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Cloaked in Style: Exploring the Types of Cloaks

Throughout the Middle Ages, cloaks were more than simply a way to stay warm; they were also a significant symbol of power and style. Medieval cloaks were an integral feature of medieval clothing, from the full-length and flowing “mantles” worn by kings to the functional “hooded cloaks” worn by peasants. There were different types of Cloaks that were frequently ornamented with elaborate needlework, fur, and other artistic features, making them both functional and stylish.

Medieval Cloak History

Medieval cloaks were originally simple and practical garments made of coarse wool or other natural materials. They were usually large and heavy, with hoods and capes covering the head and shoulders. But, the medieval cloak evolved into more than just a functional piece of apparel throughout time. It became a prestige symbol worn by knights and nobles to demonstrate their position and strength.

Cloaks got more ornate and beautiful in the later medieval period. They were frequently composed of luxurious fabrics like silk, velvet, and fur and were adorned with elaborate embroidery, gems, and other decorations. 

It grew more structured and fitted throughout the Renaissance era in the 15th and 16th centuries, with shorter lengths and leaner silhouettes. It also became a popular item of theatrical costume, notably in the Italian Commedia dell’arte style. 

In the 17th and 18th centuries, nobles and gentlemen wore medieval cloaks at formal occasions and were generally fashioned of expensive fabrics such as velvet or satin. Cloaks also became a prominent component of military attire during this period, worn by officers as a symbol of their position and authority.

Types of Cloaks

The following is an overview of some of the numerous types of medieval cloaks and their characteristics:

Button-Shoulder Cloaks

In the 13th century, this form of the cloak was worn by both men and women. It had a button on the shoulder that held the cloak in place and was usually made of wool or linen. Its design also made it simple to put on and take off, making it a popular choice for commoners and soldiers.

Royal Cloaks

Medieval Cloaks
Royal Cloaks,by Jens Mohr – LSH 100453 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Kings and other royal family members wore royal cloaks. These cloaks were usually made of rich velvet, silk, or fur and ornamented with rare diamonds or needlework. Royal cloaks were lavish and expensive, representing the wearer’s riches and grandeur.


Medieval Cloaks
Mantles, by Casaregala, is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Mantles were long, sleeveless cloaks draped over the shoulders and secured with a clasp or brooch around the neck. They were composed of wool, linen, or silk and were frequently decorated with fur or embroidery. Mantles were prominent among knights and nobles and were worn at formal events such as medieval banquets or tournaments.

Medieval Cloaks for Men

Throughout the medieval period, cloaks were an essential item of clothing for men. Men’s medieval cloaks were generally lengthy, ranging from ankle to knee length. Several medieval cloaks for men included a hood that could be drawn up to shield the wearer’s head and face from rain or cold. Men’s medieval cloaks were tied at the neck with a clasp or brooch that held the cloak in place and functioned as a decorative feature. The clasp or brooch might be fashioned of many different materials, such as silver, gold, or precious stones.

Medieval Cloaks for Women

Women’s clothing was often more modest and covered than men’s in medieval times, and the same applied to cloaks. The houppelande, a long, loose cloak that touched the ground, was exclusive to women. The houppelande’s hood and broad, flowing collar may be raised up to conceal the head and neck. This type of cloak was popular among ladies in the 14th and 15th centuries, and it was frequently crafted of rich fabrics like silk or velvet. Women’s cloaks were frequently created in vibrant hues and embroidered with intricate patterns or needlework.

Design and Material of Medieval Cloak

Medieval cloaks were primarily made from organic materials such as wool, hemp, cotton, fur, and linen

  • Wool – Due to its durability and ability to give warmth in cold weather, wool was a favored material for medieval cloaks.
  • Cotton – Cotton was used to make lighter, more breathable cloaks, such as the sideless surcoat worn by both men and women.
  • Hemp – Hemp was another popular material for cloaks, mainly worn by commoners and peasants because of its durability.
  • Linen – It was frequently used for women’s ornate cloaks, such as the houppelande, made of lightweight linen or silk and embellished with embroidery or other decorations.
  • Fur – Mostly adorned by the nobles, fur cloaks were often crafted from animals like mink, fox, or sable pelts and lined with a soft, warm material like silk.


This article delves into the history and many styles of medieval cloaks, which were practical symbols of authority and fashion. Cloaks evolved from simple, functional clothes made of coarse wool to more elegant and sumptuous clothing made of silk, velvet, and fur and embellished with embroidery and other ornamentation. Cloaks of wide varieties are addressed, including button-shoulder cloaks, royal cloaks, and mantles. Cloaks for both men and women are covered, including the houppelande, a long, loose cloak reserved for ladies. The article also goes through the materials used to make medieval cloaks, including wool, cotton, hemp, linen, and fur.

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