrology infused everyday life in the Middle Ages, from medicine to religion and beyond.

Astronomy and Astrology

Philosophy Presenting the Seven Liberal Arts to Boethius from Consolation of Philosophy, about 1460–70, Boethius, made in Paris, France. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 42 (81.MS.11), leaf 2, verso

Faith and science—or the humanities and the sciences—were closely aligned in the Middle Ages. Universities across Europe organized their courses and bookshelves around the seven liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric, logic, music, geometry, arithmetic, and astronomy. As the study of the physics of cosmic orbs and other astral phenomena, astronomy was the foundation for astrology, which seeks to correlate these celestial events with happenings on Earth and individual human affairs. By looking at a range of manuscripts containing texts from astronomy and astrology, the exhibition shows the close relationship between the two.

A cutting from the manuscript The Consolation of Philosophy, written by the fifth- to sixth-century writer Boethius, depicts the author speaking to Philosophy, who leads personifications of each of the aforementioned subjects. The last personification is Astronomy, who gazes up at the sun and moon while holding an armillary sphere, a model of the celestial universe.

Another example from Boethius proposes a relationship between music and astronomy. In a scheme known as “the music of the spheres,” Boethius assigned musical value to each of the known planets based on their positions in the sky relative to the Earth, similar to a musical scale. The basic scale begins with the Moon, followed by Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. An illumination in an early-fifteenth-century copy of the text shows Boethius explaining his method to a group: a hovering golden orb indicates a musical tone, the diatessaron (a fourth above the tone), and diapente (a fifth above). (The movement of the celestial spheres has inspired composers and musicians to the present, from Palestrina to Beyoncé, and from Franz Joseph Haydn to Nico Muhly, Sufjan Stevens, and Ariana Grande. See astrophysicist and musician Matt Russo’s brilliant TEDx talk, “What Does the Universe Sound Like? A Musical Tour” for a captivating demonstration of this long history.)

The Influence of the Stars

The Planet Jupiter Represented as a Bishop on Horseback (left) and Venus Riding a Stag (right) in an Astronomical Miscellany, shortly after 1464, made in Ulm or Augsburg, Germany. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. Ludwig XII 8 (83.MO.137), fols. 49v and 50v

All year round, from sunrise to sunset, people in medieval Europe regulated their lives based on the position and movement of heavenly luminaries (the sun and moon), the planets, and the stars that constitute the signs of the zodiac. Even the language for the days of the week shows this influence, with Latin-based names derived from planets:

  • Monday is moon day, and moon in Latin is luna, from which we get lundi (French), lunes (Spanish), and lunedì (Italian).
  • Tuesday is Mars-day (mardi, martes, martedì).
  • Wednesday is Mercury-day (mercredi, miércoles, mercoledì).
  • Thursday is Jupiter-day (jeudi, jueves, giovedì).
  • Friday is Venus-day (vendredi, viernes, venerdì).
  • Saturday is Saturn-day, but in Latin languages is the Judeo-Christian day of Sabbath (samedi, sábado, sabato).
  • Sunday is the day of the sun or day of the Christian God when derived from Latin.

A manuscript with various astronomical texts—called a miscellany—illustrates the degree to which cosmic forces were thought to influence one’s life. It features a series of watercolors personifying planets or celestial bodies, including the Sun as an emperor, the Moon as a woman, Mars as an armored knight, Mercury as a doctor, Jupiter as a bishop, Venus as a lady holding an arrow of love, and Saturn as an elderly man. Each figure is associated with a color and adorned accordingly: golden yellow (the Sun), green (the Moon), red (Mars), silver (Mercury), blue (Jupiter), white (Venus), and black (Saturn).

Pisces and Diagram for Friday (left) and Libra and Taurus (right) in an Astronomical Miscellany, shortly after 1464, Ulm or Augsburg, Germany. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. Ludwig XII 8 (83.MO.137), fols. 56v-57

Several pages later, circular diagrams declare the relationship between the luminaries or planets and the days of the week. For example, “Friday belongs to Venus.” At the center of the concentric circles is a representation of the planet named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty imagined as a white, six-pointed burst emanating red rays.

The 24 hours of the day—indicated by Roman numerals I through XII repeated twice—are color-coded to the heavenly body that governs quotidian activities. Thus at noon on Friday we are under the influence of the moon, whereas at six o’clock in the evening Mars holds power over us. Representations of the zodiac signs Pisces, Libra, and Taurus are also found on these pages, each accompanied by planets or a luminary (Pisces features Jupiter and Mars, Libra the moon, Saturn, and Jupiter, and Taurus Mercury, the Moon, and Saturn).

Month by Month

April Calendar Page with Saint George (left) and May Calendar Page with Gemini and Courtly Love (right) in a Book of Hours, about 1440–50, made in Paris, France. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. Ludwig IX 6 (83.ML.102), fols. 4v-5

Devotional or liturgical manuscripts often feature calendars that provide a wealth of information about faith and the cosmos. One such codex type, the book of hours, contains prayers and readings for daily to annual use. A calendar for the month of May in a mid-15th-century book of hours from Paris, for example, begins with an inscription stating that May has 31 days and 30 appearances of the moon. The first column includes Roman numerals to help readers determine the phases of the moon. They used this information to make decisions, such as when to fast or seek medicinal remedies. The second column indicates the days of the week, lettered A through G. At the bottom of the page, the artist included the so-called Labor of the Month, a seasonally appropriate activity such as picking flowers in April or sowing a field in October. Each sign of the zodiac was assigned to a full month during the Middle Ages, whereas today’s astrology follows a slightly different dating system.

The modern timeframes in the year for the zodiac signs have shifted from those in the Middle Ages, when they also dictated daily activity.

A diagram from a 1518 calendar manuscript indicates 54 major veins that may be drained according to the phases of the moon or the season of the year. This practice of bloodletting, an ancient medical process of withdrawing blood, seeks to balance bodily fluids known as humors (such as black and yellow bile and phlegm).

Left: Zodiacal Man in The Great Roman Calendar, 1518, Johann Stoeffler, made in Oppenheim, Germany. Getty Research Institute, 87-B635
Right: Zodiacal Man in Très Riches Heures de Jean de Berry, 1413–16, the Limbourg Brothers, made in France. Chantilly, Musée Condé, Ms. 65

The figure depicted also contains zodiac symbols, each one holding power over a particular body part: Aries (♈) on the head Taurus (♉) on the neck Gemini (♊) on the shoulders Cancer (♋) on the chest Leo (♌) on the sternum Virgo (♍) on the stomach Libra (♎) on the lower abdomen Scorpio (♏) on the genitalia Sagittarius (♐) on the thighs Capricorn (♑) on the knees Aquarius (♒) on the legs and Pisces (♓) on the feet. The most famous medieval representation of the Zodiacal Man appears in the French manuscript known as the Très Riches Heures de Jean de Berry, illustrated by the Limbourg Brothers.

Visions of the Universe in the Christian Tradition

Left: The Fall of the Rebel Angels in Livre de Bonnes Meurs, about 1430, made in Avignon, France. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. Ludwig XIV 9 (83.MQ.170), fol. 3v
Right: The Crucifixion in the Katherine Hours, about 1480–85, Jean Bourdichon, made in Tours, France. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 6 (84.ML.746), fol. 77

A selection of manuscripts in Wondrous Cosmos provides insights into Christian theology and celestial themes in sacred scripture and art. These include a music manuscript showing the creation of the world the Book of Good Manners detailing the cosmic battle between warrior angels and rebel angels and numerous episodes from Christ’s life (the angelic annunciation of Jesus’s birth to shepherds, the magi following a star to find the Christ child, the eclipse during the Crucifixion, and Christ’s ascension into heaven). The images and accompanying texts demonstrate the central role of heavenly lights, angels, and demons in church services and private devotional practices.

The Woman Clothed in the Sun in the Getty Apocalypse, about 1255–60, probably made in London, England. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. Ludwig III 1 (83.MC.72), fols. 19v-20

A centerpiece of the exhibition is the Getty Apocalypse, a mid-13th-century English manuscript containing the biblical book of Revelation (also called Apocalypse), which describes enigmatic visions of the end of time. One of the most stunning page spreads features the so-called Woman Clothed in the Sun, with the moon at her feet, stars in her hair, and sunlight wreathing her body. The commentary tells us that the woman represents the Church, which gives light to both day and night. She gives birth to souls saved by angels, while a dragon, representing the devil, gathers one-third of the stars of the heavens in its tail, a symbol of Apocalypse.

Out of this World Connections Across the Globe

Left: Initial C: The Creation of the World from a noted breviary, about 1420, made in northeastern Italy. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 24 (86.ML.674), leaf 5
Right: Map Rock petroglyph, 1054, Shoshone-Bannock People, Givens Hot Springs, Canyon County, southwestern Idaho. Photo: Kenneth D. and Rosemarie Ann Keene

Several manuscripts and printed books in the exhibition reveal the global entanglements of astronomical or astrological ideas during the Middle Ages. For example, two miscellanies at the Getty contain constellation diagrams with the names of star groupings sometimes provided in Latin, Greek, and Latinized Arabic. This linguistic diversity confirms the connections among universities in Western Europe and centers of learning in Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and the vast Muslim world, where texts in many languages were copied, translated, and transmitted.

The tale of Barlaam and Josaphat by Rudolf von Ems, from about 1200 to 1254, illustrates cosmic themes through a story in India. At the beginning of the tale, the imaginary King Avenir of India consults astrologists to interpret omens of planetary and astral alignment related to the birth of the future prince Josaphat. They predict that the young prince will convert to Christianity, which angers the king, who then confines his son to the palace. Inspired by encounters with sickness, poverty, old age, and death, the prince still becomes Christian, fulfilling the celestial prophecies. The saying “written in the stars” expresses the belief that cosmic or universal forces control the future, a theme found in this story as well as works of history, literature, and oral tradition around the world since time immemorial.

The architecture of sacred structures built or enlarged during the medieval period and sites of pilgrimage also often evoked ideas of the cosmos and the place of humans within it. A major pilgrimage site in India, the Great Stupa at Sanchi, offered Buddhists a metaphorical microcosm of the universe. For Muslims, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem commemorates the Night Journey, when the angel Jibril (Gabriel) transported the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem and into Heaven. Meanwhile, sculptors adorned the façade of Amiens Cathedral in France with the Virgin and Child and saints, making it a heavenly portal into the church space.

Art and Wonder Across Time

I have always been fascinated by the celestial realm. This exhibition is inspired by a range of sources in my life, including my childhood spent stargazing on camping trips and watching Star Trek and Star Wars. Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage is a long-time favorite (as is Neil deGrasse Tyson’s edition).

More recently, I’ve become fascinated by an event that captured the attention of people worldwide many centuries ago. In 1054, people witnessed the light burst of what is now known as the Crab Nebula, a supernova. Contemporaneous texts describing the fantastic cosmic event exist in Japan and Iraq later references to the awesome astral phenomenon can be detected in China and Central Europe. Pictographs, carvings, rock art, and cave paintings found across North America may also memorialize the sighting.

Clearly an interest in the cosmos has a long history, and there is still so much to learn about our shared global past. Archeoastronomers and archivists continue to piece these clues together, drawing connections between distant communities, the medieval world, and our own time. I hope visitors to the exhibition will take a moment to pause from the business of life to ponder these connections, inspired by medieval illustrations about the cosmos.

Outdoor Entertainment

There were a lot of outdoor activities including archery, fencing, game ball, wrestling, hammer-throwing, bowls, horseshoe-throwing (they were throwing horseshoes at a target), and many others.

Many of these early games were the forerunners of modern sports such as football and cricket.

What Did Knights Wear During the Middle Ages?

In the Middle Ages, or Medieval Times, knights wore suits of armor with under clothing designed to protect the knight from the weight and chafing of the armor. When not engaging in battle, knights wore woolen tights with a linen shirt, linen underpants, a codpiece, a belted tunic, a cape and closed-toe shoes.

The armor that knights wore was made out of metal. Chain mail armor was made out of thousands of small metal links attached to each other that covered the vulnerable points of a knight's body. Chain mail was very flexible but provided inadequate protection against arrows and sword points.

During the later part of the Middle Ages, armor was designed with layers of plated metal placed on top of each other to protect against a variety of weapons. Plate armor was more effective than chain mail but weighed more and was less flexible.

Knights who wore plate armor also wore linen pants, a linen shirt, a codpiece made from cured leather to protect sex organs, wool tights and a quilted coat filled with linen or grass that was designed to protect the knight's upper body from damage from the weight of the metal plates. It is believed that a full suit of plate metal armor weighed approximately 60 pounds.

Brummell and the Dandies: 1800 – 1830

By the end of the 18 century, lace, brocade and satin were passe in menswear, so what was a gentleman supposed to wear? Of course, the most prominent dandy of the era, Beau Brummell, had the answer: a tightly fitted tailcoat, pantaloons, riding boots and most importantly a linen cravat that was tied over the course of hours so it looked like it was tied nonchalantly in just minutes.

This kind of uniform was accessible even to the middle class, which Brummell originated from, but it also allowed to upper-class gentlemen to express their wealth in details. As such it was a democratic fashion trend. In the same vain, Brummell introduced black for eveningwear, and which alongside white is still the preferred color for eveningwear today.

More importantly, under Brummell’s sartorial reign, the finely knotted cravat became the hallmark of a truly fashionable man.

Jacques-Louis David 1748 -1825 wears a flamboyant soft neckcloth

The Cravat

The cravat, as an example, which was nothing more than a lace scarf, running parallel to the history of the wig, which it owes its success to.

Since the importance of men was often determined by the size of their wig, King Louis XIV was, of course, adamant that he must have the largest wig of all. Since many of this wigs fell past his neck and shoulders, there was such limited space for his collar, and with his flair for fashion and decoration, he began to wear cravats.

Louis XIV with decorative neckwear

The Role of the Cravatier Evolves

The cravat he wore was made of lace imported from either Flanders or Venice, and it became the responsibility of the staff member assigned to the kind’s toilette and wardrobe to procure them. This role was highly coveted, and the individual fortunate enough to be tasked with it was given the extraordinary title of “Cravatier”. His duties included laying a tray out for the king with cravats for his choosing, each decorated and adorned with colorful ribbons.

While the Cravatier was responsible for the selection, the king took great pride in tying the know himself, while the Cravatier observed and added the final touches, ensuring it was straight and well tied for someone of the king’s royal magnitude.

History has shown that these cravats often featured bows that were sewn together and worn overtop. However, in other instances, the bows did not appear. While there is concrete evidence to support the rules around this, many historians believe it was solely based on the king’s mood that day.

Wooden Neckwear Is Introduced As A Joke By Horace Walpole

As these cravats were often tied in a bow that formed almost, a Lavallière. At the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, a wooden engraving is displayed by the master woodworker Gringling Gibbons, belonging to Horace Walpole, who wore this cravat as a joke one evening in 1769 at a formal reception in honor of some very illustrious French guests. Despite it being nothing more than a humorous joke, servants at the reception became convinced that English gentlemen were now in the habit of wearing wooden neckwear.

Alfred, Count D’Orsay wearing a black silk cravat

1830 – 1870

When George IV died in 1830, the age of elegance and the stylistic dominance of aristocracy and court died with him. However, the next arbiter elegantiarum was not far away: Count d’Orsay emerged as a leader of style

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy wearing a cravat in the style of dOrsay

The Count d’Orsay Introduces Color & Soft Silk Neckwear

Born in France, he emigrated to Britain with his parents and was introduced into society in 1821. After a grand tour for seven years with the wealthy Lord and Lady Blessington, he ended up marrying their 15-year-old daughter sight unseen in the prospect of snatching the Lord’s large inheritance. Four years into the marriage, his wife ran away and together with Lady Blessington he formed not only an illustrious, talked-about couple but also established the famous salon Gore House in Kensington, which is today the grounds of Royal Albert Hall.

Unlike Brummel, d’Orsay preferred soft shapes, and he exchanged the white linen neckwear for black or navy, sea green or primrose yellow silk satin cravat. He even dared to skip the neckcloth in the countryside which brought him admiration as well as disdain at the same time.

He was also the one who popularized black neckwear with a black coat and white shirt, and can hence be considered as one of the forefathers of today’s black tie tuxedo.

Bertie with four in hand tie

Neckwear Communicates One’s Social Status

Once Queen Victoria was on the throne, the middle class became stronger and wealthier and in the following a neckwear hierarchy evolved in the sense that it proclaimed one’s current position in society. The further a man had climbed the social scale, the quieter and more subtle his neckwear was, whereas the lower he was placed, the brighter and more varied his neckwear became.

Of course, it was also a means for men to express their desire for upward social mobility by wearing a tie normally designated for the next step up. In that sense, it was very similar to today’s philosophy of “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”.

The Stick Pin

With the popularity of the Cravat, another accessory flourished: the stick pin

Certain motives were more popular than others. Around the 1850s a horse shoe, fox head, pewter pot, crossed pipes, willow pattern and knife and fork pins were particularly widespread. By the 1870s initials, shells, coins, birds, flowers, etc. were often used as motives for stick pins, before pearls and diamonds made their way to fame at the fin de siecle.

The stick pin’s reign lasted until the 1920s when the traditional 3-fold four in hand tie was substituted with tie pins and clips.

Gentlemen-at-Royal-Ascot-in-Morning-Coats with Balmoral Boots and Button Boots, Ascot, necktie and bow tie

The Ascot

The tie stick pin was the accessory of choice to be worn with an Ascot. Basically, the Ascot emerged in the 1870s and took its name from the Royal Ascot horse race. Who or what exactly was responsible for this naming convention remains unclear. However, we do know that the Ascot was initially made out of silk foulard in lively colors that was 50″ long and close to an inch wide in the back, so it fit under a collar, whereas the ends were about 3″ wide, and square which were then sewn closed.

Honore de Balzac with Stick Pin in Cravat

Another variation of the Ascot was made of silk foulard in lively colors, and it was worn puffed and held in place with a stick pin. Today, you may only see formal Ascots worn with proper morning dress at the Royal Ascot horse race, formal society weddings or costume parties and reenactment events.

Cravat with Stiff Collar and Stick Pin

Man with the Cat wearing a four in hand knot – by Cecilia Beaux 1898


Ancient world Edit

Throughout history, societies devised systems to enable water to be brought to population centers.

The oldest accountable daily ritual of bathing can be traced to the ancient Indians. They used elaborate practices for personal hygiene with three daily baths and washing. These are recorded in the works called grihya sutras and are in practice today in some communities.

Ancient Greece utilized small bathtubs, wash basins, and foot baths for personal cleanliness. The earliest findings of baths date from the mid-2nd millennium BC in the palace complex at Knossos, Crete, and the luxurious alabaster bathtubs excavated in Akrotiri, Santorini. A word for bathtub, asaminthos ( ἀσάμινθος ), occurs eleven times in Homer. As a legitimate Mycenaean word (a-sa-mi-to) for a kind of vessel that could be found in any Mycenaean palace, this Linear B term derives from an Aegean suffix -inth- being appended to an Akkadian loan word with the root namsû ("washbowl, washing tub"). This luxurious item of the Mycenaean palace culture, therefore, was clearly borrowed from the Near East. [1] Later Greeks established public baths and showers within gymnasiums for relaxation and personal hygiene. The word gymnasium (γυμνάσιον) comes from the Greek word gymnos (γυμνός), meaning "naked."

Ancient Rome developed a network of aqueducts to supply water to all large towns and population centers and had indoor plumbing, with pipes that terminated in homes and at public wells and fountains. The Roman public baths were called thermae. The thermae were not simply baths, but important public works that provided facilities for many kinds of physical exercise and ablutions, with cold, warm, and hot baths, rooms for instruction and debate, and usually one Greek and one Latin library. They were provided for the public by a benefactor, usually the Emperor. Other empires of the time didn't show such an affinity for public works, but this Roman practice spread their culture to places where there may have been more resistance to foreign mores. Unusually for the time, the thermae were not class-stratified, being available to all for no charge or a small fee. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the aqueduct system fell into disrepair and disuse. But even before that, during the Christianization of the Empire, changing ideas about public morals led the baths into disfavor.

Medieval Japan Edit

Before the 7th century, the Japanese were likely to have bathed in the many springs in the open, as there is no evidence of closed rooms. In the 6th to 8th centuries (in the Asuka and Nara periods) the Japanese absorbed the religion of Buddhism from China, which had a strong impact on the culture of the entire country. Buddhist temples traditionally included a bathhouse (yuya) for the monks. Due to the principle of purity espoused by Buddhism these baths were eventually opened to the public. Only the wealthy had private baths.

The first public bathhouse was mentioned in 1266. In Edo (modern Tokyo), the first sentō was established in 1591. The early steam baths were called iwaburo ( 岩風呂 "rock pools") or kamaburo ( 釜風呂 "furnace baths"). These were built into natural caves or stone vaults. In iwaburo along the coast, the rocks were heated by burning wood, then sea water was poured over the rocks, producing steam. The entrances to these "bath houses" were very small, possibly to slow the escape of the heat and steam. There were no windows, so it was very dark inside and the user constantly coughed or cleared their throats in order to signal to new entrants which seats were already occupied. The darkness could be also used to cover sexual contact. Because there was no gender distinction, these baths came into disrepute. They were finally abolished in 1870 on hygienic and moral grounds. Author John Gallagher says bathing "was segregated in the 1870s as a concession to outraged Western tourists". [2]

At the beginning of the Edo period (1603–1868) there were two different types of baths. In Edo, hot-water baths (' 湯屋 yuya) were common, while in Osaka, steam baths ( 蒸風呂 mushiburo) were common. At that time shared bathrooms for men and women were the rule. These bathhouses were very popular, especially for men. "Bathing girls" ( 湯女 yuna) were employed to scrub the guests' backs and wash their hair, etc. In 1841, the employment of yuna was generally prohibited, as well as mixed bathing. The segregation of the sexes, however, was often ignored by operators of bathhouses, or areas for men and women were separated only by a symbolic line. Today, sento baths have separate rooms for men and women. [3]

Mesoamerica Edit

Spanish chronicles describe the bathing habits of the peoples of Mesoamerica during and after the conquest. Bernal Díaz del Castillo describes Moctezuma (the Mexica, or Aztec, king at the arrival of Cortés) in his Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España as being ". Very neat and cleanly, bathing every day each afternoon. ". Bathing was not restricted to the elite, but was practised by all people the chronicler Tomás López Medel wrote after a journey to Central America that "Bathing and the custom of washing oneself is so quotidian (common) amongst the Indians, both of cold and hot lands, as is eating, and this is done in fountains and rivers and other water to which they have access, without anything other than pure water. " [4]

The Mesoamerican bath, known as temazcal in Spanish, from the Nahuatl word temazcalli, a compound of temaz ("steam") and calli ("house"), consists of a room, often in the form of a small dome, with an exterior firebox known as texictle (teʃict͜ɬe) that heats a small portion of the room's wall made of volcanic rocks after this wall has been heated, water is poured on it to produce steam, an action known as tlasas. As the steam accumulates in the upper part of the room a person in charge uses a bough to direct the steam to the bathers who are lying on the ground, with which he later gives them a massage, then the bathers scrub themselves with a small flat river stone and finally the person in charge introduces buckets with water with soap and grass used to rinse. This bath had also ritual importance, and was vinculated to the goddess Toci it is also therapeutic when medicinal herbs are used in the water for the tlasas. It is still used in Mexico. [4] [5]

Medieval and early-modern Europe Edit

Christianity has always placed a strong emphasis on hygiene. [6] Despite the denunciation of the mixed bathing style of Roman pools by early Christian clergy, as well as the pagan custom of women bathing naked in front of men, this did not stop the Church from urging its followers to go to public baths for bathing, [7] which contributed to hygiene and good health according to the Church Fathers, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian. The Church also built public bathing facilities that were separate for both sexes near monasteries and pilgrimage sites also, the popes situated baths within church basilicas and monasteries since the early Middle Ages. [8] Pope Gregory the Great urged his followers on value of bathing as a bodily need. [9]

Great bathhouses were built in Byzantine centers such as Constantinople and Antioch, [10] and the popes allocated to the Romans bathing through diaconia, or private Lateran baths, or even a myriad of monastic bath houses functioning in eighth and ninth centuries. [9] The Popes maintained their baths in their residences which described by scholar Paolo Squatriti as " luxurious baths", and bath houses including hot baths incorporated into Christian Church buildings or those of monasteries, which known as "charity baths" because they served both the clerics and needy poor people. [11] Public bathing were common in medivail Christendom larger towns and cities such as Paris, Regensburg and Naples. [12] [13] Catholic religious orders of the Augustinians' and Benedictines' rules contained ritual purification, [14] and inspired by Benedict of Nursia encouragement for the practice of therapeutic bathing Benedictine monks played a role in the development and promotion of spas. [15] Protestantism also played a prominent role in the development of the British spas. [15]

In the Middle Ages, bathing commonly took place in public bathhouses. Public baths were also havens for prostitution, which created some opposition to them. Rich people bathed at home, most likely in their bedroom, as 'bath' rooms were not common. Bathing was done in large, wooden tubs with a linen cloth laid in it to protect the bather from splinters. Additionally, during the Renaissance and Protestant Reformation, the quality and condition of the clothing (as opposed to the actual cleanliness of the body itself) were thought to reflect the soul of an individual. Clean clothing also reflected one's social status clothes made the man or woman.

Furthermore, from the late Middle Ages through to the end of the 18th century, etiquette and medical manuals advised people to only wash the parts of the body that were visible to the public for example, the ears, hands, feet, and face and neck. This did away with the public baths and left the cleaning of oneself to the privacy of one's home. [ citation needed ]

The switch from woolen to linen clothing by the 16th century also accompanied the decline in bathing. Linen clothing is much easier to clean and maintain – and such clothing was becoming commonplace at the time in Western Europe. Clean linen shirts or blouses allowed people who had not bathed to appear clean and well groomed. The possession of a large quantity of clean linen clothing was a sign of social status. Thus, appearance became more important than personal hygiene. Contemporary medical opinion also supported this claim. Physicians of the period believed that odors, or miasma, such as that which would be found in soiled linens, caused disease. A person could therefore change one's shirt every few days, but avoid baths – which might let the "bad air" into the body through the pores. Consequently, in an age in which there were very few personal bathtubs, laundry was an important and weekly chore which was commonly undertaken by laundresses of the time. [ citation needed ]

Modern era Edit

Therapeutic bathing Edit

Public opinion about bathing began to shift in the middle and late 18th century, when writers argued that frequent bathing might lead to better health. Two English works on the medical uses of water were published in the 18th century that inaugurated the new fashion for therapeutic bathing. One of these was by Sir John Floyer, a physician of Lichfield, who, struck by the remedial use of certain springs by the neighbouring peasantry, investigated the history of cold bathing and published a book on the subject in 1702. [16] The book ran through six editions within a few years and the translation of this book into German was largely drawn upon by Dr J. S. Hahn of Silesia as the basis for his book called On the Healing Virtues of Cold Water, Inwardly and Outwardly Applied, as Proved by Experience, published in 1738. [17]

The other work was a 1797 publication by Dr James Currie of Liverpool on the use of hot and cold water in the treatment of fever and other illness, with a fourth edition published not long before his death in 1805. [18] It was also translated into German by Michaelis (1801) and Hegewisch (1807). It was highly popular and first placed the subject on a scientific basis. Hahn's writings had meanwhile created much enthusiasm among his countrymen, societies having been everywhere formed to promote the medicinal and dietetic use of water in 1804 Professor E.F.C. Oertel of Anspach republished them and quickened the popular movement by the unqualified commendation of water drinking as a remedy for all diseases. [19]

A popular revival followed the application of hydrotherapy around 1829, by Vincenz Priessnitz, a peasant farmer in Gräfenberg, then part of the Austrian Empire. [20] [21] This revival was continued by a Bavarian priest, Sebastian Kneipp (1821–1897), "an able and enthusiastic follower" of Priessnitz, "whose work he took up where Priessnitz left it", after he read a treatise on the cold water cure. [22] In Wörishofen (south Germany), Kneipp developed the systematic and controlled application of hydrotherapy for the support of medical treatment that was delivered only by doctors at that time. Kneipp's own book My Water Cure was published in 1886 with many subsequent editions, and translated into many languages.

Captain R. T. Claridge was responsible for introducing and promoting hydropathy in Britain, first in London in 1842, then with lecture tours in Ireland and Scotland in 1843. His 10-week tour in Ireland included Limerick, Cork, Wexford, Dublin and Belfast, [23] over June, July and August 1843, with two subsequent lectures in Glasgow. [24]

Public baths Edit

Large public baths such as those found in the ancient world and the Ottoman Empire were revived during the 19th century. The first modern public baths were opened in Liverpool in 1829. The first known warm fresh-water public wash house was opened in May 1842. [11] : 2–14 [25]

The popularity of wash-houses was spurred by the newspaper interest in Kitty Wilkinson, an Irish immigrant "wife of a labourer" who became known as the Saint of the Slums. [26] In 1832, during a cholera epidemic, Wilkinson took the initiative to offer the use of her house and yard to neighbours to wash their clothes, at a charge of a penny per week, [11] and showed them how to use a chloride of lime (bleach) to get them clean. She was supported by the District Provident Society and William Rathbone. In 1842 Wilkinson was appointed baths superintendent. [27] [28]

In Birmingham, around ten private baths were available in the 1830s. Whilst the dimensions of the baths were small, they provided a range of services. [29] A major proprietor of bath houses in Birmingham was a Mr. Monro who had had premises in Lady Well and Snow Hill. [30] Private baths were advertised as having healing qualities and being able to cure people of diabetes, gout and all skin diseases, amongst others. [30] On 19 November 1844, it was decided that the working class members of society should have the opportunity to access baths, in an attempt to address the health problems of the public. On 22 April and 23 April 1845, two lectures were delivered in the town hall urging the provision of public baths in Birmingham and other towns and cities.

After a period of campaigning by many committees, the Public Baths and Wash-houses Act received royal assent on 26 August 1846. The Act empowered local authorities across the country to incur expenditure in constructing public swimming baths out of its own funds. [31]

The first London public baths was opened at Goulston Square, Whitechapel, in 1847 with the Prince consort laying the foundation stone. [32] [33]

Hot public baths Edit

"Turkish" baths (based on the traditional Muslim bathhouses which are derived from the Roman bath) were introduced to Britain by David Urquhart, diplomat and sometime Member of Parliament for Stafford, who for political and personal reasons wished to popularize Turkish culture. In 1850 he wrote The Pillars of Hercules, a book about his travels in 1848 through Spain and Morocco. He described the system of dry hot-air baths used there and in the Ottoman Empire which had changed little since Roman times. In 1856 Richard Barter read Urquhart's book and worked with him to construct a bath. They opened the first modern hot water bath at St Ann's Hydropathic Establishment near Blarney, County Cork, Ireland. [34]

The following year, the first public bath of its type to be built in mainland Britain since Roman times was opened in Manchester, and the idea spread rapidly. It reached London in July 1860, when Roger Evans, a member of one of Urquhart's Foreign Affairs Committees, opened a Turkish bath at 5 Bell Street, near Marble Arch. During the following 150 years, over 600 Turkish baths opened in Britain, including those built by municipal authorities as part of swimming pool complexes, taking advantage of the fact that water-heating boilers were already on site.

Similar baths opened in other parts of the British Empire. Dr. John Le Gay Brereton opened a Turkish bath in Sydney, Australia in 1859, Canada had one by 1869, and the first in New Zealand was opened in 1874. Urquhart's influence was also felt outside the Empire when in 1861, Dr Charles H Shepard opened the first Turkish baths in the United States at 63 Columbia Street, Brooklyn Heights, New York, most probably on 3 October 1863. [35] [36]

Soap promoted for personal cleanliness Edit

By the mid-19th century, the English urbanised middle classes had formed an ideology of cleanliness that ranked alongside typical Victorian concepts, such as Christianity, respectability and social progress. [37] The cleanliness of the individual became associated with his or her moral and social standing within the community and domestic life became increasingly regulated by concerns regarding the presentation of domestic sobriety and cleanliness. [38]

The industry of soapmaking began on a small scale in the 1780s, with the establishment of a soap manufactory at Tipton by James Keir and the marketing of high-quality, transparent soap in 1789 by Andrew Pears of London. It was in the mid-19th century, though, that the large-scale consumption of soap by the middle classes, anxious to prove their social standing, drove forward the mass production and marketing of soap.

William Gossage produced low-priced, good-quality soap from the 1850s. William Hesketh Lever and his brother, James, bought a small soap works in Warrington in 1886 and founded what is still one of the largest soap businesses, formerly called Lever Brothers and now called Unilever. These soap businesses were among the first to employ large-scale advertising campaigns.

Before the late 19th century, water to individual places of residence was rare. [39] Many countries in Europe developed a water collection and distribution network. London water supply infrastructure developed through major 19th-century treatment works built in response to cholera threats, to modern large-scale reservoirs. By the end of the century, private baths with running hot water were increasingly common in affluent homes in America and Britain.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a weekly Saturday night bath had become common custom for most of the population. A half day's work on Saturday for factory workers allowed them some leisure to prepare for the Sunday day of rest. The half day off allowed time for the considerable labor of drawing, carrying, and heating water, filling the bath and then afterward emptying it. To economize, bath water was shared by all family members. Indoor plumbing became more common in the 20th century and commercial advertising campaigns pushing new bath products began to influence public ideas about cleanliness, promoting the idea of a daily shower or bath. [ citation needed ]

In the twenty-first century challenges to the need for soap to effect such everyday cleanliness and whether soap is needed to avoid body odor, appeared in media. [40]

One purpose of bathing is for personal hygiene. It is a means of achieving cleanliness by washing away dead skin cells, dirt, and soil and as a preventative measure to reduce the incidence and spread of disease. It also may reduce body odors, however, some people note that may not be so necessary as commonly thought. [40]

Bathing creates a feeling of well-being and the physical appearance of cleanliness.

Bathing may also be practised for religious ritual or therapeutic purposes [41] or as a recreational activity. Bathing may be used to cool or to warm the body of an individual.

Therapeutic use of bathing includes hydrotherapy, healing, rehabilitation from injury or addiction, and relaxation.

The use of a bath in religious ritual or ceremonial rites include immersion during baptism in Christianity and to achieve a state of ritual cleanliness in a mikvah in Judaism. It is referred to as Ghusl in Arabic to attain ceremonial purity (Taahir) in Islam. All major religions place an emphasis on ceremonial purity, and bathing is one of the primary means of attaining outward purity. In Hindu households, any acts of defilement are countered by undergoing a bath and Hindus also immerse in Sarovar as part of religious rites. In the Sikh religion, there is a place at Golden Temple where the leprosy of Rajni's husband was cured by immersion into the holy sacred pool, and many pilgrims bathe in the sacred pool believing it will cure their illness as well.

Where bathing is for personal hygiene, bathing in a bathtub or shower is the most common form of bathing in Western, and many Eastern, countries. Bathrooms usually have a tap, and a shower if it is a modern home, and a huge water heating pot. People take water from the tap or the water-heating pot into a large bucket and use a mug to pour water on themselves. A soap and loofah is used to clean the body after, and then rinsed again using the mug. People most commonly bath in their home or use a private bath in a public bathhouse. In some societies, bathing can take place in rivers, creeks, lakes or water holes, or any other place where there is an adequate pool of water. The quality of water used for bathing purposes varies considerably. Normally bathing involves use of soap or a soap-like substance, such as shower gel. In southern India people more commonly use aromatic oil and other home-made body scrubs.

Bathing occasions can also be occasions of social interactions, such as in public, Turkish, banya, sauna or whirlpool baths.

Sponge bath Edit

When water is in short supply or a person is not fit to have a standing bath, a wet cloth or sponge can be used, or the person can wash by splashing water over their body. A sponge bath is usually conducted in hospitals, which involves one person washing another with a sponge, while the person being washed remains lying in bed.

Ladling water from a container Edit

This method involves using a small container to scoop water out of a large container and pour water over the body, in such a way that this water does not go back into the large container.

In Indonesia and Malaysia, this is a traditional method referred to as mandi.

In the Indonesian language, mandi is the verb for this process bak mandi is the large container, and kamar mandi is the place in which this is done. [42] [43] Travel guides [44] [45] [46] often use the word mandi on its own or in various ways such as for the large container and for the process of bathing.

In the Philippines, timba (pail) and tabo (dipper) are two essentials in every bathroom.

When bathing for cleanliness, normally, people bathe completely naked, so as to make cleaning every part of their body possible. This is the case in private baths, whether in one's home or a private bath in a public bathhouse. In public bathing situations, the social norms of the community are followed, and some people wear a swimsuit or underwear. For example, when a shower is provided in a non-sex segregated area of a public swimming pool, users of the shower commonly wear their swimsuit. The customs can vary depending on the age of a person, and whether the bathing is in a sex segregated situation. In some societies, some communal bathing is also done without clothing.

When swimming, not wearing clothing is sometimes called skinny dipping.

Babies can be washed in a kitchen sink or a small plastic baby bath, instead of using a standard bath which offers little control of the infant's movements and requires the parent to lean awkwardly or kneel. [47] Bathing infants too often has been linked to the development of asthma or severe eczema according to some researchers, including Michael Welch, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' section on allergy and immunology. [48] A safe temperature for the bathwater is generally held to be 32–38 °C (90–100 °F). [49]

Private baths Edit

Today, most homes in Japan have a bathroom (ofuro), which was often not the case about 30 years ago. Bath water in Japan is much hotter than what is usual in Central Europe. The temperature is usually well above 40 °C. In medical literature, 47 °C is considered bearable. [50] The heat is considered a prerequisite for complete relaxation. The custom is to thoroughly clean oneself with soap and rinse before entering the tub, so as not to contaminate the bath water. Until the 19th century, the Japanese did not use soap, but rubbed the skin with certain herbs, or rice bran, which was also a natural exfoliant.

Public baths Edit

In public baths, there is a distinction between those with natural hot springs called, onsen (hot), and the other, the sento. Since Japan is located in a volcanically active region, there are many hot springs, of which about 2000 are swimming pools. Most onsen are in the open countryside, but they are also found in cities. In Tokyo, for example, there are about 25 onsen baths. Locations of known mineral springs spas are on the Western model.

An onsen, consists mostly of outdoor pools (rotenburo), which are sometimes at different temperatures. Extremely hot springs, where even experienced or frequent hot-spring bathers can only stay a few minutes, are called jigoku (hell). Many onsen also have saunas, spa treatments and therapy centers. The same rules apply in public baths as in private baths, with bathers required to wash and clean themselves before entering the water. In general, the Japanese bathe naked in bathhouses bathing suits are not permissible.

Social class was indicated by toe length

During the Middle Ages shoes with various kinds of closures or openings were already in existence. There were shoes with lacing-, buttons-, slip-on shoes, and straps. In terms of shoe design, the 11th and 12th centuries were dominated by conically tapering shoe tips and pointy heels. In the 14th and 15th centuries these features were integrated into the notorious Crakow shoe. The toes of these shoes bent upwards and ended in a fine point known as a "poulaine''. The length of the toe served as a striking indicator of the wearer's social status. Toe length was strictly regulated. For example, princes and earls wore poulaines with a length of 2.5 feet, while knights had to make do with a length of 1.5 feet. Regular citizens and farmers wore shoes with a poulaine length of a mere half a foot. In order to protect these delicate shoes from dampness and cool temperatures, they were sometimes mounted onto wooden platforms known as pattens.

Toilets through the ages

    • You may use one every day but have you ever considered the history of the toilet? We reveal some strange but interesting facts about this rather whiffy subject.

    Unlike us, the Romans thought nothing of going to the toilet in a public place. They had rooms with stone benches with lots of holes in them where people would go to the loo as they sat next to each other.

    © YAT

    In fact rich Romans would use public toilets as places to discuss the day's news and to maybe even make a business deal. The Romans were in Britain for more than 350 years. They left in AD410 and you can still see some of their buildings today.

    You can still see the toilets they used at Vindolanda in Northumberland, more than 1,500 years ago - luckily there's no Roman poo left in them.

    Segedunum Roman Fort, also in Northumberland, has made a reconstruction of a Roman bath and toilet. You can actually use the baths but don't think about asking to use the toilets - they are only a model.

    Loos in the Middle Ages

    During the Middle Ages, rich people built toilets called 'garderobes' jutting out of the sides of their castles. A hole in the bottom let everything just drop into a pit or the moat.

    © Dave Dunford

    You had to be careful you weren't walking underneath it when someone was in the loo and take care on a dark night not to fall into the moat. In the summer time the smell would have been terrible.

    In fact, people used to store clothes in the garderobes as the pongy smells kept moths away that might otherwise eat holes in them - this is where the word wardrobe comes from.

    Not everyone lived in castles - poor people lived in huts and would have used dirty pits like this for toilets. You can see the plank they would have sat on at this medieval toilet found in York.

    © York Archaeology Trust

    The Industrial Revolution

    During the British Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, thousands and thousands of people moved to towns and cities and lots more houses were needed for them.

    Many of these were very crowded with no room for toilets inside.

    'Back-to-back' houses were very common and had no gaps between them. Several houses would share a small yard where there would be an outside toilet - you might have had to queue up to use the loo while you waited for your neighbour to finish.

    It was still common for people to have an outside toilet until the 1950s - ask your granny or granddad and they might remember all about having to sit on horrible cold toilet seats if they had to get up for a wee in the middle of the night.

    These days almost all of us have flushing toilets - maybe even more than one. It wasn't until a man called Thomas Crapper came along in the mid 19th century, about 150 years ago, that they became widespread.

    But what happens after you flush? Poo, wee and all that water doesn't just vanish into thin air, it goes down the drains and into the sewers.

    © MOSI

    If you want to see what a dark, creepy sewer really looks like but avoid all the smelly poo, then the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester actually has a reconstruction of a Victorian sewer you can visit and lots more about the history of toilets besides.

    Since we're on the subject of loos, what about the Loophonium? This 'wind' instrument is on display at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

    © National Museums Liverpool

    It's an old toilet connected to a euphonium, an instrument like a tuba, and has a sort of harp instead of a toilet seat - not the sort of thing you'd normally see in an orchestra - it might also be a bit uncomfortable to sit on!


    The development of textile and clothing manufacture in prehistory has been the subject of a number of scholarly studies since the late 20th century. [3] [4] These sources have helped to provide a coherent history of these prehistoric developments. Evidence suggests that humans may have begun wearing clothing as far back as 100,000 to 500,000 years ago. [5]

    Early adoption of apparel Edit

    Genetic analysis suggests that the human body louse, which lives in clothing, may only have diverged from the head louse some 170,000 years ago, which supports evidence that humans began wearing clothing at around this time. These estimates predate the first known human exodus from Africa, although other hominid species who may have worn clothes – and shared these louse infestations – appear to have migrated earlier.

    Sewing needles have been dated to at least 50,000 years ago (Denisova Cave, Siberia) – and uniquely associated [ clarification needed ] with a human species other than modern humans, i.e. H. Denisova/H. Altai. The oldest possible example is 60,000 years ago, a needle point (missing stem and eye) found in Sibudu Cave, South Africa. Other early examples of needles dating from 41,000 to 15,000 years ago are found in multiple locations, e.g. Slovenia, Russia, China, Spain, and France.

    The earliest dyed flax fibres have been found in a prehistoric cave in Georgia and date back to 36,000. [6]

    The 25,000-year-old Venus Figurine "Venus of Lespugue", found in southern France in the Pyrenees, depicts a cloth or twisted fiber skirt. Other figurines [ which? ] from western Europe were adorned with basket hats or caps, belts were worn at the waist, and a strap of cloth that wrapped around the body right above the breast. Eastern European figurines wore belts, hung low on the hips and sometimes string skirts.

    Archaeologists have discovered artifacts from the same period that appear to have been used in the textile arts: (5000 BC) net gauges, spindle needles, and weaving sticks. [ citation needed ]

    Knowledge of ancient textiles and clothing has expanded in the recent past due to modern technological developments. [7] The first actual textile, as opposed to skins sewn together, was probably felt. [ citation needed ] The first known textile of South America was discovered in Guitarrero Cave in Peru. It was woven out of vegetable fibers and dates back to 8,000 B.C.E. [8] Surviving examples of Nålebinding, another early textile method, have been found in Israel, and date from 6500 BC. [9]

    Looms Edit

    From pre-history through the early Middle Ages, for most of Europe, the Near East and North Africa, two main types of loom dominate textile production. These are the warp-weighted loom and the two-beam loom. The length of the cloth beam determined the width of the cloth woven upon it, and could be as wide as 2–3 meters. The second loom type is the two-beam loom. [10] Early woven clothing was often made of full loom widths draped, tied, or pinned in place.

    Preservation Edit

    Our knowledge of cultures varies greatly with the climatic conditions to which archeological deposits are exposed the Middle East and the arid fringes of China have provided many very early samples in good condition, but the early development of textiles in the Indian subcontinent, sub-Saharan Africa and other moist parts of the world remains unclear. In northern Eurasia, peat bogs can also preserve textiles very well.

    The textile trade in the ancient world Edit

    Throughout the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, the fertile grounds of the Eurasian Steppe provided a venue for a network of nomadic communities to develop and interact. The Steppe Route has always connected regions of the Asian continent with trade and transmission of culture, including clothing.

    Around 114 BC, the Han Dynasty, [11] initiated the Silk Road Trade Route. Geographically, the Silk Road or Silk Route is an interconnected series of ancient trade routes between Chang'an (today's Xi'an) in China, with Asia Minor and the Mediterranean extending over 8,000 km (5,000 mi) on land and sea. Trade on the Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the great civilizations of China, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, the Indian subcontinent, and Rome, and helped to lay the foundations for the modern world. The exchange of luxury textiles was predominant on the Silk Road, which linked traders, merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, nomads and urban dwellers from China to the Mediterranean Sea during various periods of time.

    Ancient Near East Edit

    The earliest known woven textiles of the Near East may be flax fabrics used to wrap the dead, excavated at a Neolithic site at Çatalhöyük in Anatolia, carbonized, and "protected by several layers of clay/plaster, in an anaerobic milieu. They were 'baked', or 'steam cooked'" [12] in a fire and radiocarbon dated to c. 6000 BC. [13] Evidence exists of flax cultivation from c. 8000 BC in the Near East, but the breeding of sheep with a wooly fleece rather than hair occurs much later, c. 3000 BC. [13]

    In Mesopotamia, the clothing of a regular Sumerian was very simple, especially in summer, in the winter wearing clothes made of sheep fur. Even wealthy men were depicted with naked torsos, wearing just some kind of short skirt, known as kaunakes, while women wore long dress to their ankles. The king wore a tunic, a coat that reached to his knees, with a belt in the middle. Over time, the development of the craft of wool weaving has led to a great variety in clothing. Thus, towards the end of the 3rd millennium BC and later the men wore a tunic with short sleeves and even over the knees, with a belt (over which the rich wore a wool cloak). Women's dresses featured more varied designs: with or without sleeves, narrow or wide, usually long and without highlighting the body [14]

    A possible bone belt hook found in the Bronze Age layers of Yanik Tepe, from northeast of Lake Urmia (Iran)

    Sumerian Statues of worshippers (males and females) 2800-2400 BC (Early Dynastic period) National Museum of Iraq (Baghdad)

    The god Abu (?) and a female statuette 2800-2400 BC (Early Dynastic period) from the Square Temple of Abu at Tell Asmar (ancient Eshnunna (Iraq)) National Museum of Iraq. The loin-cloth has become recognizably a skirt and the twisted tufts have shrunk to a fringe [15]

    The Statue of Ebih-Il c. 2400 BCE gypsum, schist, shells and lapis lazuli height: 52.5 cm Louvre (Paris)

    Ancient India Edit

    Excavations of Indus Valley Civilisation sites to date have yielded a few twisted cotton threads, in the context of a connecting cord, for a bead necklace. [16] However, a Terracotta figurines uncovered at Mehrgarh show a male figure wearing what is commonly interpreted to be a turban. A figurines, labelled the "Priest King", from the site of Mohenjo-daro, depicts the wearing of a shawl with floral patterns. So far, this is the only sculpture from the Indus Valley to show clothing in such explicit detail. Other sculptures of Dancing Girls, excavated from Mohenjo-daro, only show the wearing of bangles and other jewellery. [17] However, it does not provide any concrete proof to legitimize the history of clothing in the Harappan times. Harappans may even have used natural colours to dye their fabric. Research shows that the cultivation of indigo plants (genus: Indigofera) was prevalent.

    Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian, mentions Indian cotton in the 5th century BCE as "a wool exceeding in beauty and goodness that of sheep." When Alexander the Great invaded India, in 327 BCE, his troops started wearing cotton clothes that were more comfortable than their previous woolen ones. [18] Strabo, another Greek historian, mentioned the vividness of Indian fabrics, and Arrian told of Indian–Arab trade of cotton fabrics in 130 CE. [19]

    Statue of "Priest King" wearing a robe 2400–1900 BCE low fired steatite National Museum of Pakistan (Karachi)

    The Didarganj Yakshi depicting the dhoti wrap circa 300 BC Bihar Museum (India)

    The Buddha wearing kāṣāya robes circa 200 BC Tokyo National Museum (Japan)

    Ancient form of Churidar worn during the Gupta period circa 300 AD National Museum (New Delhi)

    Painting on wooden panel discovered by Aurel Stein in Dandan Oilik, depicting the legend of the princess who hid silk worm eggs in her headdress to smuggle them out of China to the Kingdom of Khotan 7th to 8th century British Museum (London)

    Ancient Egypt Edit

    Evidence exists for production of linen cloth in Ancient Egypt in the Neolithic period, c. 5500 BC. Cultivation of domesticated wild flax, probably an import from the Levant, is documented as early as c. 6000 BC. Other bast fibers including rush, reed, palm, and papyrus were used alone or with linen to make rope and other textiles. Evidence for wool production in Egypt is scanty at this period. [20]

    Spinning techniques included the drop spindle, hand-to-hand spinning, and rolling on the thigh yarn was also spliced. [20] A horizontal ground loom was used prior to the New Kingdom, when a vertical two-beam loom was introduced, probably from Asia.

    Linen bandages were used in the burial custom of mummification, and art depicts Egyptian men wearing linen kilts and women in narrow dresses with various forms of shirts and jackets, often of sheer pleated fabric. [20]

    Pair of sandals 1390–1352 BC grass, reed and papyrus Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

    Illustration from the book Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, and Persian costumes and decorations

    Illustration of a Goddess from Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, and Persian costumes and decorations

    Statue of Sobekhotep VI, who wears the Egyptian male skirt, the shendyt, from Neues Museum (Berlin, Germany)

    Ancient China Edit

    The earliest evidence of silk production in China was found at the sites of Yangshao culture in Xia, Shanxi, where a cocoon of bombyx mori, the domesticated silkworm, cut in half by a sharp knife is dated to between 5000 and 3000 BC. Fragments of primitive looms are also seen from the sites of Hemudu culture in Yuyao, Zhejiang, dated to about 4000 BC. Scraps of silk were found in a Liangzhu culture site at Qianshanyang in Huzhou, Zhejiang, dating back to 2700 BC. [21] [22] Other fragments have been recovered from royal tombs in the [Shang Dynasty] (c. 1600 – c. 1046 BC). [23]

    Under the Shang Dynasty, Han Chinese clothing or Hanfu consisted of a yi, a narrow-cuffed, knee-length tunic tied with a sash, and a narrow, ankle-length skirt, called shang, worn with a bixi, a length of fabric that reached the knees. Clothing of the elite was made of silk in vivid primary colours.

    Painting of Emperor Yao wearing a shenyi

    Woven silk textile from the Mawangdui in Changsha (Hunan province, China), from the 2nd century BC

    The mianfu of Emperor Wu of Jin dynasty, 7th-century painting by court artist Yan Liben

    Ancient Thailand Edit

    The earliest evidence of spinning in Thailand can be found at the archaeological site of Tha Kae located in Central Thailand. Tha Kae was inhabited during the end of the first millennium BC to the late first millennium AD. Here, archaeologists discovered 90 fragments of a spindle whorl dated from 3rd century BC to 3rd century AD. And the shape of these finds indicate the connections with south China and India. [24]

    Ancient Japan Edit

    The earliest evidence of weaving in Japan is associated with the Jōmon period. This culture is defined by pottery decorated with cord patterns. In a shell mound in the Miyagi Prefecture, dating back about 5,500, some cloth fragments were discovered made from bark fibers. [25] Hemp fibers were also discovered in the Torihama shell mound, Fukui Prefecture, dating back to the Jōmon period, suggesting that these plants could also have been used for clothing. Some pottery pattern imprints depict also fine mat designs, proving their weaving techniques. The patterns on the Jōmon pottery show people wearing short upper garments, close-fitting trousers, funnel-sleeves, and rope-like belts. The depictions also show clothing with patterns that are embroidered or painted arched designs, though it is not apparent whether this indicates what the clothes look like or whether that simply happens to be the style of representation used. The pottery also shows no distinction between male and female garments. This may have been true because during that time period clothing was more for decoration than social distinction, but it might also just be because of the representation on the pottery rather than how people actually dressed at the time. Since bone needles were also found, it is assumed that they wore dresses that were sewn together. [26]

    Next was the Yayoi period, during which rice cultivation was developed. This led to a shift from hunter-gatherer communities to agrarian societies which had a large impact on clothing. According to Chinese literature from that time period, clothing more appropriate to agriculture began to be worn. For example, an unsewn length of fabric wrapped around the body, or a poncho-type garment with a head-hole cut into it. This same literature also indicates that pink or scarlet makeup was worn but also that mannerisms between people of all ages and genders were not very different. However, this is debatable as there were probably cultural prejudices in the Chinese document. There is a common Japanese belief that the Yayoi time period was quite utopian before Chinese influence began to promote the use of clothing to indicate age and gender.

    From 300 to 550 AD was the Yamato period, and here much of the clothing style can be derived from the artifacts of the time. The tomb statues (haniwa) especially tell us that the clothing style changed from the ones according to the Chinese accounts from the previous age. The statues are usually wearing a two piece outfit that has an upper piece with a front opening and close-cut sleeves with loose trousers for men and a pleated skirt for women. Silk farming had been introduced by the Chinese by this time period but due to silk's cost it would only be used by people of certain classes or ranks.

    The following periods were the Asuka (550 to 646 AD) and Nara (646 to 794 AD) when Japan developed a more unified government and began to use Chinese laws and social rankings. These new laws required people to wear different styles and colors to indicate social status. Clothing became longer and wider in general and sewing methods were more advanced. [27]

    Classical Period of the Philippines Edit

    The classical Filipino clothing varied according to cost and current fashions and so indicated social standing. The basic garments were the Bahag and the tube skirt—what the Maranao call malong—or a light blanket wrapped around instead. But more prestigious clothes, lihin-lihin, were added for public appearances and especially on formal occasions—blouses and tunics, loose smocks with sleeves, capes, or ankle-length robes. The textiles of which they were made were similarly varied. In ascending order of value, they were abaca, abaca decorated with colored cotton thread, cotton, cotton decorated with silk thread, silk, imported printstuff, and an elegant abaca woven of selected fibers almost as thin as silk. In addition, Pigafetta mentioned both G-strings and skirts of bark cloth.

    Untailored clothes, however had no particular names. Pandong, a lady's cloak, simply meant any natural covering, like the growth on banana trunk's or a natal caul. In Panay, the word kurong, meaning curly hair, was applied to any short skirt or blouse and some better ones made of imported chintz or calico were simply called by the name of the cloth itself, tabas. So, too, the wraparound skirt the Tagalogs called tapis was hardly considered a skirt at all: Visayans just called it habul (woven stuff) or halong (abaca) or even hulun (sash).

    The usual male headdress was the pudong, a turban, though in Panay both men and women also wore a head cloth or bandana called saplung. Commoners wore pudong of rough abaca cloth wrapped around only a few turns so that it was more of a headband than a turban and was therefore called pudong-pudong—as the crowns and diadems on Christian images were later called. A red pudong was called magalong, and was the insignia of braves who had killed an enemy. The most prestigious kind of pudong, limited to the most valiant, was, like their G-strings, made of pinayusan, a gauze-thin abaca of fibers selected for their whiteness, tie-dyed a deep scarlet in patterns as fine as embroidery, and burnished to a silky sheen. Such pudong were lengthened with each additional feat of valor: real heroes therefore let one end hang loose with affected carelessness. Women generally wore a kerchief, called tubatub if it was pulled tight over the whole head but they also had a broad-brimmed hat called sayap or tarindak, woven of sago-palm leaves. Some were evidently signs of rank: when Humabon's queen went to hear mass during Magellan's visit, she was preceded by three girls carrying one of her hats. A headdress from Cebu with a deep crown, used by both sexes for travel on foot or by boat, was called sarok, which actually meant to go for water. [28]

    Classical Greece Edit

    Fabric in Ancient Greece was woven on a warp-weighted loom. The first extant image of weaving in western art is from a terracotta lekythos in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. The vase, c. 550-530 B.C.E., depicts two women weaving at an upright loom. The warp threads, which run vertically to a bar at the top, are tied together with weights at the bottom, which hold them taut. The woman on the right runs the shuttle containing the weaving thread across the middle of the warp. The woman on the left uses a beater to consolidate the already-woven threads. [29]

    Dress in classical antiquity favored wide, unsewn lengths of fabric, pinned and draped to the body in various ways.

    Ancient Greek clothing consisted of lengths of wool or linen, generally rectangular and secured at the shoulders with ornamented pins called fibulae and belted with a sash. Typical garments were the peplos, a loose robe worn by women the chlamys, a cloak worn by men and the chiton, a tunic worn by both men and women. Men's chitons hung to the knees, whereas women's chitons fell to their ankles. A long cloak called a himation was worn over the peplos or chlamys.

    The toga of ancient Rome was also an unsewn length of wool cloth, worn by male citizens draped around the body in various fashions, over a simple tunic. Early tunics were two simple rectangles joined at the shoulders and sides later tunics had sewn sleeves. Women wore the draped stola or an ankle-length tunic, with a shawl-like palla as an outer garment. Wool was the preferred fabric, although linen, hemp, and small amounts of expensive imported silk and cotton were also worn.

    Iron Age Europe Edit

    The Iron Age is broadly identified as stretching from the end of the Bronze Age around 1200 BC to 500 AD and the beginning of the Medieval period. Bodies and clothing have been found from this period, preserved by the anaerobic and acidic conditions of peat bogs in northwestern Europe. A Danish recreation of clothing found with such bodies indicates woven wool dresses, tunics and skirts. [30] These were largely unshaped and held in place with leather belts and metal brooches or pins. Garments were not always plain, but incorporated decoration with contrasting colours, particularly at the ends and edges of the garment. Men wore breeches, possibly with lower legs wrapped for protection, although Boucher states that long trousers have also been found. [31] Warmth came from woollen shawls and capes of animal skin, probably worn with the fur facing inwards for added comfort. Caps were worn, also made from skins, and there was an emphasis on hair arrangements, from braids to elaborate Suebian knots. [32] Soft laced shoes made from leather protected the foot.

    The history of Medieval European clothing and textiles has inspired a good deal of scholarly interest in the 21st century. Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland authored Textiles and Clothing: Medieval Finds from Excavations in London, c.1150-c.1450 (Boydell Press, 2001). The topic is also the subject of an annual series, Medieval Clothing and Textiles (Boydell Press), edited by Robin Netherton and Gale R. Owen-Crocker, Emeritus Professor of Anglo-Saxon Culture at the University of Manchester.

    Byzantium Edit

    The Byzantines made and exported very richly patterned cloth, woven and embroidered for the upper classes, and resist-dyed and printed for the lower. [33] By Justinian's time the Roman toga had been replaced by the tunica, or long chiton, for both sexes, over which the upper classes wore various other garments, like a dalmatica (dalmatic), a heavier and shorter type of tunica short and long cloaks were fastened on the right shoulder.

    Leggings and hose were often worn, but are not prominent in depictions of the wealthy they were associated with barbarians, whether European or Persian. [34]

    Early medieval Europe Edit

    European dress changed gradually in the years 400 to 1100. People in many countries dressed differently depending on whether they identified with the old Romanised population, or the new invading populations such as Franks, Anglo-Saxons, and Visigoths. Men of the invading peoples generally wore short tunics, with belts, and visible trousers, hose or leggings. The Romanised populations, and the Church, remained faithful to the longer tunics of Roman formal costume. [35]

    The elite imported silk cloth from the Byzantine, and later Muslim, worlds, and also probably cotton. They also could afford bleached linen and dyed and simply patterned wool woven in Europe itself. But embroidered decoration was probably very widespread, though not usually detectable in art. Lower classes wore local or homespun wool, often undyed, trimmed with bands of decoration, variously embroidery, tablet-woven bands, or colorful borders woven into the fabric in the loom. [36] [37]

    High Middle Ages and the rise of fashion Edit

    Clothing in 12th and 13th century Europe remained very simple for both men and women, and quite uniform across the subcontinent. The traditional combination of short tunic with hose for working-class men and long tunic with overdress for women and upper-class men remained the norm. Most clothing, especially outside the wealthier classes, remained little changed from three or four centuries earlier. [38]

    The 13th century saw great progress in the dyeing and working of wool, which was by far the most important material for outerwear. Linen was increasingly used for clothing that was directly in contact with the skin. Unlike wool, linen could be laundered and bleached in the sun. Cotton, imported raw from Egypt and elsewhere, was used for padding and quilting, and cloths such as buckram and fustian.

    Crusaders returning from the Levant brought knowledge of its fine textiles, including light silks, to Western Europe. In Northern Europe, silk was an imported and very expensive luxury. [39] The well-off could afford woven brocades from Italy or even further afield. Fashionable Italian silks of this period featured repeating patterns of roundels and animals, deriving from Ottoman silk-weaving centres in Bursa, and ultimately from Yuan Dynasty China via the Silk Road. [40]

    Cultural and costume historians agree that the mid-14th century marks the emergence of recognizable "fashion" in Europe. [41] [42] From this century onwards, Western fashion changed at a pace quite unknown to other civilizations, whether ancient or contemporary. [43] In most other cultures, only major political changes, such as the Muslim conquest of India, produced radical changes in clothing, and in China, Japan, and the Ottoman Empire fashion changed only slightly over periods of several centuries. [44]

    In this period, the draped garments and straight seams of previous centuries were replaced by curved seams and the beginnings of tailoring, which allowed clothing to more closely fit the human form, as did the use of lacing and buttons. [45] A fashion for mi-parti or parti-coloured garments made of two contrasting fabrics, one on each side, arose for men in mid-century, [46] and was especially popular at the English court. Sometimes just the hose would have different colours on each leg.