Smocked Shirt and Apron

 Today my friend, Tiff, tagged me on FB and told me she wanted to learn to smock an apron.  I realized that I hadn’t posted this yet, so here you go, Girl!!!!


16th Century German Pleatwork Hemd and Halbrock 

By Countess Kissa Irminwiht, Stella Nova 2015

 Section 1: What is it?

The first item is a 16th century German pleatwork hemd, or smocked shirt (Image 1).  The shirt was considered to be an undergarment and was primarily to keep body oils from getting onto the outer garments.  The second item is a 16th century German pleatwork halbrock, or half-skirt apron (Image 2).  For ease of use, I will refer to the hemd and halbrock as shirt and apron for the duration of this paper. (Textiler Hausrat, 1990)

Although these particular entries are 16th century, they were used in the 15th century, particularly in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, England and Spain.  While this style of shirt would be worn by both men and women, I made this particular shirt for myself.  The pleatwork on this shirt is more common to the middle/lower classes and particularly the Landsknecht (German and Swiss mercenaries) and Trossfrau (their camp followers) (Image 3).   The higher class pleatwork shirts would use much more fabric, have tighter pleats and be decorated with more elaborate embroidery/pleatwork (Image 4).  This style of pleatwork is correct for my early 16th century Trossfrau wardrobe (see images 1, 2 and 3).  There are several styles of pleated shirts depicted in this time period showing variations of the neck as closed, or open.  As I am not sure if I will even like wearing the high-necked shirt, I chose to leave the neck open. Should I decide later on that I wish to close it, I can attach two sets of ties to the edge of the collar to secure the neck.

The apron had two uses in 16th century Germany: to keep the dirt from soiling the outer garments and as a decorative part of women’s clothing (Image 5). Aprons were worn in this period by all marriageable women while working inside the home, venturing  outside the home and to formal occasions. The submitted apron has been decorated more than the Schurz, a purely functional apron, but less than the valuable Frauenschurz. (Textiler Hausrat, 1990) The higher the status, the more ornate the pleatwork, embroidery and drawn-thread work would be on the apron.   The style of apron represented here would have been worn by women in the middle and lower classes, as well as in the Tross.  It is representative of that of a seamstress, wife of a craftsman, or wife of a Landsknecht officer.



Item 1: Beham, Hans Sebald, Title: Heerestross, Detail: Buben und Frauen, Date: ca. 1530



Item 2: Schoen, Erhard, Title: Der Schneider als Landsknecht und die Näherin, Detail – The Seamstress, Date: ca. 1535


 Image 3: Artist: Beham, Hans Sebald, Title: Heerestross, Detail: Verwundeter im Zug, Date: ca. 1530



Image 4: Holbein the Younger, Hans, Title:  Two Nobles, Date: ca. 1526



Image 5: Geburt des Hl. Nikolaus Dieses Bild:  Detail of back of dress. Embroidered apron, Date: ca 1514

Image 6: Genoveva von Lubeck, High-necked Hemd pattern, 2015


Image 7: Lee Ann Posavad, period high-necked hemd pattern


Section II: How is it made?

Both a shirt and apron (of this status) would have primarily been made of linen fabric and linen thread.  Linen shirts were made white or natural colored, while aprons were almost always white, red, or black (Textiler Hausrat, 1990).  The construction, as well as the pleatwork would have all been done with the same linen thread.  I am happy to say that I also used 100% linen fabrics and 100% linen threads to pleat and construct both of these items!

The pattern that I chose to use to construct the shirt was taken from an article (von Lubeck, 2015) and I have not yet been able to confirm its authenticity (Image 6).  The basic cut and construction are the same as most rectangular construction shirts of 15th and 16th century Germany, with the exception of the neck (Image 7).  I chose this pattern in order to cut down on the bulk that would end up in the high collar.  I was unsure how much the extra fabric would affect the structure of the collar and the neckline.  I wanted to have an open-neck shirt and most of the examples I found of shirts with the entire top pleated into the collar were for closed neck shirts.

In period there would’ve been only a few items used for this project: scissors, snips, pins, needles, thread, thimble and probably some sort of ruler or guide.  There is some conjecture (and a few woodcuts) that show that a pleating frame (Image 8) may have been used in period, (von Lubeck, 2015).  I chose not to construct and use a pleatwork frame, because I don’t think my physical limitations would allow me to do so.  I am unable to hold my arms up for more than a few seconds and the frame looks as though it is ALL arm work.  I also feel that if you were in the Tross, you would probably not be hauling around a large, upright frame just to do pleatwork.   I had to use modern needles and pins out of necessity.  I do not have period-style scissors, but did use a pair of forged snips which I often use for hand sewing.  I did not use a thimble, because I never do!  The linen thread I chose to use my favorite for hand sewing.  It is imported from Sweden and a weight of 35/2.

In period they may have marked their “smocking dots” using either chalk, or by making a small hole in the fabric – I chose to use a modern disappearing ink pen so that I would not run the risk of my markings disappearing before I completed my project (Image 9).  Although I am unable to confirm it, I do feel that they would have had some sort of guide for measuring out their pleats.  I don’t know if it would’ve been a piece of wood with marks or holes in/on it, or if it was a piece of wood with nails sticking out at specific intervals to make the holes in the fabric (as is speculated to be the top of the pleatwork frame) (von Lubeck, 2015).   I do know that when you are marking that many dots, you need some form of guide or ruler.  For example, the distance between the marks on the shirt collar and cuffs are a very consistent 1cm.

The pleating method I chose to use for both items is “fold pleating” rather than “gravity pleating”, or “press pleating”.  I chose this method because not only is it the method I am familiar with, but I did not have to construct a pleatwork frame, or a press.  The “fold pleating” method consists of marking the fabric at the desired intervals, basting the fabric in a line using the “smocking dots” and then gathering the fabric by pulling the basting threads (Images 10, 11).  Once the threads are gathered up, the pleats can be left as they are, or further creased by pinching them between your fingers, smoothing with stones, or even starching (Nutz, 2012).  I chose to further crease my pleats by pinching them between my fingers both just after gathering and while embroidering.  The pleatwork embroidery is then done by stitching the pleats together in different patterns to create the desired effect (Image 12).



Image 8: Detail: Furm oder model büchlein, a 16th century modelbook, unknown author(s)
(also note smocked collar on woman front left!)



Image 9: my supplies



Image 10: “smocking dots”



Image 11: completed pleats, first row of embroidery completed



Image 12: completed pleatwork neckline on shirt


Section III: Conclusions/Lessons Learned

While in the planning stages of the pleatwork pattern, I did actually make several samples of the patterns.  These samples were based on different pleat depths, widths and patterns to ensure that I would obtain my desired effect (Image 13).  I also considered using a simpler pattern (the honeycomb) for the shirt due to my time constraints, but my preference for the original pattern won out!  Based upon many of the surviving woodcuts, honeycomb is a very popular (and very simple) pleatwork pattern.  It is often seen on the necklines and cuffs of shirts, as well as on aprons (as on mine) (Image 2).   In an effort to try something new, for my shirt I decided on my original pleatwork pattern of a modified (elongated) honeycomb.  In my apron, I used they honeycomb as well as the trellis stitch through the center.  I chose the trellis stitch for its more decorative effect on an otherwise fairly ordinary apron.

I chose to make both items the way I did for two reasons: it is the process I am familiar with and I achieved my desired results!  It is important to me personally that my shirt and apron be sewn by hand using period supplies and patterns because that is what I want to represent.  I enjoy the process, as well as “the look” I achieve when I am able to create an item in this way.  For me, the joy is in the doing!

I have used my apron several times and I have learned that the linen I used for the tie apparently IS NOT the same color as the body of the apron!  I did learn that not laundering the shirt linen (de Gothia) did not seem to make a difference to me when pleating the fabric.  I also learned that I hate lining pleated cuffs and collars and I may not do that in the future unless it is necessary (Image 14).  There are extant examples of lined and unlined pleated cuffs and/or collars, so I feel that I can proceed as the item dictates (Images 15, 16).

I believe that I would make the shirt differently next time as I am not completely happy with the body of the pleats.  I may try thicker weight linen, or fold over the neckline fabric to attempt to achieve a fuller appearance in my pleats (de Gothia).  I am extremely pleased with the apron and have no plans to alter it, or my apron-pleating process at this time.


Image 13: samples made to gauge pleat depth and distance



Image 14: lining the cuffs of the shirt



Image 15: extent hemd cuff Date: ca. 16th century, Alpirsbach Monastery



Image 16: inside lining of extent pleatwork cuff   Date: ca. 16th century, Alpirsbach Monastery


Section IV: Sources/Bibliography

Zander-Seidel, Jutta (1990 – second edition). Textiler Hausrat: Kleidung und

            Haustextilien in Nurnberg von 1500-1650, sections 1.2.5, 1.5.1

(K. Barich & C. Crill, Trans.)



Enkevoerth, Count August Johann Breunner. (2013) Landsknecht Woodcuts:

Kriegsvolker im Zeitalter der Landsknechte. (M. McNealy, Ed.) pg. 24

ISBN: 0615919944


Arnold, Janet, Jenny Tiramani, and Santina M. Levey (2008). Patterns of Fashion 4: The

Cut and Construction of Linen Shirts, Smocks, Neckwear, Headwear and Accessories for Men and Women C. 1540-1660


Nutz, Beatrix (2012). How to Pleat a Shirt in the 15th Century: In Archaeological Textiles

Review 54, pages 79-91  


Posavad, Lee Ann (2003-2005).  “Cut and Construction of the Pleatwork Embroidered Shirt”, article


von Lubeck, Genoveva (2015). “Pleatwork in the 15th and 16th Centuries: An Introduction

To Pleatwork (m.k.a. smocking)”, article


Additional assistance, inspiration and instruction provided by Viscountess Mistress Whilja de Gothia of Caid (m.k.a: Malin Ahlen-Cordero)

St. Birgitta’s Cap

Make and Take class taught by Countess Kissa Irminwiht – Great Western War, Oct. 2017

The “St. Birgitta’s Cap” is an extent linen cap attributed to Saint Birgitta of Sweden (1303-1373) and is currently on display in the Marie Refugie convent in Udon, Netherlands.  Although no formal testing has been done, it is thought to be from the 13th century.  During a conservation carried out in 1973, it was thought to be a 14th century style men’s coif, but is now generally accepted as a women’s cap.

The cap today –


Fig.1: St. Birgitta’s cap during conservation, as published by Aron Andersson and Anne Marie Franzen, Medieval Clothing and Textiles Vol. 4, Fig. 6.1

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Fig. 2: The cap today in the Marie Refuge Convent, Photo: Isis Sturtewagen, Medieval Clothing and Textiles Vol. 4, Fig. 6.2

 Examples in art –

Aside from this extent piece, caps resembling it can be seen several times in works such as The Maciejowski (Morgan) Bible, the Murthly Hours, and a breviary from Cambrai. These illustrations show this style of cap being worn from the early 13th thru the late 14th centuries.  These caps are depicted as being worn alone, or as a base for more complex headwear, like a fillet and barbet.

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Fig. 3: Maciejowski (Morgan) Bible, c. 1260-1300


Fig. 4: Maciejowski (Morgan) Bible, c. 1260-1300

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Fig. 5: Maciejowski (Morgan) Bible, c. 1260-1300   (cap being worn under a hood)


Fig. 6: Murthly Hours, c.1280

Construction –

The cap is made entirely of linen – the two halves of the cap, the embroidered band, the tie, and the openwork embroidered stitch that joins the two halves.  In most depictions the two halves of the cap are solidly joined and show no openwork embroidery.  There is not much detail shown, so it is unknown if they usually had embroidery along the front edge, or if that was for a higher status cap like that of St. Birgitta.  The embroidered band on the extent cap is made of slightly different linen, and is theorized to have been taken from a previous item and not crafted specifically for the cap.  The extant cap is made of 4 parts: 2 halves, an embroidered front band, and a long strap.  The embroidered band goes from edge to edge along the front of the cap and covers the gathers on the sides of the 2 halves.  The strap is attached to the hat underneath the embroidered front band.  I have found that for everyday wear, it is easier to make the front band and long strap as one piece.

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Fig. 7: Proposed step-by-step construction of the cap. Drawings by: Isis Sturtewagen and Camilla Luise Dahl. Medieval Clothing and Textiles Vol. 4, Fig. 6.13

Make your own –

Step 1. Cut both sides of your cap and pin along the curve.  My halves usually measure approximately 12″ wide and 13″ long.  I usually use a 1/2″ sem allowance on this, so it leaves me room to finish the seams.  Sew both sides together with a simple running stitch, stopping with 3.5” left before the bottom.  This will leave you with the split at the bottom of the 2 halves – turn this under and hem.

Step 2. Gather the bottom edges of both sides of your cap and tie them off.  The finished gathered measurement should be approximately 2-3”, depending on your head size and amount of hair to be contained in the cap.  I have a 22” head and very short, fine hair, so my gathers are closer to 2” – if you have a larger head, thick hair, a lot of hair, you may even need to go to 4”.

Step 3. Cut the long strip that will be used for the front and tie of the cap.  Cut this strip approximately 80” long and 2” wide.  Fold in half, then fold in the edges ¼” to form a bias tape-like strip.

Step 4. Pin your strip starting at the bottom of the back of one side of the cap, continue along the front edge, and the other side.  Continue to pin the remaining strap to itself, then pin the ends together.

Step 5. Sew the strap to the cap and itself using your stitch of choice (usually a stab stitch, or whip), forming a cap with an attached long loop.  This loop is what you use to keep the cap on your head.  Place the cap on, and cross the two sides of the ties over each other at the nape of your neck.  Next, bring the pieces up and cross them at the front of your head.  Now, settle the loop on the back of your head – it does not need to go under the cap – it should stay at the back of your head without any additional fastening.  If you feel that the strap is too long, you can shorten it.  If it feels too short and not secure, the strap can be fastened to the back of the cap with veil pins.  Now you’re ready to wear your cap – remember that it can be worn alone, under a hood, or as a great base to pin your veil to.

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Fig. 8: A possible arrangement of the band to secure the cap to the head. Drawing: Isis Sturtewagen and Camilla Luise Dahl, Medieval Clothing and Textiles Vol.4, Fig. 6.11


Sources –

Medieval Textiles and Clothing 4 (eds. Netherton, R. & Owen-Crocker, G.R.):

Dahl, C.L. & Sturtewagen, I. 2008. “The Cap of St. Birgitta”, 99-129

Dahl, C.L. & Sturtewagen, I. 2008. “Appendix 6.1. The Construction of St. Birgitta’s Cap”. 130-134

Dahl, C.L. & Lester, A.M. 2008. “Appendix 6.2. The Embroidery on St. Birgitta’s Cap”. 135-142 (online copy of the Maciejowski (Morgan) Bible) (online copy of the Murthly Hours)


Additional Tutorials –  (tutorial on the embroidery-like inset)

Introduction to Pleatwork (smocking)

This is the handout that accompanied my beginning pleatwork class, taught at the Royal University of Meridies, July 2016.

Smocking, known in period as pleatwork, was the Middle Ages answer to elastic.  Not only is it decorative, it’s also a way to constrict lots of fabric into a smaller area, particularly the neckline and cuffs of shirt or gowns.  It has been documented in art as early as the Lutrell Psalter made during the first half of the 14th century and was in use well thru the 18th and 19th centuries.  It is still used mundanely to decorate children’s clothing.  Most patterns in use modernly are not period, but there is evidence of the three stitches you will be learning today: honeycomb, trellis/wave and outline.

In period there were several ways for the pleats to be formed: “gathered pleating”, “fold pleating”, or “press pleating”.   Fold pleating appears to be the earliest form of pleating and is done by folding the pleats, then pinning or sewing them into place.  Press pleating is done by folding the wet fabric into pleats and then pressing it together as tightly as possible until dried.  There are several theories about how this was done, but so far no extant manuals or definitive press pleating tools have been discovered.  The method we will be using today is gathered pleating, which is still commonly used today.  It consists of marking dots at specific intervals, then gathering them together with thread to create the actual pleats.  In period, these dots would have been made using chalk, or by poking small holes into the fabric.  Personally, I prefer to use Frixon markers, which come out of the fabric with water, or heat from an iron – they can be purchased at most office supply stores, or on Amazon.

Today, we will be using a piece of needlepoint canvas as a guide and washable markers to create the smocking dots.  Before making your final piece, I recommend making several “samplers” – use your canvas to mark your dots at different intervals to decide on what size you want your designs to be, and how much fabric you will need for your finished project.  The practice piece I have given you has the dots marked with 2 squares between each.

Once your fabric is marked, you will need to have a piece of thread for each row that is at least as long as the fabric.  You will want to make sure that there is a very big knot at the end, to prevent it from pulling out of the fabric as you gather all of them together.  Some people prefer to tie all of their gathering strings together once the fabric has been gathered – if doing a wide area of pleatwork, I usually tie them separately, or together two at a time to prevent the area from distorting.  Once your fabric has been gathered, you are ready to begin smocking!!

If you are going to be smocking something that is larger, like an apron, you may want to begin with a stem stitch, to ensure that your pleats will stay at a regular distance.  I find that this is particularly helpful if you are doing a wave, or trellis stitch where the pleats need to stay at a uniform distance between each other.  The stem stitch (shown below) is the same as an embroidery stem stitch.


The most common and easiest of smocking stitches is the honeycomb.  The most important thing to remember when using the honeycomb is that it must be done with an odd number of rows in order for the design to come out completely.  The honeycomb stitch is started by bringing the needle up from the center of a pleat, bringing it down in the center of the next pleat, and going around twice.  The next step is to bring the needle up into the center of the pleat that is in the row below and to the right, bringing it down in the center of the next pleat and going around twice.  Continue on by bringing the needle up thru the center of the pleat that is back up a row and to the right, bring it down in the center of the next pleat and go around twice.  This pattern will be continued up and down until both rows are finished, then you will knot your thread off and move to the next row down!  The honeycomb stitch can be modified to make shapes that are more like lozenges, or straight pleats.  The size and depth of your honeycomb is determined by the amount of space you leave between your dots and rows – the more room, the larger and shallower your combs.


The second stitch is the wave, or trellis stitch.  If the rows remain unjoined, with room inbetween and the rows peak at the same places, they will be a wave stitch.  If the waves meet and peak at alternating places, they will form a trellis.  The stitch is the same, but the placement of the stitches will change the pattern.  To begin the stitch, bring your needle up at the center of the top pleat, then down into the center of the next one.  Bring your needle up into the center of the same pleat, just below where you entered the pleat, then bring your needle down into the next pleat.  Repeat by bringing your needle up into the center of that same pleat, just below where you entered the pleat.  When you have reached the bottom of your wave, you will bring your needle up into the center of the next pleat slightly ABOVE where you entered your last pleat.



Pleatwork/smocking examples:


Figure1    figure1


Figure 2    figure2

Figure 3    figure3



Figure 1: Schoen, Erhard, Title: Der Schneider als Landsknecht und die Näherin, Detail – The Seamstress, Date: ca. 1535

Figure 2: extent hemd cuff Date: ca. 16th century, Alpirsbach Monastery

Figure 3: Luttrell Psalter   1320 – 1340 England



Nutz, Beatrix (2012). How to Pleat a Shirt in the 15th Century: In Archaeological Textiles

Review 54, pages 79-91  


Posavad, Lee Ann (2003-2005).  “Cut and Construction of the Pleatwork Embroidered

Shirt”, article


von Lubeck, Genoveva (2015). “Pleatwork in the 15th and 16th Centuries: An Introduction

To Pleatwork (m.k.a. smocking)”, article


Enkevoerth, Count August Johann Breunner. (2013) Landsknecht Woodcuts:

Kriegsvolker im Zeitalter der Landsknechte. (M. McNealy, Ed.) pg. 24

ISBN: 0615919944


Smocking by Penelope, A Needlecraft Publication (vintage) (via: www.tipnut/smocking)













Pimped Out Plumes!!!! (AKA: Decorated Ostrich Plumes as Illustrated in “The First Book of Fashion: The Books of Clothes of Matthaus and Viet Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg”)

This is the documentation for my Meridian Kingdom Arts and Sciences Competition in May 2016.  I’ve added another section based on feedback I received and further experimentation. Plumes AND gold… win/win!!


These are examples of decorated ostrich plumes/feathers as illustrated and described in “The First Book of Fashion: The Books of Clothes of Matthaus and Viet Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg”.  The first book was started by Matthaus Schwarz in 1520 as a way of showcasing his favorite outfits and accessories. Upon its completion in 1541, Matthaus convinced his second son, Viet Konrad, to create his own (the second book) which ends in 1561.  Hereafter, “The First Book of Fashion: The Books of Clothes of Matthaus and Viet Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg” will be referred to as “The First Book of Fashion”. In addition to the illustrations, the gilded feathers are described in the commentaries of the 2015 publishing by Ulinka Rublack and Maria Hayward.  Here are the excerpts from the commentary on the feathers featured in “The First Book of Fashion”, followed by their corresponding illustrations.

“… he wears a bright red bonnet … It is decorated with very large, alternating red and white ostrich feathers, which radiate out from the brim.  The shafts of the feather have been gilded…”  Pgs. 99, 264-265 (Plume #1, Image 1)

“His is wearing a dark gray bonnet… It is decorated with lots of big, black ostrich feathers with gilded quills.  Pgs. 123, 284-285 (Plume #1, Image 2)

“He is wearing a large brimmed dark brown bonnet…The brim is decorated with lots of black ostrich feathers.  The veins of the feathers are gilded.Pgs. 125, 286 (Plumes #2, 3, 4, Image 3)

“He has a red bonnet… The crown has been trimmed with several large, white ostrich feathers, which have been dyed black at the ends and augmented with gilt aglets.” Pgs. 134, 293 (Plumes #5, 6, Image 4)

“He has a black bonnet … The brim is decorated with lots of black ostrich feathers, which have been gilded.” Pgs. 146, 303 (Plumes #2, 3, 4, Image 5)


kas1         Image 1

kas2Image 2

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kas4Image 4

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Plumes/Items #1, 2, 3, and 4 are gilded using different techniques and materials.  Plumes/Items #5, 6 are not gilded, but decorated using two styles of period aglets.  These plumes would have been used to decorate the hats of fashionable, middle to upper-class 16th century German men and women.

In the 16th century, these feathers would have been made using two different techniques.  The first is gold leaf, attached to the plumes with animal glue, or an adhesive made of linseed oil and pigments.  This was mentioned in “The Craftsman’s Handbook”, but it did not specify what exact pigments were used.  The second technique that may also have been employed used liquid gilding/”shell gold”, which is made by grinding gold leaf and adding mordents, such as gum Arabic.  The adhesives and liquid gilding would both be applied using brushes.  The curving of the plume is done by hand and before any gilding.  The curling of the veins would have been done using either the flat of a sharp knife, or a dull one.  The pointy aglets would have been made of brass and sewn onto the feathers with linen thread.  The ball-style aglets would’ve been gilded beads that were also attached to the feathers with linen thread.

Plume #1 was curved, then gilded using a gold leaf pen.   Plume #2 was gilded using gold leaf and Elmer’s glue, then curled.  Plume #3 was gilded using Liquid Leaf, curled, then decorated with an aglet consisting of beads that were also gilded with Liquid Leaf.  Plume #4 was also gilded using Liquid Leaf, but applied to a different part of the feather (the vein), using a different painting technique. Plume #5 was not gilded, but was curled, then decorated with five handmade brass aglets. Plume #6 was not gilded, but curved and decorated with three aglets made of beads gilded with Liquid Leaf.  All of the aglets attached to Plumes #5 and 6 were sewn on using linen thread.

To recreate the plumes, I used a number of materials.  For the gilding, I applied gold leaf with Elmer’s white glue; Liquid Leaf; and a gold leaf pen.  I was unsure what to use to apply the gold leaf, so an Illumination Laurel friend of mine suggested Elmer’s white glue.  Upon further research, I should have used animal glue, but was unable to obtain any at the time.  Before application, I lightly brushed over the quills with sand paper to help the gold adhere to the feather.  The gold leaf and Liquid Leaf were both applied using a standard, small-tipped, paintbrush (Image 6).  For the aglets, I used pre-made beads (which I gilded with Liquid Leaf); pre-made head pins; and jump rings; and attached them using linen thread.  To curl Plumes # 2 and 3 I used a butter knife and scissors.

kas6 Image 6

I tried to make period liquid gilding, but the attempt was unsuccessful.  The gold leaf available to me was of lesser quality, so it would not turn to dust when ground.  After 30 minutes of me attempting to grind the leaf, and an additional 30 minutes attempted by my husband, I moved on. (Images 7, 8)

“…take a number of leaves of fine gold according to the work which you want to do… say ten to twenty leaves.  Put them on your porphyry slab, and work this gold up well with some well beaten white of egg; and then put it into a little glazed dish. Put in enough tempera to make it flow from the quill or the brush; and you may do any work you want with it. You may likewise grind it with gum Arabic, for use on parchment.”

(Cennini 102)

Due to the lack of success in making “shell gold/period liquid gilding, I had to resort to the use of commercially available “Liquid Leaf”.  I feel that this is a comparable, and acceptable modern alternative to the period liquid gilding.

I was unable to obtain or make period adhesives, such as animal glue, or thickened linseed oil mixed with various pigments (The Craftsman’s Handbook, 1960).  For lack of a better alternative, and at the suggestion of an Illumination Laurel friend of mine, I used Elmer’s white glue as an adhesive to attach the gold leaf to the plume’s veins and quill. References for panels, statues, etc. show that bole should be used to attach the gold leaf to the object – bole is a type of soft, red clay that is mixed with animal glue and composes the base layer for the gilding (Sandu, Afonso, Murta, De Sa 49). In order to gild the item, you would

“…burnish the bole briskly…using the brush with your right hand, wet down as much of

the bole as is to receive the leaf of gold which you have in your hand… Then carefully

bring the gold up to the water on the bole… Now, as soon as you have brought the gold

into contact with the water, instantly and quickly draw your hand… toward you… And

lay some more leaves in the same way…” (Thompson Jr. 80-81).

If I had unlimited funds, I would have ordered expensive gold leaf and bole just to see if it could be used on feathers!

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To curve the plume, you take the quill between your thumb, forefinger and middle finger.  Begin at the middle of the feather and pull it towards the top, curving it while you go.  Each feather will naturally begin to curve to either the right, or left.  Continue working your fingers, following the feather’s natural leaning, until you have the desired curve to your plume (Ahlen-Cordero).

To curl the quills, I used a butter knife, and a pair of scissors (Ahlen-Cordero).  In period they would have used a knife. I was unsure which would work better, but in head-to-head competition, the butter knife wins.  I began with the base of the vein pressed to the flat of the knife and pull the feather – like curling a ribbon for a package. The scissors were too sharp and cut too many of the veins, but the dull knife (or back-side) curled just as well and cut off less veins (Image 9).

kas9 Image 9

I used Liquid Leaf to gild the pre-made beads and purchased the head pins and jump rings to attach them to (Images 10, 11).  Ideally, I would prefer to lamp-work the beads, but at the current time, do not have the space to set up my torch.  The pointy, brass aglets were handmade by my husband, Gunnar Jorgenson.

kas10Image 10

kas11Image 11

One of the illustrations specifically shows red and white feathers, and another lists white plumes which had been dyed black at the ends.  My teacher, Malin-Ahlen Cordero has attempted to dye feathers using period techniques, but has had very limited success.  Dying plumes is definitely something I would like to try in the future.  The feathers I used were ones that I had on hand, and their colors do not exactly match those shown in the book.

When I first found the description of the decorated feathers, I attempted to recreate one using a gold leaf pen on just the quill (Plume #1).  I felt that it was a pretty good result for something “quick and dirty”.  Upon further discussion with Mistress Whilja de Gothia (Ahlen-Cordero) we attempted together via Skype to use gold leaf on just the quill of the plume… and failed miserably (Image 12).  It was at this point I decided that I needed to do some experimenting.  For me, the next logical step was to use Liquid Leaf… then try the gold leaf again… then try to make “shell”/liquid gilding with the period recipe.  I did all of these things, as you can see in finished Items #1-6, here in the documentation, and my “in progress” examples.

kas12Image 12

Through the trial and error process, I discovered that the different methods brought about different looks and, I surmise, were probably used by people with different budgets.  Throughout the Renaissance, the purity of gold leaf fluctuated (Sandu, Afonso, Murta, De Sa 52).  Also, gold leaf was made by specially trained artisans who would literally beat the gold (and alloys) into sheets.  The thickness of today’s gold leaf at .5 microns is substantially thinner than period gold leaf which was 2-4 microns (Sandu, Afonso, Murta, De Sa 53).  I speculate that because of the labor and varying purity, the liquid form of gilding may have been cheaper.  Personally, I chose to primarily use the gold leaf and Liquid Leaf because those were the most successful in application and final appearance.

Throughout this process I have learned several things.  The most personally fulfilling thing is that I was the person who found the reference to the feathers – not my friends; the four 16th Century German Costuming Laurels, or the professional Milliner!   I learned that gold leaf is a pain in the behind and needs a much steadier hand than I am often capable of (Image 13).  I learned that while gold leaf shines like nothing else, but for ease of use, Liquid Leaf wins.  I learned that it is not possible for me to make “shell” gold/liquid gilding using a period recipe and cheap gold leaf.  To be honest, even if I could afford the real stuff, I’m not sure that I could physically grind it.  And lastly, I learned not to use scissors to curl feathers, because I try to rush and end up cutting off too many veins.

kas13Image 13

After fairly extensive experimentation, I do not think that there is much that I would do differently.  I feel that I have come upon a good method and unless I find additional documentation, I will continue as is. I am pleased with the finished products, especially #2 (black curled with gold leaf) and #3 (white curled with Liquid Leaf) and see myself making many more in the future.  I would like to try attaching the aglets with silk thread, rather than linen and possibly sewing them to silk ribbons before attaching them to the plumes.  I would also like to do some more experimenting with animal glue and gold leaf.  For a project based upon only five examples, found listed in one book, I feel that I was able to recreate a reasonable facsimile.  Based upon the small size of the paintings and the brief descriptions, I think that I have come as close as anyone could.


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Addendum: Several months after this project, I was gifted with some real gold leaf to gild a white ostrich plume for a friend.  At the suggestion of one of my judges, Master Baron Thomas Paumer, I used hide glue to adhere the leaf to the plume.  He had warned me that humidity may affect the bonding of the leaf to the plume, but I have not had any problems.  I did warn the recipient of the plume to keep it dry and not wear it during humid or rainy weather, so hopefully it will have a long and shiny life ahead.  Before gilding the white plume, I thought it best to practice on a black plume that I had lying around the house.  The process I used was the same as the white glue and faux gold leaf (Image 14).  I applied the hide glue with a fan brush, allowed it a minute to become tacky, then applied the leaf using tweezers.  I gave the plume 24 hours for the glue to dry, then I used a soft cloth to attempt to burnish/polish the leafing.  It did give it a bit more shine.  After polishing, I separated the veins using and x-acto knife and my thumbnail, just as with the earlier plumes (Item 7).

feather1Image 14

In the end, I did not find a noticeable, visual difference between the plume that was recreated with the white glue and faux gold leaf sheets (similar to Item 2) and the one done with hide glue and actual gold leaf sheets (Image 15).  In some ways, it was a bit disappointing.  However, it does make me happy to now know for sure that I can recreate the same look and feel using less expensive, and more durable modern materials.

feather  Image 15

Sources Cited:

Rublack, Ulinka, Maria Hayward and Jenny Tiramani (2015) The First Book of Fashion: The Book of Clothes of Matthaus and Viet Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg pgs: 99, 123, 125, 134, 146, 264-265, 284-285, 286, 293, 303

Sandu, Irina Criana Anca, Luis Urbano Afonso, Elsa Murta and Maria Helena De Sa (2010) Gilding Techniques in Religious Art Between East and West, 14th – 18th Centuries: International Journal of Conservation Science, Volume 1, Issue 1 pgs: 49, 52

Cennini, Cennino d’Andrea (1960) The Craftsman’s Handbook

(D. Thompson, Jr., Trans.) pgs.: 80-81, 102

General Sources:

Additional assistance provided by:

Malin Ahlen-Cordero (Viscountess Mistress Whilja de Gothia, OL), Lalena Hutton (Mistress Adelheit Schwarzenkatze, OL), Brad Moore (Freiherr Nicolas L’Anguille, OL), James Supp (Master Sir Roland Ansbacher, OL, KSCA), Meg Vaughan (Mistress Allisandra Fiore, OL), Tom Saucer (Baron Master Thomas Paumer, OL) and Victoria Ruhl (THL Madelena da Firenze)

Landsknecht Hot Pants: It’s NOT All About the Booty

At The SCA 50 Year War, a couple of women from Drachenwald (Sweden) were wearing Landsknecht Short Hosen.  Several ladies here in Meridies (Tennessee/Alabama/Georgia) expressed an interest in making their own to wear during our very hot summer months.  I decided to test this out at Great Western War with a group of German costuming friends living in Caid.  We had “Hot Pants Friday” and I think it was a success – we had a great time, tried new things and did it all historically!  This hand-out was written to help guide “The German Women’s Hot Pants Revolution: Southern Division”, so please keep that in mind while you read it.  Here’s a picture of “The Western Division” celebrating at Great Western War.


So called “German/Landsknecht Hot Pants” were worn by the Landsknecht, who were male German mercenaries in the early to mid-16th century.  They were known for their ferocity and their flamboyant style of dress.  It is believed that the “hot pants”, or short-style hosen evolved along with the rest of their clothing – thru necessity.  The Landsknecht modeled themselves after the Swiss Reislaufer mercenaries who would repair their battle-damaged clothing with whatever fabric was available.  They were also known to have received pieces of velvet and brocade as payment for their services – but this was usually only for higher ranking officers.  As the arms or legs of their clothing would be damaged, they would repair, or replace it with a different color or type of fabric, adding to their “gaudy” appearance.

The shorts can be worn in several different ways.  They can be worn as shorts and with both legs the same length.  They can be worn with one leg as a short and on leg the regular or full hosen length.  Finally, they can be worn as shorts with separate legs made to tie onto them at the bottom to create full length hosen.  Some of the shorts truly are “booty style” with almost no leg to them at all, but many seem to have a few inches of rise.  The waistline in the 16th century was by no means a low-rise – it was at your natural waist.  Your natural waist is the point at which your torso begins to bend when you bend over to left or right at roughly a 90 degree angle.  This point is usually near the bottom of your rib cage.


Unknown Engraver:  The Four Books on Medicine by Octavius Horatianus and the Three Books by Abū Al-Qāsim, Distinguished Among All Surgeons – 1532






These pants cannot be worn alone… you will need several other items to complete your look!   First and foremost, you will need a shirt, or hemd.  I recommend using white handkerchief weight linen – I have not seen any evidence that hemds were made of any other color of linen.  These shirts can be made as fancy, or as plain as you want – many of the higher ranking officers had shirts that had smocked cuffs and collars – some were a simple honeycomb, some more intricate patterns.  For a standard shirt (un-smocked) you will need approximately 2.5 yards of linen.  This will be for the rectangular (or if you’re short, square) body panels, rectangular sleeves, square armpit gussets and banding for the neck and cuffs.


No Landsknecht outfit is complete without a hat!!  There are several styles of headwear that can be worn with your “hot pants”, depending on what style you like best.  The most basic is a schalppe, which is a wool cap lined in linen with slashes and flaps that come down over the ears to tie.  The next is what’s referred to as a tied-brim hat and is made solely of wool.  It is a crown with 4 rectangles for the brim, which can be tied together to keep the brim up.  I like to use decorative metal aiglets on the ends of my ties for my tied-brim hats.  These can be worn with, or without feathers – if you chose to add feathers, you will want to use smaller plumes.  The next hat is the “starfish” style hat and is a round or square crown with a slashed brim.  The brim can be made as a single piece, then slashed, or made as several tabs sewn onto the crown.  The brim is often seen stuffed with a silk scarf to give it some “puff”.  It can also be worn with plumes tucked into the brim.  The largest and most impressive hat is the tellerbarret – this is the iconic large, round, flat hat with lots of ostrich plumes.  It is made with a straw hat base, a square crown and lots of wool pleated onto the bottom of the brim.  The top of the brim is usually smoothly covered with wool and decorated either with curled plumes on the top, or longer ones trailing behind.  The last style barret is a scaled-down, smooth “pizza hat”.  The crown is a square, which is set upon a stiff, circular brim – mine measures around 14-16”, so it is only a few inches larger than my head.  This one can be worn with plumes attached to the crown and sticking upwards.  This smaller barret is one that I often wear with my Trossfrau dress and is only seen worn by women.

To complete your outfit, I recommend some socks!!  In period, Landsknecht hosen were made either of wool, or linen and only striped vertically.  This makes sense when you think that they were striped using different colors of fabric, not knitted like today.  If you wish to use striped socks, I recommend using the vertically striped ones that can be found at several companies which will be listed in the sources section.  The other (and cooler) option is to make some short socks.  I have several pairs and they are really comfy!  I make mine from mid-weight linen, or wool… I don’t think that handkerchief weight would hold up well as socks, but haven’t tried it yet.

Finally, a few words of advice: this is an outfit that can be fun, but should not be entered into too lightly.  This is not an excuse to wear modern-style shorts and call it an SCA outfit – this is a fun take on period men’s military clothing.  Please know that this is not an easy project and will require patterning, construction and planning.  Also, please keep in mind that this is not a look that is appropriate for every occasion: a fun day at Gulf Wars, a night time party, or even possibly a small local event… not Meridian Grand Tourney, Crown, or Coronation.  I have attached a list of sources both articles and supplies for this project.  I am happy to answer questions and assist you as much as I can – ENJOY!!!



SOURCES:       (I scaled this down to make my smaller barret.)

Pants pattern/diagram:

Codpiece/Landsknecht pants pattern/diagram: Photo by GottfriedKilianus on


Patterning and Designing Landsknecht Hosen

This style of hosen was worn by the Landsknecht, who were male German mercenaries in the early to mid-16th century.  They were known for their ferocity and their flamboyant style of dress.  It is believed that their hosen evolved along with the rest of their clothing – thru style and necessity.  The Landsknecht modeled themselves after the Swiss Reislaufer mercenaries who would repair their elaborately designed, battle-damaged clothing with whatever fabric, or clothing pieces were available.  They were also known to have received pieces of velvet and brocade as payment for their services – but this was usually only for higher ranking officers.  As the arms or legs of their clothing would be damaged, they would repair, or replace it with a different color or type of fabric, adding to their “gaudy” appearance.

The hosen can be worn in several different ways.  They can be worn calf-length, or as shorts.  They can be worn with one leg as a short and one leg calf-length, or as shorts with separate legs made to tie onto them at the bottom to create full/calf-length hosen.  Some of the shorts truly are “booty style” with almost no leg to them at all, but many seem to have a few inches of rise.


Daniel Hopfer: Three Soldiers (1471-1536)


Erhard Schoen: Heereszug der Landsknechte, Blatt 5


Unknown Engraver:  The Four Books on Medicine by Octavius Horatianus and the Three Books by Abū Al-Qāsim, Distinguished Among All Surgeons – 1532



 Jorg Breu 1525-1530

The pattern for these hosen are almost unrecognizable to anyone who has not made joined hose before.  It does not resemble modern pants, or shorts in any way. These are fitted to you and cut on the bias, so that they will be snug and move with you. The waistline in the 16th century was by no means a low-rise – it was at your natural waist.  Your natural waist is the point at which your torso begins to bend when you bend over to left or right at roughly a 90degree angle.  This point is usually near the bottom of your rib cage.


Unknown (no longer available) via Pinterest


Unknown – (inactive site)


Pattern by: Gottfried Kilianus @ 2006

They are made of 2 layers of fabric: the inner is linen; the outer is wool.  In period, they would most likely be made of 2 layers of wool, or wool and brocade/velvet.  Because of the climate that we live in, I recommend using handkerchief weight linen and tropical (light) weight wool.  You will need approximately 1.5-2 yards of each fabric PER LAYER and PER LEG.  Because the pattern is cut on the bias, it needs a larger piece of fabric than you would think.  Hosen are meant to be close-fitting and not cutting them on the bias will result in a lot of split seams, bags where you don’t want them, and hosen that look decidedly un-hosen-like.  It is also important to point out that if you are planning on slashing the wool to make patterns on your outer layer, you will either want 100% wool fabric, or you will need to turn under and hem every slash… fray check will not work (ask me how I know).  100% wool is getting harder and harder to find – if you don’t mind a bit of fraying, then that’s ok, too!  I recommend working with your fabric for a bit before you sew and slash it, so that you can see how much it will fray.  If it frays a lot, turn it under and finish your slashes by hand. One thing that you can do, especially with the wool outer layer is to piece together fabric.  This can be done to make a striped pattern in the leg, or if you just run out of the fabric that you need – these are warriors – PIECING IS PERIOD!  Just remember that if you do decide to do this DON’T FORGET TO BIAS CUT YOUR PIECES!!

Actual Landsknecht hosen were laced up the front.  This would be done by using lacing holes, not rings, or hook and eye.  Those are both fastening methods used in Landsknecht clothing, but I have not found them used on hosen.  For mine and my husband’s hosen, I prefer to sew up the center seam and use a drawstring.  Also, you will need to add lacing holes every few inches on the top of the hosen – this is to tie the wams (doublet) and hosen together.  This is the historical (and best) way to keep your hosen up.  If you chose to forgo the wams and wear hosen and a shirt only, I find that the drawstring method is the way to go.  This allows you to keep your pants up without relying solely on your belt, which may slip.

At this point I feel we must also address the codpiece… please, please, please no matter how much you want to, or how funny you think it would be: do not use a stuffed animal as your codpiece.  It’s not funny, it’s not cute and it’s not an original idea.  There are several different styles of codpiece you can chose from: “subtle”, or “virile”.  Personally, I am a fan of the plain, or subtle style – it is basically a triangle pocket of linen that is lightly stuffed and covered with wool.  It can be slashed, sewn parti-colored, or left plain.  The “virile” style is just as you would expect – made using the wool outer fabric, stuffed with even more stuffing and sewn into the shape you desire.  Codpieces are usually attached with ties thru lacing holes sewn into the hosen.  There are usually a pair of lacing holes coinciding with the 2 top corners or the codpiece, and one at the bottom point.  I personally attach my codpiece by a tacking stitch at the base, and lacing holes and ties at the top points.


Pattern by Gottfried Kilianus @ 2006

When it comes time for me to make a pair of hosen for a new person, I drape the pattern.  You could draft a hosen pattern, but because I am not a math person and there are so many variables, I prefer to drape.  I also like to gather my pictures, round up my fabric, plot out my slashing strategy and THEN get started.  Once I have my pattern, I cut out my lining and my outer fabric.  I mark which leg is which, and then I begin chalking my slashes on the inside of the wool.  I will often use a clear quilting ruler if the pattern is very intricate, or has lots of straight lines – if it’s simple, I’ll freehand it.  A classic example that can be freehanded is the “flower” – it is the common X shaped design you see on hosen, wams and dress guards.  This is also a way to distinguish if you’re looking at a Landsknecht, or a Reislaufer – Swiss Reislaufer use the + instead.  One of the benefits of slashing hosen is that it can be used to add more “give” to a tight spot.  Also, wool and linen can become more forgiving as the day goes on. After marking my slashes and before assembling my hosen, I cut the slashes.  I usually just use a pair of small, pointed scissors so I have better control, but occasionally will use an x-acto knife if there are a lot of small, linear cuts to be made.  Once all my slashing is done, then I assemble my hosen.  I prefer to sew the lining together, then outer, then join them.  The last thing I do is my lacing holes, then add my codpiece!

For your first set of hosen, I would recommend making a mock-up that is also cut on the bias.  I realized when I made my first pair for myself that I had not given myself enough rise and they were too low in the back.  Luckily, because piecing is period, I could solve my problem… but it was a lot of extra work. It may not look like it, but there are a lot of moving parts to these hosen, and the better you can get the fit BEFORE you cut into that not-cheap-wool-and-linen, the happier you’ll be.

Finally, some people believe that the inner layer enclosed the feet – I have seen examples of this, but do not personally like it.  I prefer the flexibility of changing my short hosen/socks as the weather changes, or as I choose!  There are woodcuts showing Landsknechts with their short hosen rolled down in the summertime, and the ladies have short socks that are worn with their dresses.   Should you choose to go this route, I must recommend the vertically striped (or solid), tall, knee-style socks.  These are the closet modern-day equivalent to Landsknecht short hosen.  The vertically striped ones mimic the period ones that were made by sewing strips of different color fabric together. The horizontally striped socks are a modern creation.  I have seen extant examples of some that have leather on the bottom of the feet, but I have only seen those in conjunction with armor.  I’m not sure if they were everyday wear, or only for martial activities.

Designing, patterning and fitting hosen can be a challenge, but the good news is that once you have a pattern that works well, you’re off to the races!  I use my same pattern for calf-length hosen and “hot pants” – it’s very versatile.  Also, remember that if you’re planning on expanding a 16th century Landsknecht wardrobe to include a waffenrock, these are what you would wear under it.  It’s also fun to mix and match – you can treat these like the 16th century garanimals – your doublet doesn’t have to match your hosen!!  Remember that the Landsknecht were about being flashy – this is a great use for smaller pieces of wool and linen that you can’t make an entire garment out of.  It’s also important to remember that our modern color aesthetic is not the same as theirs was – mixing and matching of colors is encouraged!!  Embrace your inner peacock, use up all those scraps, and most importantly HAVE FUN – you are a Landsknecht, after all!!

Sources, tutorials and helpful links:

Pants pattern/diagram:

Codpiece/Landsknecht pants pattern/diagram: Photo by GottfriedKilianus on


(tutorial for making a pattern for hosen from old jeans)

(tutorial on making slashes for Landsknecht clothing)

(tutorial for making Landsknecht hosen)

(source for vertical striped knee-socks)

(board for Men’s 16th Century Landsknecht and Reislaufer clothing – lots of woodcuts and pictures of modern reenactors)

(board for Landsknecht “hot pants/shorts”)


Introduction to Landsknecht and Trossfrau Clothing (class handout)

The Landsknecht were some of the most elite fighters of the late 15th – 16th century.  They were a group of mercenaries originally formed by Emperor Maximilian and modeled after the Swiss Reisläufer.  They fought in most of the 15th and 16th century’s European conflicts from Sweden to Spain – often on opposite sides!  Along with this formidable force traveled their Tross, or “baggage train”.  The Tross was made up of “camp followers” such as wives, children, craftsmen and prostitutes.  You will often see the terms “camp followers”, “Trossfrau”, and “kampfrau” used interchangeably and although it is a modern term, I personally prefer Trossfrau. The Tross provided all the supplies and services that the army would need while on campaign.

Landsknecht and Trossfrau garments were made of wool lined with linen and could be decorated with brocade and silk accents.  Because their lives were “short and brutish”, Emperor Maximilian was more lenient with them regarding his Sumptuary Laws.  This allowed them to use more expensive and richer fabrics to decorate, but not construct, their clothing.  Brocade, silk and velvet would be used as a sleeve, or leg, or possibly even a jacket, but not an entire outfit.  The higher ranking the officer (or his wife), the more likely they are to have pieces of finer fabrics.  The fabrics would have been taken as trophy, given as pay, or purchased by the soldiers themselves.  While their clothing was modeled after the Reisläufer, the Landsknecht far exceeded the ostentation of the Swiss.  When trying to determine if a depiction is German, or Swiss, the easiest way is to look to the slashes: Germans use “X” style slashes, while the Swiss use “+”.

The use of different colors, patterns and fabrics in the Landsknecht’s clothing was born from necessity and became a fashion.  Often part of a garment would become so damaged during fighting, or while on campaign that it would be unable to be repaired.  When this was the case, a new arm/leg/etc. would be fashioned out of whatever fabric the Tross tailor or seamstress would have, or whatever could be taken off a body on the battlefield.  One of the practical reasons for the slashing on the clothing was to make an “acquired” garment fit.  This also helped add to the “colorful” appearance of the Landsknecht.

Landsknecht men usually wore wams (doublet) and hosen (fitted pants), or a waffenrock, (doublet with an attached skirt) and hosen.  The term waffenrock has modernly come to include several types of coats that were worn as an “over” layer, but the differences are minute.  The two most common styles of wams are one with a U-shaped front with a flap (or brustfleck) that can be undone to expose the undershirt, and one with a full front that functions as a flap to cover the chest of the wearer.  The sleeves of the wams and waffenrocks were often heavily slashed and the undershirt would show through giving rise to the term “puff and slash”.  Sometimes an additional layer of fabric, often silk, would be sewn into the sleeve to allow for a greater amount of puff to come out of the slash.  Underneath their waffenrock, the men would wear a linen undershirt and a pair of hosen, which would be the same ones they would wear with their wams.  Both wams and waffenrocks can be closed by hook and eye, or lacing.  The waffenrock could also be worn under their breastplate as part of their armor.  The lederwams (leather wams) functioned both as clothing and as armor.  One of the most recognizable elements of Landsknecht hosen is the codpiece.  Not only was the codpiece used as a symbol of virility, it is also utilitarian.  Not only does it have a purpose in helping with bodily functions, it can also be used as a pouch to store valuables (family jewels, anyone??).  It can be made as outlandish, or as unobtrusive as you wish – there are plenty of examples available.  I recommend that when crafting your codpiece, you take into consideration both the personality of the wearer and those they will be wearing it around.  Codpieces can be made to be interchangeable, so the outfit can go from family friendly to party time in just a few minutes.  Hosen can also be made several different lengths: calf-length, “booty shorts”, or one leg of each length.  The short length hosen can also be made “convertible” with a separate piece that can be tied to the bottom of the shorts to make them calf-length.



Wams Pattern


 Hosen pattern




The Trossfrau wore dresses that consisted of a fitted bodice, sewn onto a pleated skirt.  The bodice can be closed using either hook and eye, or lacing rings.  The front of the bodice would be trimmed in pieces of contrasting wool/silk/brocade, to hide the hooks or rings that held the bodice together in the front.  These strips would usually be solid, but could be slashed, depending on the material and preference of the wearer.  The dresses were made with their sleeves either attached, or detached, but able to be tied onto the bodice.  The sleeves could be plain, or decorated with slashes, but not as heavily decorated as men’s sleeves.  Sometimes you will see a secondary layer pulled thru the slashing on the women’s sleeves, as with the men’s, but not nearly as frequently.  When this is seen, it is not usually the undershirt, but an additional layer of fabric specifically added to “puff”.  On the skirt of the dress, you may see varying numbers and widths of stripes, or “guards” sewn onto the bottom.  The guards are usually made of a differing color of wool, but could also be brocade, depending on the social status of the wearer.  It is generally accepted that there are two styles of pleating used in the skirt construction: knife and rolled.  Because rolled pleats take twice as much fabric as knife pleated, it is speculated that this was primarily done by the upper-classes, not necessarily the Trossfrau.  There are also different theories about the shape of the skirt, rectangular vs. circular (Alcega, or Drei Schnittbucher pattern).  As of right now, there is no absolute rule and I recommend you use the shape that is best for you, and your project.  The Trossfrau also wear an underskirt made of linen, or wool, with or without guards.


In many period depictions, the frau have their skirts hiked up, since they are often shown marching in the tross.  The frau would use a simple leather belt to hold up their skirts, and attach their purses to.  The wives in the tross were responsible for keeping the Landsknecht’s money and valuables while they are off in battle.  The lower women of the Tross were also known to participate in the looting of the bodies to obtain more wealth for themselves.  Many frau accessorized with linen aprons which were usually white and could be smocked, pleated, or simply gathered.  They almost always wore a headdress called a wulst, with a veil, or stuchlien, covering it.  Sometimes the stuchlien is decorated with some simple embroidery, or pleating.  Over that, they often wear a hat, most of which are the same style as the men’s.  There are many different style of hats that are shown to be worn by women in Germany during the 16th century, but most are worn by the upper classes.  Based upon woodcuts and other period depictions of the Trossfrau, they usually wore the unisex tellerbarret.

When it comes to accessories, the tellerbarret is the signature hat of the Landsknecht – large, round and covered in feathers!!!   From personal experience, I can tell you that these are excellent for protection from both rain and sun.  There are several different sizes of tellerbarrets, which are worn by both sexes over fitted coifs, and occasionally bare heads.  The shirts worn by the Landsknecht and Trossfrau were unisex.  These were made of white linen and could be plain, or smocked.  The body and arms are rectangular, with square underarm gussets and gathered necks and cuffs.  These neck and cuffs could be smocked, or embroidered based upon the status of the wearer.  Men and women not only wore the same shirts, but also the same shoes, and unter-hosen/socks. The unter-hosen are usually made of lightweight wool, or linen, and were sewn, not knit.  Unless you plan to sew your own fitted unter-hosen, most commercially available pairs are knit (which is what I usually wear).   These can be tight for those with larger calves/thighs, so I do sew my husband’s out of linen.  There are several examples of women wearing smaller socks over the unter-hosen, some of which even appear to lace-up the ankles.  The frau would often wear gollars (like mantles/capelets) to keep themselves warm and in extremely cold weather would wear short cloaks. In the above woodcut one frau (most likely an officer’s wife) is wearing a short jacket made of slashed brocade.  Higher level officers were sometimes depicted as wearing large schaube, or coats, made of wool and trimmed in fur.  They could also be decorated with brocades, or woven trims, based upon the status of the wearer.

Sources:  (an international community of Landsknechts and Trossfrau)

Kohler, Carl (1963). “A History of Costume” pgs. 240-257  (nice tutorial about making a skirt using the Alcega pattern)

Barich, Katherine/McNealy, Marion (2015). “Drei Schnittbucher: Three Austrian Master Tailor Books of the 16th Century” pgs 234 – 237 (Burger Woman’s Under Schauben and Wammes)  (unisex shirt pattern)

Enkevoerth, Count August Johann Breunner. (2013) Landsknecht Woodcuts: Kriegsvolker im Zeitalter der Landsknechte. (M. McNealy, Ed)

Zander-Seidel, Jutta (1990 – second edition). Textiler Hausrat: Kleidung und Haustextilien in Nurnberg von 1500-1650 (K. Barich & C. Crill Trans.)


My Landsknecht/Trossfrau Pinterest boards:


First blog post

It has been suggested to me (ahem, Malin) that I start a blog.  I have relented, because A: she’s been pestering me,  B: it will be easier for me to share my research and handouts with y’all, and C: she’s probably right.  So, having said that, the first few posts will be the handouts for classes I have already taught.  There will likely also be some pictures, tutorials, links, projects and a variety of other things showing up here… you just never know!  And now without further delay… welcome to Casa de Kissa!!