The bliaut was a long gown worn by wealthy men and women beginning in the 1100s. Along with the houppelande, a long, full, outer garment, the bliaut was one of the long garments most associated with the late Middle Ages (c. 500–c. 1500). One of the most striking things about the bliaut was the sheer amount of fabric used in its construction. Bliauts had many, many folds and drapes, and thus used twice as much fabric as might be needed for a flat skirt. Women's bliauts often had hundreds of pleats.
Men's bliauts fit fairly loosely, often reaching to the ankle, and their sleeves widened at the wrist. Women's bliauts were usually close-fitting in the shoulders, torso, and upper arms, but the sleeves widened greatly from the elbow to the wrist. Women's bliauts reached all the way to the ground. Both men and women wore belts or some form of sash with their bliauts. Bliauts might have been made from fine wool or linen, but those worn by the wealthiest people were likely to have been made of silk.
It is thought that the bliaut originated in France, but it was worn by wealthy people throughout Europe. None of the actual garments have survived to the present day, so almost all that is known about the garment comes from statues that have been preserved from the Middle Ages at the Chartres Cathedral of Notre Dame in France.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Chateaumichel, Lady Arianne de. The Beautiful Bliaut: Haute Couture of Twelfth Century. http://www.chateau-michel.org/belle_bliaut.htm (accessed on July 29, 2003).
Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.