The Curious Frau

Early Modern German Clothing

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Introduction to 16th century German Costuming


Inspriation - Online Art Research

Thanks to the Internet, there is now a large amount of artwork easily available, and its getting better organized all the time. I find portraits and etchings of real people to be the most inspiring sources for costuming. Artcyclopedia is my favorite place to start when looking for a new artist as it has gathered pointers to many different online art collections into one central place.

The German Artists page

The page for the Northern Renaissance artists, Germany and beyond.

Die Augsburger Monatsbilder
A set of 4 murals done in Augsburg, Germany in the 1520's. There is a mural for each season, and each mural depicts three months out of the year, depicting activities done in each month. These murals give a glimpse of the clothing and hats worn by a wide spectrum of social classes in Augsburg. Here is Winter,Spring,Summer, Fall. . The whole thing is luscious eye candy, worthy of drooling over and going in for the close ups.

Bildarchiv der Kunst und Architektur
Bildindex is THE resource for German art, contains artwork and objects from all German museums. I've written a help guide for Bildindex in case your German is a little sketchy (or non-existant)

REALonline is the Austrian version of, except with more color pictures, vastly better indexing and a much faster user interface. It has over 14,000 works of art, many of which have detail images, that are available for viewing online and they have been tagged with catalogue entries in 13 available catalogues. I've written a help guide for it as well,

For more Art Research sources, see the Art Research page


Key Artists

These German artists are the ones I find particularly helpful since they focused primarily on portraits and costume studies, or artwork that depicts regular people in ordinary everyday settings.

  • Master of the Housebook 15th Century
  • Bernhard Strigel 1460-1528
  • Albrecht Durer 1471-1528
  • Lucas Cranach the Elder 1472-1553
  • Hans Suess von Kulmbach ca.1476-1522
  • Albrecht Altdorfer 1480-1538
  • Barthel Bruyn the Elder 1493-1555
  • Christoph Amberger 1500-1562
  • Barthel Beham 1502-1540
  • Hans Sebald Beham 1500-1550
  • Georg Pencz 1500-1550
  • Lucas Cranach the Younger 1515-1586
  • Hans Mielich 1516-1573
  • Jost Amman 1539-1591
  • Ludger tom Ring the Younger 1522-1584
  • Nicolas Neufchatel 1527-1590
  • Bartel Bruyn the Younger 1530-1609

Note: Lucas Cranach the Elder and Lucas Cranach the Younger where the court painters for the Princes of Saxony. The clothing depicted in their paintings is not typical clothing for anybody outside of the Saxon Court.

Inspriation - Documentation

Textiler Hausrat: Kleidung und Haustextilien in Nurnburg von 1500-1600 by Jutta Zander-Seidel. ISBN 3-422-06067-7.

A great resource in German, with good artwork. Hard to find for sale but is possible to get via ILL. English translation of some sections online in the Files section of the GermanRenCostuming Yahoo Group.

Alpirsbach, zur geschichte von kloster und stadt , Landesdenkmalamt Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart, 2001. ISBN 3-8062-1336-4.
Extant Linen hose, socks and doublet from the Alpirsbach finds. Some information is online at

History of Costume by Blanche Payne. Harper & Row, 1965 Has some good artwork, unfortunately all in black and white. The text is definitely a bit dated, however the 1965 version has pattern drafts in the back of extant garments from many different periods. Some are covered in Pattern’s of Fashion, but others such as the extant set of bases (waffenrock) are not. The newly re-printed version doesn’t include the pattern drafts.

Three Essentials for 16th century clothing construction

  1. Patterns of Fashion, The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c 1560-1620 by Janet Arnold, ISBN 0333382846
  2. A detailed analysis of surviving garments with construction details, close-up pictures and other great little goodies.

  3. Tailor’s Pattern Book 1589, by Juan de Alcega, translated by Jean Pain and Cecilia Bainton. ISBN 0896762343
  4. A facsimile of a tailor’s pattern book from 1589. A good resource for pattern shapes and period layouts. A wonderful resource if you are interested in Spanish influenced German styles as portrayed in Jost Amman’s books.

  5. The Costume Technician’s Handbook by Rosemary Ingham and Liz Covey.
  6. While not a technical handbook on how to draft patterns in a period fashion, it is a good resource on pattern drafting and tailoring basics.

Inspriation - History and Geography

A short little history time line with relavant fashions from the period. Its not a comprehensive list of every single historical event or fashion, but it should at least give you a grounding in what happened when.

Details the location of the principalities and cities of the Holy Roman Empire in 1547.

, Fashions often flowed along trade routes. Marriages were another way that fashions transfered from one region to another. This is why you see very Italian influences in the southern German clothing in Nuremberg and Ausgberg because they were on the direct trade route from Italy. If you look at the fashions from Cologne and at Flemish fashions, you see that they share things in common as well. It all really depends on who your neighbors are and who you trade with.

Each Imperial city and state belonged to a circle and a bench. While this is not a direct indicator of fashion influences, it does at least show you the political influences on each area, and what areas where most likely to interact with each other.

Inspriation - Everyday life (Political, Social, Religious)

A list of books that I have found useful for giving a good inside view into daily life, religious issues and social change. This is by far not a comprehensive list, but just the resources I like best.

Magdalena and Balthasar : An Intimate Portrait of Life in 16th Century Europe Revealed in the Letters of a Nuremberg Husband and Wife by Steven Ozment (Translator) Used price on Amazon: $1.50

The Burgermeister's Daughter : Scandal in a Sixteenth-Century German Town by Steven Ozment by Steven Ozment Used price on Amazon: $4.95

When Fathers Ruled: Family Life in Reformation Europe (Studies in Cultural History) by Steven Ozment Used price on Amazon: $9.70

Flesh and Spirit: Private Life in Early Modern Germany, by Steven Ozment Used price on Amazon: $2.65

The Reformation in the Cities: The Appeal of Protestantism to Sixteenth-Century Germany and Switzerland, by Steven Ozment Used price on Amazon: $2.75

Protestants: The Birth of a Revolution Used price on Amazon: $1.77

Fugger News-Letters</i> [FACSIMILE] (Hardcover) by Victor Von Klarwill (Editor) Publisher: Ayer Co Pub; Facsimile edition (June 1, 1924) Hardcover: 284 pages ISBN: 0836956036 Used price on Amazon: $7.94

Luther on Women: A Sourcebook, by Susan C. Karant-Nunn, Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks ISBN: 0521658845 Used price on Amazon: $9.80

A Mighty Fortress : A New History of the German People, by Steven E. Ozment Used price on Amazon: $3.84

The Habsburgs, by Dorothy Gies McGuigan

The Habsburgs, by Andrew Wheatcroft

Inspriation - Food

OK, maybe this isn't that closely related to costuming, but everybody needs to eat, right?

Thomas Gloning’s German language cookery texts 1350-1896
A very comprehensive listing of period cook books and transcriptions of them in their original language. However there is a English summary and introduction to each text. I’ve found that the recipes don’t go through the auto-translators very well, but there are lots of folks working on translating these works, so Google the cookbook name and see if you get lucky. English translations of period cookbooks

Ein Buch von guter spise(the book of good food), dated to 1345 to 1354, translated by Alia Atlas, 1993.

Master Eberhard's Cookbook. 15th C. cookbook and dietetics from Landshut. translated by Volker Bach

Kochbuch a. d. Archiv. d. Dt. Ordens -15th Cent East Prussia translated by Volker Bach

Inntalkochbuch, and early 16th Century Bavarian cookbook .translated by Volker Bach

Sabina Welserin, 1553 , translated by Valoise Armstrong 1998

From Marx Rumpolt, Ein New Kochbuch , c. 1581; translated by M.Grasse (work in progress)



Always period, if a little warm in hot climates. Keywords to look for when purchasing online: broadcloth, tabby, worsted, flannel, tropical weight worsted.


Silk comes in many different weights and weaves, from light as down to a heavy full bodied satin. Interlining silk with linen can give it more body and help it hang better. Keywords to look for when purchasing online: Satin, poplin, broadcloth, twill, shantung, brocade, taffeta, faille, repp, habotai. Silk noile is controversial as a period fabric, as is duponi in some circles.


While there are not many extant outer garments made from linen, there are a few! Linen is undeniably documentable for underwear, linings in garments, stockings and ladies headcoverings. Its a good fabric for hot days since it keeps you cool.

Fabric to avoid

Anything knit, jersey fabrics, rayon or polyester. Striped fabric is not documentable for the German lands, although fabric pieced into stripes is, go figure.


There were no chemical or aniline dyes during the 16th century, but they still wore plenty of color. Reds, pinks, yellows, oranges, greens, blues, browns, blacks, greys are all represented in period artwork. A good resource on what colors can be obtained with natural dyes is the book Wild Color

Online Fabric Sources

Wonderful selection of linen at good prices, never had any trouble with customer service and very prompt delivery.
Wide selection of linen, silk and wool in a wide variety in prices. Be sure and get on their mailing list so you are notified of their $5 a yard sales. Has occasional fantastic sales on merino wool and silk. Definitely get on the email list so you find out about the sales

Typical Styles for Women

During the 16th century the style of women’s clothing changed dramatically from the relatively unstructured gowns of the Housebook Master to the very tailored structured Spanish influenced styles of the 1570’s.

There are some consistencies throughout the century however:

  • Front closing bodices
  • Soft curves over the bust indicating that the bust was supported but not flattened as in Spanish, French and English styles. No gratuitous displays of cleavage however.
  • High-necked smocks, with and without ruffs/ruffles
  • Flat waistlines, the extreme pointed styles of Spanish, English and French fashion were picked up in the very late 1590’ and only by the upper class.
  • Sewn in sleeves
  • Bodice and gown are sewn together
  • Aprons
  • Covered hair. Although towards the middle of the century barrets and hats began to be adopted by women, women always wore something on their heads. Only girls went bareheaded or with a pearled headband on, grown women never did.

Typical layers, from the skin out

  • Smock, made of linen
  • Corset or bodice
  • Petticoat, could be several
  • Dress
  • Gollar, shoulder cape
  • Apron
  • Head covering
  • Stockings

Typical Styles for Men

Men’s clothing also underwent a serious transformation from the beginning of the century to the end, with the fashion staring out as hose and jerkin, transitioning to Rocks (gowns) and then transitioning to the Spanish influenced styles of doublet, jerkin and breeches. There are a lot more extant examples of men’s clothing from the period than there are of women’s, Janet Arnold’s book Pattern’s of Fashion does a good job of explaining the different types of men’s garments in the second half of the century.

Unlike women’s clothing that just changed the styles of the layers, men’s clothing changed the layers involved completely. Unfortunatly as I don't have a man who is interested in wearing these types of clothes, my research into this area has been limited. A good resource for men’s clothing is the archives of the GermanRenCostuming group on Yahoo! Groups.



Originally a class handout, August 2004. Updated in 2006 and 2009