Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles

Get access Subject: History
Edited by: Gale Owen-Crocker, Elizabeth Coatsworth & Maria Hayward
The single volume Encyclopaedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles c. 450-1450 is a unique work that intends to bring together in 582 signed articles the latest research from across the range of disciplines which contribute to our knowledge of medieval dress and textiles.

Subscriptions: See Brill.com

Maaseik textiles

(2,752 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
These textiles comprise three objects, named according to vellum labels in Gothic script attached to them when rediscovered in the 19th century. They are: (1) the so-called casula attributed to saints Harlindis and Relindis, a composite object in its present form made from a number of early medieval, one later medieval and some modern textiles. It is possible that even the early medieval textiles did not belong together originally, at least not in anything like approaching the present arrangement. (2) the velamen of St Harlindis, an object also composed of several different …


(1,626 words)

Author(s): Patricia Williams
Mabinogion is the title given to a collection of medieval Welsh tales, which, with the exception of the satire 'The Dream of Rhonabwy' and the pseudo-historical 'Lludd and Llefelys', have emanated from oral story-telling. They are contained mainly in two manuscripts, one c.1350, now in Aberystwyth ( The White Book of Rhydderch) and the other 1382 to c.1410, now in Oxford ( The Red Book of Hergest). Fragments of individual tales also appear in earlier manuscripts but the general consensus is that they were committed to writing sometime between the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 14th …


(1,287 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
The word mail derives from the Latin word macula meaning a net or mesh, the medieval Latin maglia and the French mailles. The term refers to a network of interlinked metal rings used to make flexible, relatively light, defensive garments.  For added comfort and protection, mail was worn over padded garments. The key period for mail was from c. 1066 to c. 1250 which Claude Blair has described as the 'age of mail'. This is not to say that mail was not used previously. For example, fragments of mail were found in the Sutton Hoo ship burial and they are now o…


(30 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Originally used for a mail sleeve, by the 14th century in England the term referred to a sleeve of plate armour. See bras maunche . Gale R. Owen-Crocker


(413 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
Evolving from a secular cloth used to wipe away perspiration, or an ornamental handkerchief, the maniple had become a non-functional band by the late Anglo-Saxon period. Carried in the left hand until the 11th century, it was later draped over the left forearm. It was particularly the insignia of the subdeacon, but was also worn by the deacon, priest and bishop. A 15th-century text attributes a symbolic meaning to it: 'The maniple or phanone in the lefte hande be-tokenez pacyence in aduersite, that es betokende by the lyfte syde...'. Often made in sets with stoles, maniples were usu…


(505 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
The mantle or mantellum was a long, loosely cut, outer garment worn by men and women. From the 9th to the 14th century the mantle was a garment for every day wear. It gradually changed in shape from being rectangular (when it was made from a simple loom length) to being semi-circular (when the fabric was shaped by a tailor). In its rectangular form, the mantle could either be long or short, fastened with a clasp or ties or wrapped around the body. It is difficult to provide a detailed chronology of changes in shape …

Markets and Fairs

(1,124 words)

Author(s): Richard Britnell
Markets were held at short intervals, weekly in smaller communities, more frequently in larger ones. Fairs were held annually, usually over two or three days, though some lasted a week or more, and some towns had more than one fair in the course of a year. For example, in addition to the great Stourbridge Fair held in late August and September, Cambridge had an earlier two-day fair in August (extended to three days in 1438) around the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and a four-day fair in June around the feast of St Etheldreda. In the 13th century the principal English fairs atten…


(602 words)

Author(s): Maria Hayward
The marten or pine marten ( martes martes) is an omnivore belonging to the mustelid family. It is native to northern Europe and Russia. The fur ranges in colour from light to dark brown, while it has a creamy coloured throat. Its winter coat was especially prized for being thick and silky and this was reflected in the price. It has strong guard hairs, a thick undercoat and an average pelt length of 42 to 48 cm (approx 17 to 19 inches). Even so, a large number of skins were used to fur a robe. For examp…

Maternity and nursing garments

(640 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
The Germanic female folk costume worn by Anglo-Saxon women in the 5th and 6th centuries, and later by Viking women, is so well-suited to the changing shape and function of the reproductive female body that it probably evolved for that purpose. The tubular 'peplos'-type gown, clasped at each shoulder by brooches, could easily be lowered at one side for breastfeeding, and indeed this is shown on a 5th-century continental ivory, the Halberstadt Diptych. The gown itself was straight, and by adjusting the position of the girdle or removing it altogether, the woman c…


(6 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
See beds. Elizabeth Coatsworth

Mediterranean Trade

(9 words)

Author(s): Gale R. Owen-Crocker
See Trade: Mediterranean Gale R. Owen-Crocker


(801 words)

Author(s): Mark Chambers
Grammatically the word medlee functioned in two ways: as an adjective describing specific types of woollen cloth or else patterns or designs in cloth, and as a noun referring to the garments, suits or accessories made from such cloth and clothing. It was used to designate a textile or garment that could be described as 'mixed' in appearance: either through the type of weave (wools dyed different colours before weaving), or in fashions of parti-coloured, pied or mi-parti textiles/garments. The wo…


(62 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
Mercers were originally exporters of wool and importers of velvet, silk and other luxurious fabrics; and also makers and sellers of goods made from these. However, their role and interests changed over time. See guilds; London: trade; shopping. Elizabeth Coatsworth Bibliography Sutton, A. F., The Mercery of London: trade, goods and people, 1130-1578 (Aldershot: 2005).

Merchant Taylors

(46 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Coatsworth
The Merchant Taylors' Guild was originally an association of tailors, i.e. of people whose occupation was the making, repair or alteration of clothing. See botcher; guilds; pall; sewing: cutting and construction; shears; tent maker/pavilioner. Elizabeth Coatsworth