Padded armour is made from layered or quilted cloth packed out with padding material (typically horse hair, scrap cloth or loose fibre like raw wool or cotton) and varies from little more than heavy clothing to thick suits that reduce the wearer's mobility. This form of protection occured in most cultures at one point or another, either layered with metal armour or worn as protection in its own right.
Padded armour is typically cheaper than pretty much any other form of armour and relatively easily made from every day materials. It usually provides effective padding and is normally lighter than other forms of armour. For societies which practice heraldry a retainer's cloth armour can usually be made up into his lord's livery colours without much trouble.
Against that it provides very little protection from sharp weapons, can be extremely hot and encumbering (and often worse when wet) and attract dirt and vermin.
Typical examples include the gambeson worn in medieval Europe - either as armour in its own right, in combination with pieces of plate or as the base layer to a full suit of armour - the padded silks of China, the cloth armour of Mesoamerica and the kapok jackets worn in South-East Asia.
The linothorax armour of classical Greece, and related armours from the same region and period don't qualify as despite being made of cloth they are built on a different principle.
Game and Story Use
- Despite the contempt most RPGs show for the stuff, padded armour was standard in medieval Europe - pretty much anyone who used armour wore a gambeson, albiet often as a base layer, but it was many people's only protection, and in many other cases provided limb protection for someone wearing a breastplate or cuirass. It was also the normal outfit for much training and sparring and a lot of peacetime guard duty. In hotter climates it was even more common and in non-metal using cultures it was often Hobson's choice.