For the knight in the Middle Ages women’s clothes were very important. Not just any clothes, of course. The striving for the courtly love of a noble woman was one of the most important quests for a knight. The search did not necessarily have to end successfully. You could say that the journey was the reward. The search for courtly love, even if it lasted the knight’s whole life, gave his life a meaning.
If, however, his biddings were rewarded, the knight could consider himself very lucky. No special occasion was necessary for the woman to donate her grace to her chosen knight, but in the sources tourneys are often named. This is something we are well used to because this situations is portrayed in a lot of movies and series.
And indeed, this picture was very real and not uncommon in the Middle Ages. One important difference is that not handkerchiefs were given to the knights, but whole parts of the clothing. The sleeves of the dresses were very common gifts. On many medieval pictures you can see, that the sleeves of these dresses were very long in most cases. It was important, that the woman had worn the chosen part of her clothing on her skin.
These gifts were not only fastened on the knight’s lance. Often the knights put them on their shields. The sources even tell us tht sometimes knights wore whole upper parts of dresses over their armour when they rode into battle or took part in a tourney.
It is interesting that the women’s clothes were often fastened to parts that were designed to protect the knight. It is quite thinkable that the knights hoped for an increased protection, maybe through the blessing of the woman’s love which was seen as a divine blessing.
Bumke, Joachim. Höfische Kultur. Literatur und Gesellschaft im hohen Mittelalter. 12. Auflage 2008. München, 1986.