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Medieval Period Tunic Essay

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Updated: Dec 10th, 2019

The word tunic has been derived from the word ‘tunica’ (Latin), meaning an enclosing membrane of body tissue. From the period of ancient Greeks and Romans up to the medieval times, tunics have probably been the most common dress worn by all classes of men; slaves as well as the nobles, and all other people from different occupations.

The simplest kind of tunic was readied by sewing two pieces of cloth, making a tube; holes were kept for the arms. The medieval tunic resembled a T-shirt and was worn by men and women alike. The medieval tunics were made from a varied range of fabrics, depending on the status of the people wearing them. Even different forms of tunics were made for people of different status. The medieval tunics usually had sleeves and were cut to different lengths.

Male tunics reached crotch and thigh in length; older men wore knee-length tunics (Diehl & Donnelly, 2011). The medieval tunic could be worn plain and/or tightened at the waist with a belt. The belt also served the purpose of a purse. The Romans wore tunics under their toga (a single piece gown). Woollen tunics were worn during the winter seasons. From all these facts about medieval tunics, it may be concluded that they were really versatile.

The medieval tunics were made in different forms and the fabrics used in tailoring were also different (Netherton & Owen-Crocker, 2012). The tunic was basically a significance of status and title.

The women wore tunics that stretched up to the ankle. Such tunics were called ‘Tunica Talaris’. The word ‘talaris’ is a derivative of the Latin word ‘talus’, which means an ankle. Another form of the tunic was the ‘Tunica Pulla’. It was a black or any other dark coloured tunic that was put on as a symbol of mourning.

Yet another form of medieval tunic was the ‘Tunica Recta’. The word ‘recta’ means straight. This particular tunic was worn in the medieval period by the girls during their marriages and by the boys when they were supposed to have matured. Then there was the ‘Tunica Augusticlavia’ which was worn by the Roman magistrates. ‘Tunica Laticlavia’ was worn by the Roman senators. This form of tunic had a broad band on it that was easily recognizable from a distance.

Lastly, the Roman emperors wore a special tunic called the ‘Ornamenta Triumphalia’. The ‘Ornamenta Triumphalia’ comprised of the ‘Tunica Palmata’ and the ‘Toga Picta’. This was the official dress of the Roman emperors. The ‘Tunica Palmata’ was heavily adorned by leaf embroidery made from gold thread. All the edges (like the neck-line, wrist ends, and the bottom edge) of this tunic had a rich and colourful border.

The different ranks of office bearers were distinguished by the ‘Latus Clavus’. The office bearers of the Roman Empire wore tunics that had a particular number of bands sewn on them. The quantity of bands signified the rank of the wearer and the ‘Roman Sumptuary Laws’ governed this quantity.

Even the width of the bands was governed by the ‘Roman Sumptuary Laws’. The members of the senate used to wear tunics with a scarlet or purple band. The band was about 2 inches in width and was considered to be a distinct badge of office. Even the male children of the senators could put on this band but in such cases the band had to be a less wide.

The ‘equites’ or the knights wore a different tunic that had a band on each side and also at the front and the back. These bands were called the ‘Augustus Clavus’. The usual colour of these bands was purple but other colours such as red, violet and dark blue were also authorized.

Modern interpretation of medieval tunic

Although the modern day tunic does not have similar social and/or historical context, it is popular in the fashion world, particularly among women. The changing context also refers to the style and fabric used for making this item. Despite the shifts in trends, women’s tunic can still have elements reminding of the medieval epoch. Specific attention should be given to the loose sleeves and forms concealing the silhouette.

In modern day women wear tunics with denims and it comes in various styles. Now-a-days tunic can be worn as a traditional outfit too. During the medieval period, tunics were worn as they were the only commonly used clothing. But in today’s world, tunics are considered to be a fashion statement.

They come in large varieties with lovely laces and embroidery works. Tunics have never gone out of style. Even though the bottoms styles come and go, tunics in all variations have stayed till date. During medieval period, the material of the tunic suggested the rank and position of the person putting it on.

Like the poor people wore tunics made from normal cloth whereas the rich wore tunics made from costly material such as linen and silk. But now-a-days women wear trendy linen tunics with formal pants as a daily wear. This is one style that young girls wear with denims and married women wear it as one of their traditional outfits.

Tunics are gracefully accepted by both the orthodox and the conservative families as they are decent and sober clothing. Tunics have also transformed into short dresses. Many manufactures have indulged in large scale manufacturing of tunics as they remain in demand throughout the year. During summers, you get them in pastel colours and in winters they are available in dark and vibrant colour tones.

When on a shopping spree, no matter which store we enter or which online shopping site we surf, we can find tunics in abundance, and that too in a variety of colours, shapes, designs, sizes, and materials. In fact tunics are the most hunted clothing by the female gender (Thats, 2012). The main difference between the tunics of medieval times and those of today is the length. As discussed earlier in the paper, women wore tunics that were up to the ankles but today’s tunics are up to the knees to the maximum.

One of the main reasons of the revival of this historical clothing and its popularity among the female gender is that being loose fitted clothing it hides the actual body type. Means it doesn’t allow the onlooker to have information about the actual body figure. This is a boon for women and girls who are plump but want to hide their being overweight from the people.

At the same time, wearing a tunic allows overweight women and girls to wear tight jeans and leg-ins to keep up with the fashion trend. Modern day tunics can be accessorized according to the requirement of the day or event. There are many accessories that go with the tunics. Such accessories include belts, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, etc.

The best part of wearing a tunic is that there is no fixed style. The wearer can make her own style statement with the help of the accessories. Like while going to office you can wear a tunic without a belt (it looks little formal) and in the evening, you may put on a sizzling belt to enhance the look of your tunic.

Another reason for the revival and the popularity of the tunics among the women is that since they are loose fitted, women can do all their chores easily. The tunic is really very comfortable and allows the wearer to move freely. As mentioned earlier in this paper, tunics hide the real body type. This enables the overweight women and girls to look attractive. Normal T-shirts or shirts reveal the actual body shape and the overweight women and girls might look shabby and ugly.

So it may be said that tunics enhance the beauty or aestheticism in the female gender. Even for slim girls and women, tunics are a nice, sober, and smart way to be decent and formal. In countries (especially Islamic countries) where women are required not to reveal too much of their body description, tunics are a great clothing. They serve a dual purpose; help the wearer in being decent and at the same time keeping up with the fashion.

Gothic dress for women

Let us first understand the meaning of ‘Goth’. Goth was basically an outrage against the fashion styles that prevailed during the 1970s. People who believed in the Goth culture were against any extravagance and use of vibrant and gaudy colours in clothing. Gothic dresses are basically dresses that are worn by the people of Goth culture.

Usually, the colour of such clothing is black. There are certain typical characteristics of the people of the Goth culture. They can be identified from the following traits – black clothes and hairs, male Goths have long hair, filthiness and untidiness, inclination towards writing poetry, and attention seekers.

Despite the fact that the Gothic style is well distinguished from other historic styles, it contains eclectic elements (Taylor, 2004). In particular, it skilfully combines sensibility, beauty, and simplicity of the dress due to the employment of sumptuous fabrics, such as brocades and velvets. In addition, the gothic garment was usually presented in a black colour pallet, which also introduces a specific meaning and style during this period.

The basic concept behind the Gothic garments was to minimise extravagance and to look decent. Vibrant colour garments highlight the presence of people wearing them. Probably, the reason for choosing black colour for Gothic garments was to keep a low profile. This aspect may be related to being decent, as in the case of tunics.

The onlookers are not attracted towards the person wearing Gothic clothing. Apart from the clothing, the overall look of people of Gothic culture is totally unattractive with long and untidy hairs people of Gothic culture can be distinguished easily.

Fashion statement of any particular period reflects the prevailing social beliefs and the approach of people. During the fifteenth century, the fashion was limited to the upper class or the opulent people. The general public couldn’t afford the costly and fashionable clothing. In fact they were too busy in their daily chores to pay attention to things that were not important for them.

Until the seventeenth century, different areas were under the Lords. People didn’t have much of a say in most of the matters. Fashion was one such thing that was unknown to the normal public. But as soon as the royal power gained supremacy over the feudal power, the Lords became weaker as far as their control over the people was concerned. People became free to decide for themselves. People started to earn more and had spare money to attend to their fantasies.

This was when they started learning about fashion and practising the prevailing trends. This was the period when printing was invented and people were able to keep themselves updated on the latest happenings around them. Media was also one of the mediums to spread fashion during that period.

Modern interpretation of Gothic dresses

The influence of revival of historical style constitutes the main reason for the emergence of the gothic style at the modern time (Brill, 2004). However, unlike the historical gothic style, the modern waives are more concerned with aesthetics and the revival of the romantic movements (Spooner, 2004).

The modern day Gothic dresses are actually far similar to the ones that were initially meant to be. The main motive behind Gothic dresses was to oppose extravagance and vibrant colours in clothing. But today’s Gothic dresses have become very popular and the prices are sky-rocketing. But at least the colour has not been changed.

Even today, the Gothic dresses are mainly in black or other dark colours. But since renowned stores have started selling Gothic dresses the cost has gone up. Moreover, famous designers have also started designing the Gothic dress, which again has added to the cost to a great extent.

Gothic dresses are now being seen as fashion statements. Celebrities wear these dresses at special events, making them all the more popular. People who like to imitate their favourite celebrities want to adore themselves with Gothic dresses. Fashion is such a thing or tradition that is spread by the famous and rich people. So the concept has totally changed; from being ant-extravagant, the Gothic dresses have now become super extravagant.


Brill, D. (2008). Goth Culture: Gender, Sexuality, and Style. Germany: Berg.

Diehl, D., & Donnelly, M. P. (2011). Medieval Celebrations: Your Guide to Planning and Hosting Spectacular Feasts, Parties, Weddings, and Renaissance Fairs. US: Stackpole Books.

Netherton, R., & Owen-Crocker, G. R. (2012). Medieval Clothing and Textiles. US: Boydell Press.

Spooner, C. (2004). Fashioning Gothic Bodies. UK: Manchester University Press.

Taylor, L. (2004). Establishing Dress History. UK: Manchester University Press.

Thats, S. (2012). Women’s Tunics-oh so stylish. Retrieved from

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