Clothing in Iron Age Britain

Very few clothes have been preserved from Iron Age Britain, so we know little about the clothes that people wore at this time. Clothes made from wool, linen, skin or leather are preserved only in particular kinds of wet, cold or dry conditions. In Britain, archaeologists do not normally find clothes preserved on the sites of Iron Age farms and villages. All that normally survives are some of the tools needed to make clothes, and the pins, brooches and other ornaments that Iron Age people used to hold their clothes together or for show.

The types of clothes Iron Age Britons were likely to have worn can be inferred from rare discoveries from other parts of Europe, and from descriptions and pictures of Iron Age peoples made by the Romans who met these 'barbarians'.

It is likely that women wore a simple, long, sleeveless dress, possibly a simple tube of cloth pinned or sewn together at the shoulders. This might have been worn over a blouse or shirt. Men had been wearing trousers in northern and western Europe since the Late Bronze Age when horse riding became common and these would have been worn along with a shirt. Both sexes would have also worn cloaks.

These clothes were made from woven wool and sometimes from linen made from flax. The range of colours available to die these fabrics was very limited - brown, reds, green and blue. Rarely found items of clothing indicate the types and quality of the weaves used. Another source of information comes from impressions of textiles preserved in rust. Clothing buried next to a metal object sometimes leaves an impression of the weave preserved in the corrosion.

Leather was being made at this time. This and other animal hides could have been used for clothes, caps and for shoes. Sheep skin could also be used to make clothing, especially cloaks. Wild animal fur and the feathers from birds were also used for clothing or for decoration.

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