Wikipedia writes of womenswear in this period:

“Women’s fashions of the 15th century consisted of a long gown, usually with sleeves, worn over a kirtle or undergown, with a linen chemise or smock worn next to the skin. The sleeves were made detachable and were heavily ornamented. The long-waisted silhouette of the previous period was replaced by a high-waisted style with fullness over the belly, often confined by a belt. The wide, shallow scooped neckline was replaced by a V-neck, often cut low enough to reveal the decorated front of the kirtle beneath.”

Story of Alexander the Great

Fig. 1 - Miniaturist unknown (Flemish). Story of Alexander the Great, 1450s. Illumination on parchment. Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Fashion Icon: 


Wikipedia writes of fashion in this period:

“The basic costume of men in this period consisted of a shirt, doublet, and hose, with some sort of overgown (robe worn over clothing).

Linen shirts were worn next to the skin. Toward the end of the period, shirts (French chemise, Italian camicia, Spanish camisa) began to be full through the body and sleeves with wide, low necklines; the sleeves were pulled through the slashings or piecing of the doublet sleeves to make puffs, especially at the elbow and the back of the arm. As the cut of doublets revealed more fabric, wealthy men’s shirts were often decorated with embroidery or applied braid.”

Piero di Cosimo de'Medici

Fig. 1 - Mino da Fiesole (Italian, 1429-1484). Piero di Cosimo de'Medici, 1453. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, REPRO.1899-57. Source: Victoria and Albert Museum

The Blessed Andrea Gallerani

Fig. 2 - Giovanni di Paolo (Italian, 1398-1492). The Blessed Andrea Gallerani, 1447–65. Tempera on wood, gold ground; 48.3 x 12.4 cm (19 x 4 7/8 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975.1.55. Robert Lehman Collection, 1975. Source: The Met

The Adoration of the Shepherds

Fig. 4 - Andrea Mantegna (Italian, 1430/31–1506). The Adoration of the Shepherds, shortly after 1450. Tempera on canvas, transferred from wood; 37.8 x 53.3 cm (14 7/8 x 21 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 32.130.2. Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 1932. Source: The Met



Historical Context


Wikipedia: 1450-1459

Europe during the 15th Century. Source: University of Texas Libraries

  • 1453 – Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks
  • The 1450s – Sable, lynx and other exotic furs become fashionable, replacing squirrel furs such as Miniver and vair. Ermine remains the prerogative of royalty. Women’s hair is pulled back from forehead and covered by a caul (small bag worn over a bun at the back of the head) or a crespine (mesh net). Fashionable women shave their foreheads and eyebrows. In warmer Italy married women wear their hair long, braided, in loose knots, and uncovered. Brocade becomes a luxury fabric as weaving techniques improve. The best fabric comes from Italy with Chinese, Indian, and Persian motifs reflecting increased trade with these countries.

Primary/Period Sources

Resources for Fashion History Research

To discover primary/period sources, explore the categories below.
Have a primary source to suggest?  Or a newly digitized periodical/book to announce?  Contact us!

Digitized Primary/Period Sources

“DMMapp - Digitized Medieval Manuscripts App,” n.d. https://digitizedmedievalmanuscripts.org/app/.
“Medieval Manuscripts on the Web (Digitized Manuscripts),” n.d. http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/sechard/512digms.htm.

Secondary Sources

Also see the 15th-century overview page for more research sources… or browse our Zotero library.


Bellatory. “Fashion History of the High and Late Middle Ages - Medieval Clothing,” n.d. https://bellatory.com/fashion-industry/FashionHistoryoftheHIghandLateMiddleAgesClothingo-the11th-15thCentury.
Breiding, Dirk H. “Fashion in European Armor.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, n.d. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/afas/hd_afas.htm.
Victoria and Albert Museum. “Fashion up to the 17th Century Reading List,” January 13, 2011. http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/f/reading-list-fashion-up-to-the-17th-century/.
“Glossary of some medieval clothing terms,” n.d. http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/glossary.html.
Watt, Melinda. “Renaissance Velvet Textiles.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, n.d. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/velv/hd_velv.htm.
Breiding, Dirk H. “The Decoration of European Armor.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, n.d. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/deca/hd_deca.htm.

Boucher, François. 20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment. Expanded ed. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1987. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/979316852.
Brown, Susan, ed. Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style. New York: DK Publishing, 2012. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/840417029.
Byrde, Penelope. The Male Image: Men’s Fashion in Britain, 1300-1970. London: B. T. Batsford, 1979. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/891905981.
Crowfoot, Elisabeth, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland. Textiles and Clothing: C.1150-c.1450. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London 4. London: HMSO, 1992. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/869768478.
Cunnington, Phillis. Costume of Household Servants, from the Middle Ages to 1900. London: A and C Black, 1974. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/1369922.
Egan, Geoff, and Frances Pritchard. Dress Accessories, c. 1150 - c. 1450. New ed. 3. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2002.
Hill, Daniel Delis. History of World Costume and Fashion. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/768100950.
Houston, Mary G. Medieval Costume in England and France: The 13th, 14th, and 15th Centuries. New York: Dover Publications, 1996.
Monnas, Lisa. Merchants, Princes and Painters: Silk Fabrics in Italian and Northern Paintings, 1300-1550. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/644408684.
Richardson, Catherine. Clothing Culture, 1350-1650. New York: Routledge, 2017. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/976442537.
Scott, Margaret. Visual History of Costume: The Fourteenth & Fifteenth Centuries. 1. London: Batsford, 1986. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/932531120.
Tortora, Phyllis G., and Sara B. Marcketti. Survey of Historic Costume. Sixth edition. New York: Fairchild Books, 2015. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/972500782.
Van Buren, Anne, and Roger S. Wieck. Illuminating Fashion: Dress in the Art of Medieval France and the Netherlands, 1325-1515. New York: The Morgan Library & Museum, 2011. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/921010074.
Vincent, Susan J., and Elizabeth Currie, eds. A Cultural History of Dress and Fashion: The Renaissance (1450-1650). London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/967107605.
Pinterest. “1400-1450 Fashion in Paintings,” 1400s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1400-1450-fashion-in-paintings/.
Pinterest. “1400-1500 Extant Clothing,” 1400s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1400-1500-extant-clothing/.
Pinterest. “1400-1500 Fabrics & Textiles,” 1400s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1400-1500-fabrics-textiles/.