In our vision of the Gothic time period, King Arthur reigns and knights in shining armor do battle to please their lady loves. The reality of the Middle Ages is actually quite different. A time of plague and superstition, religious fervor and witch burnings it was in truth a time of social transition. The feudal system, in which a lord commanded his peasants in exchange for protection, created a caste system where there existed only the poor and very rich. Peasants lived hard lives filled with work and death. Life expectancy was low and children often did not live to see adulthood. They dressed in homespun clothing which often could not be replaced when torn to shreds. On the other hand, the nobility was robed in furs and jewels. Noble women wore long gowns of rich brocades and velvets trimmed in embroidery and fur. Men of royal birth wore tunics of similar fabrics with such adornments as their station permitted. Rich garments, topped off by unusual looking and fantastic headgear were common among the wealthy. Women often wore hennins, pointed hats now thought of as princess hats, and other less familiarly shaped hats draped with veils and trimmed to match their gowns. Men of rank wore large fur lined capes over their tunics. Interestingly enough, although fur trimming is still popular, it started as a means of keeping the ever present fleas away from one's face. Despite their inhospitable origins, Gothic costumes can make you feel like the king or queen you've always wanted to be.