What Colour were Medieval Clothes?

Whether you’re having your medieval clothes made, or buying fabric to make them yourself, the first question new re-enactors ask is “What colour should my clothes be?” The correct, but unhelpful, answer is “It depends”. It depends on the precise period of history, the place, the socio-economic status, the profession etc of the person you’re portraying.

To help arrive at a more helpful answer, we’ll assume you’re putting your first kit together for Company of the Staple events around Calais in 1376, and have sensibly chosen a portrayal of modest means.

The general answer is your clothes should be dyed with plant dyes used in medieval Europe, or with a modern dye that achieves a similar colour.

Visual Guides to Period Colours

Dyed Woolen Yarns by Silvio’s Workshop

Dyed woolen yarn sample of Rosalie Gilbert, dyed by Silvio’s Workshop

Above is a set of wool yarns dyed by Silvio’s Workshop in Italy.  Except for the green on the end, are all hand dyed using appropriate dyestuffs and mordants from 13-14th century sources. Thanks to Rosalie Gilbert, who is the proud owner of these yarns.

The Palette of Plant Dyed Wool by Medieval Colours

These are dye samples by Medieval Colours in the UK. They offer this excellent gallery on their Facebook page. You can also order these coloured yarns from their website, which would be a more reliable way of matching colours than using digital images.