During the medieval period, which ran from approximately the 11th through to the 13th centuries, the kind of clothes that you wore would have been dictated by your social class and standing (as unfair as that seems!) Indeed the kind of outfits a Knight would have worn would have been radically different from what an everyday serf or peasant could afford to wear.
Whereas the clothes of the peasant classes were necessarily simple (for reasons of economics and also practicality) knights and the aristocratic classes would go to great lengths to adorn their clothing with rich details. In particular, the class of knights wore sleeveless “surcoats”, which were then covered with a coat of arms (hence the modern concept of a coat of arms). These coats of arms helped to identify the allegiance of the individual knight in question. The nomadic and itinerant peoples of old medieval England, on the other hand, tended to wear items made predominantly of fur, wool, or leather. They tended to wear long leather trousers which were very hard wearing and also practical in nature, both important elements in the life of travelling tribes. Luxury items, such as turbans and silks , which had to be imported from the East, were very rare and could only be afforded by the more affluent social classes.
We tend to think of the medieval fashions as being quite ‘fixed’ and unchanging in nature, but much like the present day, they did change over time (albeit much slower than modern times). At the end of the 13th century, the long flowing tunics favoured by many started to become much tighter fitting. In addition to these tunics, men also wore under shirts and briefs covered by a sleeveless jacket. The whole outfit was completed with the addition of ‘leggings’ or stockings. Sometimes medieval men would wear simple, traditional cloaks with a round neck opening (in a similar style to the monks of the day).
Medieval women, on the other hand, would often wear “kirtles”. These were essentially a kind of tunic, but tended to be much longer in nature than the ones worn by men, and many actually reached down to the ankles. Many times women would wear these tunics over a long shirt as well. The kirtles were worn really only by the poorer women in society. The richer classes of women could afford to wear extremely elaborate and luxurious dresses made from the very finest materials sourced from all around the world. These more affluent women often wore tight-fitting caps and nets over their hair. If you’d like to find out more about Medieval fashions then take a look at this great article.