A 1570s Swedish woman's costume

This is a complete woman's outfit from c. 1570. It could have been worn by a noblewoman or by a rich bourgeois woman, though the velvet in the gown and the damask guards and apron would have been prohibited for non-noble women in the sumpturay laws of 1585, as would the beaded cap. But not earlier, since previous 16th century clothing regulations in Sweden mainly dealt with how to distinguish between "good" and "bad" women in the moral sense.

The photos are taken at Torpa Stenhus, a late medieval castle.

The innermost layer is a linen smock with a small ruffle at the wrists and neck. A set of ruffs with bobbin lace has been attached to the collar and cuffs too. 

The gown
The gown is made from cotton velvet, which of course isn't period, but it is at least soft and has a short nap, like some 15th century silk velvet I had the opportunity to examine and touch some years ago. The guards are cotton damask, and would of course have been silk or half silk in the period. 
This is how the gown looks without the other layers:

It is laced slightly open through metal eyes, but half of the eyes will reasonably soon be replaced by hooks, since I am in the process of losing weight. There is some machine stitiching on this gown, but all seam allowances are stitched down by hand, as are the guards and the skirt is attached by hand, since it's mostly cartridge pleated. I chose this manner of pleating because that's how for example Pfalzgräfin Dorothea Sabina von Neuburg's gown from this period was made.

From the Bayersiche Nationalmuseum's site.

The skirt is 4,5 metres wide at the bottom and about 3 metres at the waist, I have a thick waist and wide hips so I need som width there. Making it straight was never an option, since not only all preserved gowns from the 16th century, but also all pattern books from that century show only skirts that are gored to make them wider at the bottom. See for example the Milanese Tailor's handbook or Juan de Alcega's book of patterns. It is not until the 17th century that you find unshaped skirts, like a cylinder pleated to the waistband.  I also chose to make a slight dip in front of the bodice based on contemporary preserved gowns and patterns. Not as deep and pointed as the one on Dorothea Sabina's gown though.


Over the gown I am wearing a velvet partlet and a damask apron, like you see in these images from Jost Amman's book of women's dress from 1586.

The apron
Here are quite a lot of images of brocade or damask aprons The first one was one of my main inspirations, since it shows a noblewoman from Sweden, according to the book.

And another apron from Weigel's 1577 Trachtenbuch.

Photo credit: Nordiska Museet

My apron is made from an old rayopn brocade. As you can see the ties of the aprons are not attached at the cornes of the aprons, but a bit further in. I made mine that way too.

The partlets, or short waistcoats are even more common in German style dress from the period. Here are just a few examples:

Georg Pencz, Portrait of a girl 1545

Hermann Tom Ring painted this portrait of  Irmengard and Walburg von Rietberg in 1564, wearing velvet partlets with gold trim on:

If you look at the image of the swedish noblewoman and the von Rietberg sister you see that you can see the lacing of the gown below the partlet. I think that's pretty, though my partlet had a tendency to move downwards while the apron traveled upwards. But you can make out the lacing between the partlet and the apron in the top photo.
   The waiscoat is in velvet, lined with the remnants of the damask from the apron in the front and silk remnants in the back and closes with hooks and eyes. It was too lose when the photos were taken, but I have fixed that now.

Wearing this, and headwear completes the outfit, but I wanted to try out my short coat too.

A short coat

It is made from teal rayon damask and lined with silk. Some years ago I got a semi-circular piece of teal damask, intended to be a cloak once upon a time, my friend Caroline. While I love semicircular cloaks and want a fancy one the pattern wasn't right for the period so I decided to make something else instead. It wasn't enough to make a gown, no matter how much I'd love to have a gown in teal damask, so I came up with the idea to make one of those short, wide jackets you see in costume books from the second half of the 16th century, boith from Germany and Italy, but also in art from Scandinavia.. I don't know what they're called in English, or even in Swedish, but this is how they look.

Jost Amman, showing women from Germany and Austria:



Hans Weigel, showing women from France and Italy:

Looking through several costume books I  found examples with short sleeves and with long sleeves, with fur lining and with fabric lining. Mine has long sleeves, but, as you see on the wood cuts above, that doesn't mean that you actually have your arms in them :).

 The back piece cut out:

 To make the collar stiff enough it is interlined with a heavy cotton satin and the lining and interlining were padstitched together before the top fabric was added.

With the collar standing up, a feat I didn't manage when I was at Torpa stenhus and took the other photos.

The decorated cap
This is a close-up of the cap that I wear with my Swedish noble outfits. The outer layer is silk and it's decorated with pearls, glass beads and brass buttons. It is lined with linen and the white part with (faux) pearls is also from linen

.These caps were known as bonnetter in Scandinavia and were the height of fashion from the middle of the 16th century. In fact, other types of headwear are rarely seen or mentioned. These bonnetts were clearly seen as a prerogative of the nobility and both Swedish and Danish sumptuary laws forbade women of the burgher class to wear them . Of course the laws in themselves, supported by other documentary evidence, are evidence that this type of cap was also worn outside the nobility. The embroidered bonnett probably evolved from the decorated hairnets worn in the first half of the century Many examples of bonnetts can be found in Scandinavian and German portraits, for example this portrait of the Danish Queen Sophia, by the painter Hans Knieper

Camilla Luise Dahl in Denmark has written an article (in Danish) about these caps, and you can at least have a look at the images: 
"Huffer till theris hoffueder: Sen-renæssancens kvindehuer, ca. 1560-1630" in the danish online journal Dragtjournalen, # 3, 2008.

On sources to Swedish women's dress in the 16th century
In Sweden the Protestant Reformation to a large extent deprived us of one of the most valuable sources to fashion and manners of dress, namely church paintings, which became increasingly rare after the first quarter of the sixteenth century. The grave monuments belonging to members of the Vasa dynasty are also useful for an insight into the clothing of the high nobility in the second half of the century and provide us with a three-dimensional view, as do sculptures of saints from the pre-reformation period. Other pictorial sources are the woodcuts in Olaus Magnus’ Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus (History of the Nordic Peoples) printed in 1555 (see it on google books), as well as some other manuscript illustrations, glass paintings and tapestries. From the second half of the century portraits become more common, but there are few portraits of women, and they are mainly restricted to the royal family. Those few that exist show women in fashionable dress of the type found in northern Germany, with some regional variations. Therefore I have chosen to in addition to other Scandinavian paintings aslo use depictions of women from northern Germany, an area which was in constant contact with Scandianvia, to fill in the blanks.
   Another inspiration are the costume books of Hans Weigel and Jost Amann, published 1577 and 1586 respectively. These contain one image each of Swedish women, but I have, as mentioned above, also been inspired by illustrations from (mainly) northern Germany. There are of course problems with using Trachtenbücher as sources to manners of dress. One is the issue of time lag: it is likely that the woodcuts showed styles that were a bit outdated at the time of printign and we know that  many of the illustrations in Amann's book are virtually identical to Hans Weigel's book, despite the nine years between their printings. It is therefore possible that  both books show a 1560s, or even earlier style.
   Another problem with them as sources are that the artist and authors may have had little knowledge of areas far from their bases in Western Germany or Italy (the two great centres of production for these kinds of books in the 16th century). Sweden is, however, not that far away from Germany, at least not culturally and the dress worn in Amann's book at least looks plausible, as it is a German fashion and Swedish manners of dress were very influenced by German fashions. And as always, it is advisable to look at a great many images from culturally close areas, to get a "feel" for the look.

Leaving the images there are of course other sources regarding dress too. The written sources for this period are unfortunately few. Wills, which are a good souce for manners of dress for the 13th and 14th century unfortunately yield less after the Black Death, when it became less and less common to list clothing and chattels in wills. There are also less preserved wills. Other sources are magistrates records, which can be found from a few Swedish towns in the 16th century, but these rarely give detailed information on clothing. Stockholm also has a few preserved bourgeois probates from the 1590s. As a supplementary source probates from Denmark can be used, some of which has been transcribed and printed or digitized.
  There are also seven examples of sumptuary laws from sixteenth-century Sweden, the earliest dating from 1529 and the latest from 1589. Of these, the four earliest forbid women who live a dishonourable life from wearing clothing made from scarlet, squirrel fur or other costly materials, but otherwise they do not mention clothing. The three remaining are of the more well-known early modern type, regulating clothing according to estate and these will be referred to later on in the article.
   Another rich source is the inventories of clothing made for the Swedish royal family in the second half of the century. For example, at one period of his life Johan III made inventories of his clothing and jewellery every second year. Of these inventories only one is printed and thus (relatively) easily accessible: Johan and his wife Katarina Jagellonica’s inventory from 1563, while they were still duke and duchess of Finland. Unfortunately, the main body of the documents in the castle archives in Stockholm, dealing with clothing from the sixteenth century, has not been published.

Unfortunately the only preserved 16th century woman's garment from Sweden is a knitted glove  from the 1560s (link to a woman called Catrijn's flickr), but knowledge of sewing techniques can be taken from the extraordinary Sture suits from the 1560s. Nils, Erik and Svante Sture were all murdered by the at least temporarily insane Swedish king Erik XIV in 1567 and their clothes, as well as the glove mentioned above, which belonged to one of them, were kept as a memento of the crime by the victims' family.

Photo: Lennart Engström, Upplandsmuseet, via Digitalt Museum.

If you are more interested in the manners of dress of Swedish women in the 16th century I have written an article in Costume. The Journal of The Costume society about this. It's called "Women's dress in 16th century Sweden", and is in the 2011 volume, # 45.

4 kommentarer:

  1. Hi! I love your work with the outfit and the decorated cap is beautiful. Could you tell us how your cap was constructed? It's hard to find any seam lines from under all that pearl embroidery. It seams to me, that it does not have any of that gathering thtat can be found in the linen caps shown in Patterns of Fashion 4 or the caps called "tanu" here in Finland.

  2. It started its life as a coif with a brim and a slightly circular back piece. i don't think that is the correct shape to start with, but with the wire in front and all that beading I think the most important things is that it is close-fitting.

  3. It started its life as a coif with a brim and a slightly circular back piece. i don't think that is the correct shape to start with, but with the wire in front and all that beading I think the most important things is that it is close-fitting.

  4. Thank you for your reply! I did some experimenting with different shapes too, and found that an inserted wire was more or less necessary to keep the cap close fitting.