Patterns for 16th century Men's Costume from Germany

Michael de Lacy

The following patterns are from the Waffen und Kostümkunde, the newsletter of the Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Historiche Waffen- und Kostümkunde, which as you have no doubt guessed is a German publication dealing with the scholarly study of historic weapons and costume. The article, by Thomas Lüttenberg and entitled Seltene Textilien aus Kloster Alpirsbach im Nordschwarzwald, deals with several early 16th century items of men's clothing, including hose, shirts, a doublet and socks, is printed in the 1997 edition (39, Band. Jahrgang 1997 Heft 1 und 2). My knowledge of the German language is unfortunately limited to ordering beer and schnitzel, so if there is anyone out there who would be so kind as to translate a bit of the article, or come up with a brief précis of it, I would be most grateful. The patterns, all taken from excavated material found, apparently, in a monastery, are excellent and easy to understand.

The article itself is well worth getting a copy of, as it has some rather nice photographs of the actual finds, which unfortunately do not reproduce well. You may have difficulty getting a copy of the Waffen und Kostümkunde, as it is a rather specialist publication. The Royal Armouries in Leeds have a copy, as does the Wallace Collection in London and, I suspect, the British Museum. You might try inter-library loan if you are not in the London or Leeds area.

The Hose

First, the joined hose - always a difficult piece of costume to get right (at least in my experience). This pattern features a rather prominent codpiece, as was the fashion in Germany in the 16th century. For earlier periods, a less protrusive version was used (note detail from Memling's Death of John the Baptist, to the right).

The two figures below the pattern show a front and rear view of hose constructed in a similar fashion to the ones featured in the article. Note however that the pattern show has the two strips covering the buttocks continuing all the way to the waistband, while the picture shows them joining some distance below it.

Note the small arrows on the patterns; these indicate the direction of the weave of the fabric. The hose and the stockings are cut with the weave at a 45 degree angle to the length (called 'cut on the bias' by sewing connoisseurs). This was done to make the garments as flexible as possible, and to ensure a snug fit.

Also note in this and other patterns the appearance of strange seams that apparently serve no purpose; the panel at the top of the left hose pattern below and the extra bit at the tip of the foot on the stocking pattern below. I believe that these are simply artifacts of construction, and not integral parts of the pattern. In other words, they ran out of space when cutting the cloth, and since fabric was so much more precious in those days, the simply added on a bit of scrap to complete the garment - waste not, want not.

The Stockings

Three different stockings are featured in the article; long, medium and short. Note that by attaching the hose pattern to one of the stocking patterns, you can make a nice pattern for the complete full-length hip to toe hose.


The Shirts

The three shirts found were all made of linen, and the patterns are fairly straightforward. Have a look at Sarah Thursfield's articles for more tips on making shirts.

The Doublet

The Doublet is again rather straightforward to make. Note the hidden waistband on the inside of the doublet for the attachment of the points from the hose.