Medieval Arabic Clothing: Tunics, Wraps, and Rich Fabrics

Medieval Arabic Clothing

Men and women generally dressed in a basic tunic over which they draped large rectangular wraps, known as haik in Berber/Amazight and khellal in Arabic. These were a long-standing type of outer garment dating back to Antiquity.

Textile processing and production formed the mainstay of the Islamic Middle Eastern economy until the nineteenth century, so unsurprisingly Arabic, Persian, and Turkish literature contains numerous references to fabrics and clothing.


The Fatimids’ robes, known as the izar or rida, were long garments of silks and fine cottons that draped down the body. The main colours were white and various shades of blue and black, although striped fabrics could also be worn.

The robe was worn over the sirwal or qamis (the chemise and undergarments). A long sleeved outer mantle, the haik, covered the head at night. Both were decorated with arabesque patterns of foliated teardrop shapes or lobed rosette forms, with a patterned hem and fringes.

The wealth of Fatimid Egypt enabled a new class to emerge in medieval society, and textiles became an important social symbol of the affluent and urbane. A Crusader epic describes a noble receiving a “khil’a” from a Muslim ruler, bestowing a special robe as a mark of honour. The aristocrats of the Latin West eagerly absorbed this new universe of fabrics, and a refashioning of aristocratic dress was underway.


The main garment was a long woollen coat called the haik. This was buttoned from neck to chest and had long ample sleeves. Some had a lining, usually of a darker color. It was belted at the waist. It was worn over a robe or a dress.

In surviving portraits of women, it’s clear that they left the outer layers unbuttoned at the neck and at the bottom to show them off. The coat was often adorned with a variety of embroidered or woven patterns. Two popular fabrics were baldachin, made with a warp of gold thread and a weft of silk, and damask, a richly patterned fabric named after the city of Damascus.

High office was signified by a fur-covered mantle over these coats: the sultan’s investiture mantle was black fox, while the grand vizier, chief eunuch, and bostanci bashi wore sable. Over this was a headwear that resembled a tall turban or fez. It could be small or large, depending on rank and social class.


By the seventh and eighth centuries people throughout the Muslim world were accustomed to covering up as much of their bodies as possible. This was especially important in a desert region where it was hot and people believed that God wanted them to be covered so as not to sin.

The basic garment was a long tunic, belted at the waist. This could be worn over trousers and on top of a head cloth, called a kaffiyah or turban.

By the 11th century men’s robes became shorter and they were paired with tight woolen stockings called chausses or hosen. Initially these were separate leg coverings tied to the cuff of each pant leg, and then they came together into fitted covers that extended from the ankle to the knee or calf. These were true medieval pants.


In the medieval Muslim world no free person, whether man or woman, would have left home without covering his or her head. The khirqa was the foundational brimless cap from which the ‘Imama’, kalawatta, shashiyya, and other caps developed.

For men, a ‘bashiyya’ or ‘taqqiya’ was worn to protect the head and ears from sun and cold. Some of these were made with embroidered designs, while others incorporated decorative metal chains.

A ‘burnous’ was an inner mantle or hood that could be worn to keep the head warm day or night, although trousseau lists indicate that it was used only on short trips. It was a garment of fine linen or silk, and may have been lined. It could be attached to the ‘ardiyya’ or worn as a separate article. It is similar to a modern Jordanian’shmagh’ with its red checked pattern and fringed edges. The ‘burnous’ was also worn with the outer cloak or gown.

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Children’s Medieval Clothing: Transform Your Child into a Knight, Princess, or Wizard with Dashing Tunics, Hoods, Capes, and Accessories

Medieval Clothing for Kids and Teens

Find dashing tunics, hoods, capes and accessories for your child’s medieval or Renaissance costume. This one-stop shop is ideal for turning children into knights, princesses and wizards.

Merchants played an important role in trading during the Middle Ages. The unique attire they wore reflected their social status, trade specialization and regional influences.

Practical Considerations

The Middle Ages was a time of knights, castles and kings, but also significant social, political and cultural changes. Fashion was an integral part of this transformation, a powerful symbol of power and status that clearly delineated social hierarchy.

Nobility, church officials and the emerging bourgeoisie could afford rich fabrics such as silks and velvets, dyed in vibrant colours and trimmed lavishly with fur. By contrast, peasantry wore simple woollen garments in natural or muted shades.

The medieval world regarded men and women as fundamentally different, with clear differences in their roles and styles of dress. Those who want to create a realistic medieval look therefore need to carefully consider the gender of the person they are dressing as. For example, women should not wear men’s clothing unless they are aiming for a specific role like Joan of Arc.

Regional Variations

Across medieval Europe, there were significant variations in the style and design of merchant clothing. These variations were often based on regional culture and fashion traditions, as well as the unique sartorial needs of individual traders. Nevertheless, certain elements of merchant attire were consistently present throughout the region. These elements served practical purposes, and they communicated a merchant’s trade specialization, wealth, and membership in a particular guild or association.

Clothing materials were also important, as these could have an impact on a garment’s longevity and comfort on long journeys. Wool was a popular choice because it was durable, provided warmth in cold climates, and easily absorbed moisture from sweat. Alternatively, linen was used for undergarments and summer clothing because it was lightweight and breathable.

For men, a typical outfit consisted of a long tunic and breeches. Women’s clothing included a smock, kirtle or gown, surcoat, and hooded cape. This ensemble was richly adorned with embroidery and fur trims to convey status and wealth.

Style and Design

Unlike the flamboyant fashion of the nobility and clergy, the clothing of commoners tells a tale of practicality, resourcefulness, and subtle personal expression within societal norms. Wool was a staple material for clothing, providing warmth in cold climates and durable construction. Linen, a more delicate fabric, was also popular for undergarments and summer garments. Leather was used for shoes and simple protective gear.

The development of international trade brought in new fabrics, patterns, and designs that influenced the styles of merchant clothing. Symbolism was an important element of the sartorial language of merchant clothing, with bright colors and lavish fur trimmings indicating wealth and status. The quality and durability of medieval merchant clothes were factors that endured to modern times, and some design elements like pockets and belts remain in wide use today. The influence of medieval attire is still seen in many of the costumes worn at Renaissance fairs and other historical reenactments. Browse our wide selection of Medieval and Renaissance costume clothing to find the perfect look for your next event!


Clothing accessories such as belts, hats and jewelry were used to add style to an outfit. They also showcased a merchant’s wealth and trade specialization. In addition, a variety of accessories were used to protect from the weather and other elements of travel such as sand and dirt.

Regional variations also existed in the fabric and design of medieval clothing. Wool was a popular material as it was readily available and provided warmth in cold climates. Silk was often worn by wealthy merchants to highlight their status. Local dyes such as lichen and onion peel were also utilized for color.

We have a wide selection of medieval costumes and accessories to help complete your LARP, SCA or theatrical costume. Our collection includes dresses, tunics and robes in muted colors for a peasant look and vivid colors for a dramatic princess or queen. We also carry child costumes that are designed with the same attention to detail and quality as our bestselling adult garments.

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The Difference Between Cloth, Clothes, and Clothing

Cloth Vs Clothes Vs Clothing

Cloth, clothes and clothing are three words that are often used interchangeably, but they have slightly different meanings. They also have different spellings.

Cloth is a fabric that can be made into garments such as jumpers, shirts, and pants. Clothing is the third person present tense of the verb clothe, such as “She is clothing her dolls.” Clothing also refers to a group of stitched garments, like a dress or outfit.


The words cloth, clothes, and clothing are often confused due to their similar spellings and pronunciations. However, they also have different definitions and different forms, which makes it important for writers and speakers to understand the difference between them. This will help them avoid misusing the words in their writing and speaking.

Cloth is a noun that refers to a piece of fabric, such as cotton or silk. It can be used to make dresses, shirts, and pants. It is also a common material for curtains and carpets. The word can be used as a verb, too, to describe the action of weaving fabric or putting garments on a person. It is commonly pronounced with an unvoiced th and a soft |oh| sound.

Clothing is a noun that refers to the garments that people wear to cover themselves. It can be worn by men, women, and children. It is usually made of fabrics such as wool, cotton, and silk. The garments can be worn for various occasions, such as going to work or school. People can also wear clothes to decorate themselves, such as with jewelry or scarves. The word is pronounced with an open e and a voiced th and a soft |oh|sound.

The word is also sometimes used as a title, such as the title of a musical or play. A person may be called a “man of the cloth” to indicate that they are a member of the clergy. The term is rarely used in spoken language, but it is still used in some written works.

A helpful way to remember the difference between the words cloth and clothes is that cloth is always a singular noun, while clothing is a plural noun. The other key difference is that clothes can be used as a verb, while cloth is not a verb. Clothes is a good example of this distinction, as it is the third person present tense form of the verb to clothe. The wealthy single mother next door clothes her kids with designer brand clothing.

The differences between the three words are subtle, but they can be important to distinguish. It is best to use the word clothing when referring to the items that people wear, as this is the most specific definition of the word. When a person is unsure whether to use the word cloth or clothes, it is usually safer to choose the more general one – clothing – rather than risk using the wrong one and confusing others. It is also important to remember that the words cloth and clothes are pronounced differently. The latter is pronounced with an oh sound, while the former is pronounced with an aw sound. If you pronounce them correctly, the two words will be easy to distinguish. The key to mastering these words is practice, and soon you will be able to use them without confusion. Good luck! Thanks for reading.

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