Renaissance fairs throughout America have popularized, even romanticized, the medieval culture of serfs, peasants and nobles. In this tiered social structure, serfs represented the poor working class. Peasants came next, forming somewhat of a middle class, followed by distant and wealthy nobles. Clothing was an indicator of class status, so peasants wore simple clothes made mostly from plain-colored linen fabric. Rich colors were generally reserved for jackets worn by members of the noble class. Men and women can make their own medieval peasant costumes by picking up the basic elements at local clothing stores.
Items you will need
- Loose-fitting white linen top
- Khaki leggings
- Worn work boots
- Fabric scissors
- Leather punch
- 8-10 leather cords, about 6-8 inches long
Find a loose-fitting white linen shirt that is simple, plain and devoid of elaborate design. If you cannot find a shirt already made like this, go to your local fabric store and purchase plain, white linen. Have someone measure the distance from your wrist to armpit and from your shoulders to just below your buttocks. Fold a long piece of linen in half and cut a simple "T" shape into the fabric in the lengths measured. Cut out a neck hole and sew the open edges together, leaving the ends unhemmed around the wrists and waist.
Purchase a plain vest made of fake or real leather and which is colored black, brown or tan. Use a leather punch to make four or five holes about 1 inch in from the front inside edges of the vest.
Tie knots at one end of all your leather cords and thread the unknotted end of one cord through each hole in your vest. Tie the cords together to close the vest when you are wearing the costume.
Find a pair of tan, khaki or brown colored leggings made of cotton that are snug but not too tight. Look for fabric that does not contain lycra or spandex, if possible. A plain pair of solid-colored drab pajama pants will work fine as a pair of peasant pants.
At a thrift store, purchase a pair of worn work boots made primarily of real or fake leather. If you cannot find them already worn, buy an inexpensive pair of new boots and use a piece of fine grit sandpaper to wear down the toes and soles. Bend the shoes in many directions to create rivets, ridges and creases in the boots, as you want them to look old and worn-out for your peasant costume. Or, borrow a pair of boots.
Tie a thick leather cord or simple belt around the waist for a male peasant costume. Find a small leather sack and tie it around the belt, as a simple belt is what medieval peasants wore to transport money and tools used in their daily lives. You may wish to tie a small, dull knife to your belt as these were also commonly carried by male peasants.
Purchase a plain wool stocking style cap to use as a hat, if you wish. Peasants often went bear-headed but in colder weather might wear a simple, plain wool hat.
If you need help envisioning what a medieval peasant wore, look online for images of medieval peasant clothing. Or, visit a few online or local costume shops and look for medieval peasant costumes, then re-create and personalize the costume yourself for less money.