(Photo gallery above. Just click the side arrows)
When we were in Tallinn summer 2016, we went inside Olde Hansa, a medieval store slash restaurant. The store part sold medieval clothes and products like tar soaps, pointy shoes and linen dresses.
Here are some things I have learned about medieval fashion, according to the shop assistant, who took his role as a medieval merchant seriously. He even called money for gold coins :-):
- People loved pointy shoes. It was the nobility who sported such. After all, they didn’t need to work, so shoes didn’t need to be practical.
- Clothes were very expensive back then – when every thing was handmade, so most people could not change clothes as often as modern-day people do. But of course, there would always be fashion-conscious people, even among the poor ones – and they got to express themselves through accessories like belts which could be bought at annual fairs.
- Dyed fabrics were expensive. So only the nobility could afford colorful clothes. Although some servants of rich people had uniforms that represented the colors of their masters.
- Since my cousin who traveled with us in the Tallinn trip is a doctor, I checked out information about how doctors were dressed back then. According to medievalists.net, doctors wore red in England. In Paris, they wore violet.
- The intellectuals or the well-educated were not supposed to be fashionable. (Ouch! I hate this part. It’s the same way as journalists are not supposed to be vain and love clothes because everything had to be on an intellectual and moral level – which I find very hypocritical, if you ask me, a journalist. I mean if one loves to express oneself through fashion – then why not? But I am not listening to this crappy unwritten rule anymore. That’s one good thing about being 40+. You get to grow a backbone and care less about what people think you ought and ought not to do). The highly-educated were also not supposed to wear green. But sure, they wore clothes that stood out. Those boring dark-colored robes, I suppose.
- Expensive, flashy clothes worn by the nobility at one big event could not be worn a second time – it seems like even though there were no paparazzis to take their photos, people did observe every detail and remember who wore what and when. So these flashy party clothes were recycled and transformed into vestments that were donated to priests – no wonder priests looked like knock-outs back then.
- About menswear: short tunics which showed buttocks under super tight pants were only worn by rich people.
Anyway, I am contemplating on wearing medieval clothes on Halloween 2016. Or should I just be catwoman?
Other things sold in the store are honey. Honey was important in the medieval period – it was the only sweetener until sugar was imported.
Drinks were almost always alcoholic on the medieval period. No tea, coffee and juice. And precious water was only drunk by the poor and the monks – since water was contaminated. Even babies drank weak alcoholic beverages, according to the book “All things medieval” by Ruth Johnston.
Sadly, the only things I bought in the store are soaps. One was sandalwood soap (I love the smell! We used to buy sandalwood soap from China when I was a child. Sandalwood soap has a nice woodsy scent and it’s said to be a good moisturizer and anti-ageing agent. The other soap I bought was the nasty-smelling coal tar soap. I didn’t buy it because it smelled nasty of course, but sure, I was intrigued by the scent. Sadly, if you keep that soap in a box or bag, the whole bag or box will smell like dried fish as I found out too late. I bought the soap as a present to Marcus’ mother who is from Finland. Finnish people in the old days used tar soap to fix skin disorders. According to the shop assistant, sailors in the middle ages used tar soap.