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 Artist – www.historiclife.com (no longer available) via Pinterest
Unknown – cadieux.mediumaevum.com (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: www.landsknecht.org
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”)