As we all know, witches have existed for many centuries and continue to exist today. Many were healers, fortune tellers, soothsayers, and many more; but, some big questions that are on many witches’ mind are: what does a traditional witch’s outfit look like? What did witches wear? Are the witchy outfits of today historically accurate to what “real” witches wore? Does the broom actually have anything to do with witches? We will break down some of the traditional clothes that a witch would wear, alongside some accessories that we have come to know today as part of the witchy outfit. This brief history focuses on not just the historical accuracy of what witches used to wear, but also aims to explain where some concepts of witchy fashion came from such as her broom or pointed hat.
What Did Witches Wear Back in the Day?
When it comes to what witches wore back in the day, there was no specific outfit that all witches wore like how today we have a standard for what a witch’s outfit looks like. Keep in mind that there was a period in which magic was frowned upon, so the less their outfits made them obvious witches, the easier it would be for them to blend in with the rest of their society. Let’s start with the average outfit: a long gown reaching their shin or ankle and sometimes accompanied with an apron. During the middle ages and up, peasant women traditionally would wear long dresses accompanied by a hat or bonnet and some flats; this makes sense because witches would not be in any status of high nobility due to their profession. One distinctive feature that they would wear that was slightly different from other peasants would be darker colors such as green or black. Witches are always in tune with nature and will normally be near areas of high vegetation in order to gather herbs and spices for their spells and potions. Consider for a moment that these witches would be working with the earth, making it rather annoying if they were to wear bright colors such as white that would make it easy to stain the outfit.
While today we can buy as many outfits as we want, this was not the case back then because of how much labor, time, and money it would cost to get a second outfit, so keeping darker colored gowns would be beneficial. A witch would then wear the color green or brown because she herself would dress as the colors of the ground so that the stains from working with the earth would not be as noticeable when she has to interact with another person. Another note about this, her long gown would be slightly different by having pockets, specifically in the front because she would need a place to safely put her herbs, have easy access to the picked herbs, and to rid the burden of having to carry a bag which would limit her ability to pick herbs.
Another part of a witch’s outfit is an apron, as simple as it sounds. The idea comes from how a witch would constantly be working on casting spells, creating magical meals, crafting sigils, etc.; therefore, in order to keep her everyday clothes clean and not have to constantly wash these clothes, she would don an apron in order to prevent messes from tainting her clothing. As mentioned before, it was not so easy to acquire another outfit, so many people in general had to be careful with their outfits. While most peasants wouldn’t encounter too many reasons for the outfit to get dirty, a witch would always be in situations that could ruin or stain her outfit; making the witch want to keep her clothes very clean. To keep their outfits clean, an apron would work best for this situation. It is for this reason that in today’s time, we have apron dresses; combining both the dress that witches wore as well as the apron she would use for her day to day tasks.
Traditional Witch Outfits and Accessories
We just began to scratch the surface about what goes into the traditional witchy fashion. While the main outfit has been explored and talked about, now we will move more into details about accessories that we associate with witches in modern times. Let’s start with the iconic pointed witch hat. There are two main points for the origins of these hats: The first being the concept of pointed hats coming from inspiration of how noble women would wear similar hats. Their hats would look more like a large bonnet with a slight tip on the top, forming the pointed “triangle” look. Although most witches would not be associated with the noble class, this concept comes from the idea that a hat brought about a sense of title and status; thus donning a hat would grant witches a sort of “class” in society. The second main point comes from the idea that the Devil in Christian belief is depicted as a man wearing a tall pointed hat; taking into account how witches would be associated with the Christian Devil according to Christians, it would make sense for people to associate witches with having pointed hats.
There is also something that we must consider as to why witches would be associated with having such hats, which could be for the effect of placebo. If someone came up to you and told you they were a doctor: dressing as a doctor and using medical vocabulary, you would then assume that anything that the “doctor” said must be true and one must listen to their advice; the same goes for witches. In the old days when there were herbalists, midwives, and forest witches, the same thing would occur in which these witches would wear hats in order to convey an image. People would be skeptical as anyone could say that they could wield magic but look like an ordinary person; but, by wearing a hat, it conveys that this person is of a profession (when looking through the history of human society when it comes to hats, this is the case throughout all the centuries such as pirate captains, doctors, kings/queens, and religious leaders all wearing some form of headwear that symbolizes their status). Of course this does not have to be the case all the time, there are witches who wouldn’t necessarily wear a hat, and even more so if faithful Christians were hunting those that they interpret to be evil and consorting with their Devil.
With the pointed hat covered, let’s move on to the most stereotypical accessory that we relate with witches; her flying broom. The broom is an interesting part of the witchy fashion history. I’m going to first introduce an important document that actually made the association of brooms to witches possible: the Malleus Maleficarum. These documents changed how the public viewed women as a whole, with the motive of rooting out witches and labeling women as the enemy of the faith. This document states that women who were practicing any kind of magic, are almost always performing evil and satanic magic. The document further goes on to state that the role of women is to strictly be domestic, as in this way they will not be tempted to be drawn by “evil forces.”
Although this is a very misogynistic manual, it does however spark the origins of witches using brooms. As the people of the time believed that women should only be centered in the domestic space and nothing more, you can already imagine chores linked to the role of women during these times: washing, cleaning, taking care of the children; and most importantly, sweeping of the house with a broom. The manual itself has information on how to identify who was a witch based on very far fetched ideas such as if they were performing outside of their gender role, then they were clearly evil and must be reported. Now keep in mind that for the majority of the peasants, they did not have a proper education, which includes subjects like reading, writing, or even critical thinking. Take a peasant like that who knows not of magic and only of the spreaded words of these manuals, they could easily mistaken a woman that they suspect to be a witch; and considering that women were strictly forced to do domestic chores, an ignorant peasant’s imagination could run wild. This means that if they already suspect a woman to be a witch, she could be doing the slightest action and they would call it witchcraft; such as sweeping the broom and then having it in a position that makes them think these women were prepared to fly into the sky. Fear is also another motivator in this because for that one small instance that they saw a woman use the broom, fear amplifies the visuals and makes them believe that they saw her “flying on her broom.” Interestingly, there were multiple cases of people shouting that they saw their neighbor flying on her broom, without really staying to watch and process what is happening in reality.
We’ve covered the most popular accessories that are connected to witches, so now we will dive into the other minor accessories that a witch would have on her. Those who know of magic, will know that certain crystals/rocks contain magical properties within them; each having a different effect. Sometimes a witch would carry such a stone either on their person or as a necklace in order to tap into the rock’s magic. A lot of moon imagery in the form of jewelry is also something that some witches would have because of the association with the moon. One more common thing that witches are also associated with is a wand, which makes sense as wands are tools that witches use in order to cast her magic with more power and precision. Unfortunately, there is not too much documentation of them carrying these small symbols around them, most likely because they had to keep their homes free of any obvious witch related practice since it would get them in trouble and executed.
Modern Witch Fashion
Now that the brief history of witchy fashion has been laid out, the question is: does the modern witch fashion of today coincide with the traditional outfits of the witches of the past? This is more of a gray area as the best answer is that while most outfits and accessories today do not resemble the witches of old, as times change, so does the aesthetic. Referring back to those documents, a witch would likely want to change her outfit in order to blend in with the rest of the people, thus removing certain accessories and conforming with the social dressing norms. Just because witches had to blend in with the populous, doesn’t mean their witchy style completely disappeared. Many witches would gather in secret and wear their traditional outfits, or a new outfit that combines both the witch aesthetic and their society’s dress code. Fast forward to our time, the revival of the witchy aesthetic as a normal way of dressing became popular once more. There was even a period in the 20th century in which we can see how the development of the traditional witchy outfit transforms into modern witch outfits that we know today.
All in all, even if modern witch outfits changed the core design of traditional witch outfits, it still a part of the witch culture. As mentioned before, most witches had to integrate with the rest of the populous in order to blend in and not be found out by the opposing faith. Of course, the best way to embody the witchy aesthetic is to incorporate themes that are consistent with traditional witches; and even then you do not have to copy the outfit completely, integrate it with your common clothes such as the image above. Now more than ever are witches accepted back into common society, so remember that there is no limit to the outfit you want to convey, just always remember where your outfits originally came from and pay respect to the witches of old that have allowed their dressing style to not be forgotten. Blessed be.