Handcrafted History

Historical and modern handcraft mixed with adventures


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The 16th century working woman part 1- The research

This is a post about (one of) my 16th century outfits; and due to several years of research, work and sewing experiences it will probably be more than one post- with different focus. In this, I will give you an overview and some background research. The outfit is already finished, worn, mended and in line for some redoing, so I will be able to share the whole process with you; both good and bad outcomes and what I could have done different.

My aim was to make a good recreation of a whole outfit for a woman from early 1500s German (or possibly southern Scandinavian area, since this was influenced by German fashion at the time). She is not poor, but works for her living, maybe on a larger farm or in a smaller city. She is well dressed; as is the ladies on all the art I have studied, but like other working women, she own practical clothing with a skirt short enough to stay out of her way, and a cut to the clothing that is both economical and practical. Contrary from the trossfraus (the women who follows the mercenary armies) she does not wear slashed and mismatched clothing, but items that belong to each other and to a certain class in society. She follows sumptuary laws and does her hair in the braided fashion, or covers it with a simple cap and veil while working.

I wanted to show you some interesting images of 16th century women in art so I put together some examples for you;

Three women; wearing work tools but also lots of interesting clothing. The shoes are practical and the skirts reach the foot, not the ground. 

A painted glass piece showing the milking and making of butter. A (probably) younger woman has her hair in two braids, and a covering apron to protect her clothing. The older woman has a veil, a jacket and a dress hiked up in her belt.

This lady is described as a dancing farmer and has probably done her fine dress for a festive occasion, with her hair braided in a nice up do and what looks like a headband around the head. She wears a dress, and a gollar that looks fur-edged or with a whole lining in fur.

Another dancing farmer- with a gollar fastened by her neck, and an apron around her waist. The shoes look sturdy and practical (but nothing like the cowmouth shoes you can se on trossfraus) and she has some kind of decorative border at the hem on the skirt, and on her loose sleeves. No slashes though!

This piece shows the women working with flax, the process from plant to fabric demanded both time and hard work in numerous steps. The sitting lady wears a cap or veil around her head, with hair showing at the front. Her jacket is fastened at the front and is cut in the fashion of the time; low and square. The standing lady has her hair in braids around her head, and has rolled up her sleeves while working. The dress has a decorative guard at the front, and is hiked up at the waist. Clearly, she is doing some heavy work!

Dressed for cold weather? She has done her veils around her head, chin and neck, and wears a short cloak against the cold. She wears both shoes, socks and hose, and a bag at her belt.

Ah, time for cutting some fleece! The sheep does look dead, but is probably just laying at a convenient working pose for the woman, who use a shearing scissor for the work. She wears a simple cap or tied veil over her hair, and a dress with decorative guards at the front. It is hard to say if the brown skirts are part of her yellow dress, discoloured by time, an apron or a piece of cloth.

Festivities again! Do peasants and workers anything else than working and dancing? This lady has the common braids, a gollar and a dress. What is so interesting with this picture is that you can se the back of her dress, which is clearly more dense pleated than the sides. Uneven pleating in the skirts is visible in more pictures, and seems to be the result of a tailor work.

Summer time, and work in the fields this time. Now we can see her shift; a plain linen shift with a long sleeve, and either a high collar, or more believable, a thin gollar/linen cloth to protect her against the sun, as is seen on the woman with the red dress. She wears a straw hat, and her dress is sleeveless; it is a tight-fitting middle kirtle or under dress that gives you the bust support you need, without being in the way for hard work. This layer can be found on other women too; plain, sleeveless and intended to be worn under the woolen over dress. It is only during heavy outdoor labor such as field work, washing and shoveling it is openly worn, older women and richer women always have their overdress on.

Based on my research, I have found that I needed the following items for a whole outfit:

  • linen shift
  • kirtle or under dress
  • wool dress as an over dress
  • apron
  • belt
  • purse (and maybe a rosary to, it is mentioned in some written sources but doesn’t appear on peasants often)
  • cap, veils, a straw hat and/or a braided hairstyle
  • hose
  • shoes
  • gollar
  • jacket
  • cape/cloak

This much? I wanted to make a whole outfit, that would be practical during different kind of events with both cold and warm weather. I also wanted to try to make all the pieces of clothing and accessories that I have found during my research, to better understand how they worked together.

For more research, I have a Pinterest board on the theme if you want to learn more!


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Lästips; handbok i 1400talsdräkt för män

Because the book is in Swedish; so will this blogpost be. It is about a new book about the late 15th century clothing for men.

Jag fick hem en helt ny bok, skriven på svenska, som handlar om den sena 1400talsdräkten för män. Det är så fantastiskt roligt att en sådan här bok görs, på svenska, av skickliga medeltidsmänniskor, med syfte att underlätta för andra att förstå och skapa 1400tal. Förutom att det är en lätt väg till kunskap så är det också ett tecken i tiden på att medeltida återskapande av olika slag blir större och större i Sverige!

Boken har en lättöverskådlig layout, enkel och tydlig text, och stycken som efter en snabb genomgång ger dig koll på dräkten. Det är den typen av bok jag skulle börja med att skaffa om jag ville göra 1400tal, eller ge till en nybörjare som vet *ingenting* men gärna vill vara med. Jag gillar att den tar upp en historisk överblick och talar om formspråk, för att därefter ge förslag på plagg som tillhör perioden. Det finns inga mönster eller steg för steg instruktioner för plaggen, sådana finns istället att köpa via reconstructing history eller görs själv med hjälp av en mönsterkonstruktionskurs eller Tailors assistant. Är du en sådan som vill forska vidare själv, så gräver du i referenslistorna som innehåller både bilder och litteratur. Det är helt enkelt en handbok riktad till återskapare som vill börja med perioden- så himla smart och häftigt!

Anna, som är en av två författare, har jag träffat flera gånger på event och hon är en skicklig hantverkare och återskapare, som också bloggar om mycket 1400tal (Willhelm känner jag inte än, men ring mig så tar vi en fika och nördar 1400tal!) Boken innehåller, förutom referenslistor, också massor av bilder från perioden. Bredvid varje avsnitt om plagg/material osv hittar du alltså både historiska referenser, bilder, skisser och materialförslag från ett modernt perspektiv. Mycket bekvämt med andra ord, eftersom mycket arbete som du behöver för att kunna återskapa dräkt redan är gjort i boken.

Rikard och Helena från Handelsgillet är också delägare i Chronocopia som ger ut boken, och arbetar (förutom att sälja material och produkter) med att sprida kunskap om återskapande. I boken finns det en del produkter från deras shop, vilket kanske kan ses som reklam- eller ett praktiskt sätt att få tag på bra material att fota för att belysa tygfärger, material och vad man kan hitta för att praktiskt återskapa perioden. Jag tycker att det är ett bra initiativ, jag vet att de gör mycket efterforskningar kring färger och val av material de köper in för att allt ska vara historiskt, och här är deras shop Handelsgillet för dig som vill hitta material från boken (den tunna kyperten som syns har jag använt till flera av mina dräkter).

Nästa bok behandlar kvinnodräkten- gissa vem som ska klicka hem den också…