Mongolian clothing during the Great Mongolian Empire was a uniform type of Mongol dress though variations according to wealth, status, and gender did occur. These differences included the design, color, cut, and elaborateness of the outfit.
The first layer consisted of a long, ankle length robe called a caftan. Some caftans had a square collar but the majority overlapped in the front to fasten under the arm creating a slanting collar. The skirt of the caftan was sewn on separately, and sometimes ruffles were added depending on the purpose and class of the person wearing it.
Men and unmarried women tied their caftans with two belts, one thin, leather one beneath a large, broad sash that covered the stomach. Once a woman became married, she stopped wearing the sash. Instead she wore a very full caftan and some had a short-sleeved jacket that opened in the front.
For women of higher rank, the overlapping collar of their caftan was decorated with elaborate brocade and they wore full sleeves and a train that servants had to carry. For both genders, trousers were worn under the caftan probably because of the nomadic traditions of the Mongol people.
The materials used to create caftans varied according to status and wealth. They ranged anywhere from silk, brocade, cotton, and valuable furs for richer groups, to leather, wool, and felt for those less well off. Season also dictated the type of fabric worn, especially for those that could afford it.
In the summer, Middle Eastern silk and brocades were favored whereas in the winter furs were used to add additional warmth. During the Mongolian Empire, people did not believe in washing their clothes, or themselves. They refrained from doing this because it was their traditional belief that by washing, they would pollute the water and anger the dragons that controlled the water cycle.
Therefore, Mongolian clothing were often not changed until they fell off or fell apart, except for holidays when specialized robes were worn. Because of this, the smell of the outfit was seen as an important aspect of the wearer. For example, if the Great Khan were to give his previously worn clothing (with his smell on it) to a loyal subject, it would be considered a great honor to have not only the clothing, but the smell as well.
Color was also an important characteristic of Mongolian clothing because it had important symbolic meaning. During large festivities held by the Khan, he would give his important diplomats special robes to wear with specific colors according to what was being celebrated. These were worn only during the specific festival, and if one was caught wearing it at other times, punishments were extremely severe.
The footwear of the traditional Mongolian Empire consisted mainly of boots or leather sandals made out of cow fur. This footwear was thick. Both the left foot and the right foot were identical and they were made of leather, cotton, or silk. Many layers were sewn together to create the sole of the boot then separately made uppers were attached.
The upper sections of the boots were usually dark in color and the soles were light. Light strips of fabric were sewn over the seams to make them more durable. Boots usually had a pointed or upturned toe but lacked a heel. Click for more information