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.
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.
http://www.landsknecht.org (an international community of Landsknechts and Trossfrau)
Kohler, Carl (1963). “A History of Costume” pgs. 240-257
http://centuries-sewing.com/2014/12/27/alcegas-tailors-pattern-book-manteo-or-a-skirt-of-cloth/ (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)
http://www.morgandonner.com/2013/12/16th-century-shirt/ (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: