16th Century Accessories for Northern Europe and the Holy Roman Empire

 The accessories for  Northern Europe and the Holy Roman Empire are similar to the English ones but have their own regional differences. While both have caps, aprons, and partlets, the terms used are not the same. The main areas I am focusing on are what we now call Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. I am not going to cover the distinctive dress of the "Trossfrau", the women who followed the Landsknecht soldiers, as their style is very unique to their station.

        Splendor Solis, 1532-1535. Kupferstichkabinett Berlin.

The term that I understand to be the German equivalent to kirtle is underrock. The word rock means dress or gown, so underrock would mean an under dress. In Northern European paintings, the underrock is usually softer in shape than an English kirtle, with a rounder bust shape. Like kirtles, they could close in front, back, or sides. Front closing with hidden lacing rings or hooks and eyes seems to be the most common, but I was able to find several images that showed front lacing.

The Milkmaid, Lucas van Leyden (Netherlandish). 1510. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Jost Amman, from the Frauen-Trachtenbuch, 1586.

 The linen undergarment is still essential in Northern Europe. It was called a hemd in the Germanic regions. They could be low necked or have a high collar, often using intricate smocking to gather large amounts of fabric around the neck and wrists. I opted for a simple style with a low neck, made with rectangular construction, and sleeves tapered to the wrist. 

            Susanna and the Elders, Albrecht Altdorfer, early 16th c.

I am wearing a linen partlet in addition to the hemd. At this point I do not know the German word for partlet but I would love to hear from you if you do! My partlet is made from very fine lightweight linen and machine embroidered to mimic blackwork embroidery from the 16th century. It is patterned like a shirt, with wide rectangular body panels gathered to a collar. The partlet ties below the bust.

Jörg Breu the Elder, 1531-1550, "Augsburg Labours of the Months: Summer", Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin.
The headwear most frequently seen on married women in this region is the wulsthaube. This consisted of a few items worn together to create one cohesive headpiece. Firstly is the binderlein, a strip of linen to help secure the next layers (seen on the woman in red below). My wulst (the padded roll) is made from reed wrapped in felt. Next is the linen unterhaube, or undercap. An optional (but frequently seen) layer is the schleier (veil).  The Curious Frau has a great video that shows how the wulsthaube is made. Also check out Genoveva's website to read more about how to make them!


Lucas Cranach the Elder, Birth of John the Baptist, 1518. 

Albrecht Altdorfer, Seated Woman Bathing Her Feet, early 16th c. The Met.  

The small cape worn around the shoulder is called a gollar. Mine is made from black worsted wool and lined with black linen. I modified the Tudor Tailor partlet pattern for mine, but if you search "gollar pattern" on Pinterest you will find a few great versions. Wool was probably the most common fabric for a gollar for the working and middle classes, but they can be made from fine silks and velvets, and also lined in fur. 

Baldung Grien, Hans: Porträt einer Bürgersfrau, circa 1520.

Portrait of the wife of Georg Pencz; attributed to Georg Pencz, 1530-1570, British Museum. 


Like the English styles, aprons in the Germanic region would be made from linen or wool.  I chose a medium weight white linen, hand gathered to a matching waistband, like the one seen below. 

Jörg Breu the Elder,1531-1550, "Augsburg Labours of the Months: Winter (October, November, December)",  Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin.

The Peasants' Feast, circa 1537. By Sebald Beham, the British Museum.

I highly recommend the book "Drei Schnittbucher" by Katherine Barich and Marion McNealy: 



Websites I recommend for further reading and more in depth research:




An extant under dress: Kostym.cz


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