Men’s Nightwear in the Middle Ages in Europe

The Middle Ages in Europe, from the 5th to the 15th centuries, were characterized by distinct social, cultural, and sartorial practices. While much attention has been paid to the elaborate clothing worn during the day, the clothing worn by men at night is often overlooked. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of men’s nightwear in medieval Europe, exploring the styles, materials, and cultural significance attached to these garments.

Nightshirts and Chemises

One of the most common forms of medieval men’s nightwear was the nightshirt or chemise. These loose-fitting garments were usually made of linen, a breathable and lightweight fabric. Nightshirts often had wide sleeves and a loose, flowing silhouette for comfort and ease of movement during sleep. They were usually ankle-length and fastened with simple ties or buttons. Nightshirts provided protection from the cool night air and were often worn as an undergarment under other layers of clothing.

Nightcaps and head coverings

To keep warm during the night, medieval men often wore nightcaps or other head coverings. Nightcaps were typically made of linen or wool and were designed to cover the head and ears. They were often soft and snug, providing insulation and preventing heat loss. Nightcaps were worn by men of all social classes and were sometimes decorated with braided cords or tassels.

Sleepwear for the wealthy

For the wealthy and nobility, nightwear could be more luxurious and elaborate. Silk nightshirts and chemises decorated with intricate embroidery or lace were favored by the upper classes. These garments displayed wealth and status while providing comfort during sleep. In addition, the wealthy sometimes wore nightgowns made of fine fabrics such as velvet or brocade, further demonstrating their opulence.

Gowns and Robes

In colder climates or during winter months, men often wore gowns or robes over their nightgowns for added warmth. These garments were typically made of heavier fabrics such as wool or fur and provided insulation during colder nights. Gowns were often ankle-length with wide sleeves and a belted waist. They could be plain or embroidered and were worn by men of various social classes.

Nightwear and cultural significance

Medieval nightwear had cultural and symbolic significance. The act of changing into nightwear represented a transition from the public to the private realm of the home. It signaled a shift from the duties and expectations of society to the comfort and relaxation of the domestic sphere. Nightwear was also associated with notions of modesty and privacy, reflecting the moral and social expectations of the time.

Nightwear Accessories

In addition to nightgowns and headdresses, medieval men used various accessories to enhance their comfort during sleep. Bed socks, made of wool or linen, were worn to keep feet warm on colder nights. Some men also used bedgowns, which were loose-fitting garments similar to robes, to provide an extra layer of warmth. These accessories varied according to personal preference and the climate of the region.

Nightwear for different seasons

Medieval nightwear was not one-size-fits-all, and there were variations based on the season or climate. During warmer seasons, men would choose lighter fabrics such as linen or lightweight cotton for their nightgowns. This allowed for better airflow and comfort during the hot summer nights. In contrast, during colder months, heavier fabrics such as wool or fur were preferred to provide insulation and warmth.

Regional and cultural differences

Medieval nightwear could vary from region to region and culture to culture within Europe. Each region had its own unique preferences in fabric choices, styles, and embellishments. For example, in Northern Europe, where cold temperatures prevailed, nightwear was often made of thicker fabrics and featured heavier layering to combat the colder climate. In the Mediterranean regions, lighter and more breathable fabrics were preferred due to the milder climate.

Nightwear for different social classes

Medieval nightwear also reflected the social hierarchy of the time. While the common people typically wore simpler and more practical nightgowns and caps, the upper classes and nobility had access to more luxurious and ornate garments. Fine fabrics, intricate embroidery, and decorative elements were used to show wealth and status. The quality and design of nightwear often served as a visual indicator of a person’s social standing.

Hygiene and Nightwear

Nightwear played a role in maintaining hygiene during the Middle Ages. Since daily bathing was not as common as it is today, nightwear acted as a protective layer against body oils and sweat, helping to keep outer clothing cleaner for longer periods of time. Nightgowns and chemises were frequently washed to ensure cleanliness and freshness.

Evolving fashion trends

Nightwear fashion trends, like daywear, have evolved over the centuries. As the Middle Ages progressed, influences from other cultures, such as the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world, began to influence European fashion. This led to the incorporation of new styles, fabrics, and decorative techniques into nightwear. Changes in social norms and fashion tastes also influenced the design and aesthetics of men’s nightwear.

Nightwear in Art and Literature

Medieval artwork and literary descriptions provide insight into men’s nightwear. Paintings, tapestries, illuminated manuscripts, and literature from the period often depict men in their nightclothes, revealing prevailing fashion trends and cultural practices. These artistic representations serve as valuable sources for understanding the styles and materials used in men’s nightwear.


While the clothing worn by men during the day in the Middle Ages has been extensively studied and documented, their nightwear is often overlooked. Nightshirts, chemises, nightcaps, gowns, and robes formed the core of men’s nightwear during this period. These garments provided comfort, warmth, and a sense of privacy during sleep. From simple linen nightgowns worn by the common people to luxurious silk nightwear adorned by the wealthy, men’s nightwear in the Middle Ages reflected both practical needs and social status.

Exploring the historical clothing practices of different time periods allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the cultural and social nuances of the past. By examining men’s nightwear in the Middle Ages, we can appreciate the attention given to even the most intimate aspects of daily life and the importance placed on personal comfort and privacy.


What did men wear at night in the Middle Ages in Europe?

The general consensus seems to be that they normally wore nothing, except sometimes a night cap. Picture evidence here. Other commentators argue that they just as often wore a simple gown or smock, as argued here, without picture evidence.

What did men wear to bed in the Middle Ages?

Some slept nude while others wore simple gowns and shirts, or even just their daily underclothes. Monks were known to sleep in their robes for warmth since they always slept alone. By the late Middle Ages nightshirts and nightgowns were common.

What did men wear in the late Middle Ages?

During this era, men continued to wear tunics, cloaks, and trousers which did not vary much from their previous counterparts. Coifs became popular head-coverings and appeared to be “flat round cap[s]”. Long stockings, with feet attached, were in style, and leg bandages and shoes continued to be worn.

What do medieval people wear to bed?

Nearly everyone wore a cap or kerchief to bed to keep their heads warm. Women would braid their hair and tie it up to keep it from tangling. Most Medieval pictures show people sleeping in the nude, but there is evidence that by the 16th century, night shirts and night gowns were common.

What do Europeans wear to bed?

Most Europeans do not sleep with a top sheet. They will often sleep on a fitted sheet and cover themselves with a comforter or duvet to help keep cooler in the summer and warmer during winter time.

What did Kings wear to sleep?

It was only royalty and those of noble birth who wore pyjamas that were more than a simple long dress; their designs were inspired by Indian, Asian, and Roman costumes: large dress-shaped attires with wide sleeves for added comfort.

What do men wear at night to sleep?

Loose-fitting clothes are highly recommended as you don’t feel suffocated and instead get to sleep peacefully. Cotton clothing is a must to ensure you feel light as you sleep. So in short, a good pair of men’s cotton pyjamas with a loose-fitting cotton t-shirt is here to keep you for the win of a good night’s sleep!

What did knights wear in the Middle Ages?

At the height of the Middle Ages, Saint Anselm (ca. 1033–1109) listed the equipment of a knight: his war horse (which by the thirteenth century was protected by mail and fabric), bridle, saddle, spurs, hauberk (a long-sleeved mail shirt, sometimes with a hood, or coif), helmet, shield, lance, and sword.

Did men in Middle Ages wear tights?

Said tights were called “hose” and were a staple item in a male’s wardrobe. European men used to wear them all the way through the middle-ages while horseback riding.

What did men wear in medieval France?

A robe, tunic, or kirtle was usually worn over the shirt or doublet. As with other outer garments, it was generally made of wool. Over this, a man might also wear an over-kirtle, cloak, or a hood. Servants and working men wore their kirtles at various lengths, including as low as the knee or calf.

What did men wear to bed in the Victorian era?

By the Victorian era, the nightshirt had become the standard sleepwear of choice for men, women, and children. They resembled typically men’s day shirts of the time with their collars and buttons, only longer.

What did men wear to bed in the 1700s?

Do you wear pajamas to bed at night? So did people in the 1700s and 1800s, but their pajamas might look a little different than yours! Boys wore long shirts while girls wore long simple dresses called “shifts” to sleep and under their other clothes during the day.

What was bedding like in the Middle Ages?

Beds in the middle ages

For those further down the social scale, they would own wooden bedsteads with headboards, to which were added feather mattresses, sheets, blankets, coverlets and pillows, Peasants slept on mattresses stuffed with straw or wool, while the poorest slept on straw or hay.

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