This started out as a keen interest in the late 15th century German garb a couple of years ago, and I have made some tryouts aiming for a dress with the pleated panels in front and back as seen in so many drawings and paintings from the time and region. However, I struggled with how to get enough bust support with such a lowcut dress with the pleated panels and never found a good way of doing it. Until the first pictures of the Lengberg finds hit the internet, showing supportive underwear from just the right time and place! Here was the answer to all my garbquestions. No need to make the dress work supportive, it is all done by the under-garments. And since I lost a lot of weight and changed size, the need for making new garb got urgent and a friend then asked the trick question – When going new, will you focus on just one time and region and explore it completely? I raised to the challenge and this is the first results. The accessories are not all completely new but made by me within the last three-four years.
|My Lengberg brassiere all done|
In some details I have to refer to pure guesswork, where no good sources of preserved garments and/or good detailed artwork are to be found, but I then aim to do an educated guess, based on sources from other geographic regions than my chosen one, either actual finds or artwork.
My inspiration for the shift is a variety of paintings, mainly by Albrecht Dürer, showing both men and women wearing elaborate smocked and embroidered shirts/shifts, all showing in the deep V-necked kirtles or jackets. When examining them closely, you´ll find that it is most likely a very fine and tight smock with white-work embroidery covering the pleats and then a small ribbon or golden lace attached to the neckline. In most of Dürers female portraits the shift shows covering the shoulders and neck as well, but in his selfportrait it is clearly a different model, with a tight smocked frontpiece and the shoulders of the shirt not showing at all. In other depicitons of women the dress is always a deep V-neck but there the shift is only showing in the bottom of the V as a small insert. I have therefore chosen to make a simple shift with some more work done on the front panel, that will be the only thing showing. And after quite a lot of experimenting I had to give up the idea of actual whitework over the pleats. In some close-ups it looks like couched whitework and that is simply too much to chew on for me right now. So my shift, in a rather sturdy hemp that holds the pleats nicely, is inspired by Dürers shirt but not as elaborate. The embroidery is a simple smock done in golden and white silk. The cut is a simple one, a A-shaped backpiece, two frontside-panels, the inserted pleated frontpanel and arms with a square gusset. This cut seems to be in style, as far as style goes concerning undergarments, for centuries, shown in English 16th century fashion and in the early medieval days, shown in preserved garments like Thomas Becketts shirt or Infantin Marias shift from the 12th and 13th centuries. The shape of undergarments of course vary as they start to show, with wider arms if shown in slits or open and laced arms, but when not showing and worn under a tighter straight sleeve the arm of the undergarments is adjusted. I have therefore chosen a straight arm in my shift, not to tight so that I can push them up when needed and so that it is not too bulky under the straight arm of the dress.
I have long wanted to make what is popularly named “the Housebook dress”, after the numerous pictures done by an anonymous engraver and painter, who lived and worked in South Germany in the last quarter of the 15th century.
The three pictures above shows some of the variety of dresses in his and others artwork, but they all have the characteristics of a deep V-neckline showing the shift and pleated panels in the front. In the St Catherine-picture you clearly see the cut of the dress, with a waistseam, not showing in the pleated frontpanel, which was propably one whole without the waistseam. Most of the width in the skirt seems to come from the pleats and not from the sidepanels at all. In Dürers portrait of the young girl the same inserted pleats show in the front and the dress seems to be with a waistseam, however not that obvious. In this portrait it is also noticable that there must a front opening.
|This is one of the two frontpanels, stitched for pleating, with the seams 1 cm apart.|
|This is the turnout|
|Measuring in order to know how large to make the cutout in the bodice.|
|The frontpieces of the bodice with cutouts for the pleated panels.|
|Front of the lining, showing the lining extended so |
that it completely covers and protects the pleats.
|Backpiece with lining, stitching all seams |
together before assembling the bodice.
|Stitching the backpieces together.|
|The back with inserted pleated panel.|
|I´m quite happy with the turn-out of |
the sleeves with the large armscye.
I have used one big gusset in the sleeve.
The gefrens is a little fringe of wool yarn fastened to a ribbon to tie around the head under the veil. There are depictions of young women using only the gefrens over their braided hair and there seems to be a variety of colours, even multicoloured ones. Mine is simple green, and made by using the loose threads as weft into a woven ribbon using a rigged heddle.
|The lady on the left is wearing the full headdress with veil, vimple and gefrens,|
while the lady on the right just wears the gefrens over her braided hair.
Belt, purse and stockings
Now for the last finishings. No attire is complete without these things, a belt, a purse and a pair of stockings.
The belt is the simplest belt ever, since I haven´t found any pictures of elaborate women belts in the artwork from this time and region, but simple, thin belts just enough for holding a purse. Black leather in a 1 cm wide strip, with a very simple brass buckle, sewn to the belt.
The purse is another story, I found these purses with a number of smaller purses attached to it, in drawings and etchings by Albrecht Dürer.
I made mine in a good quality dark blue wool in a foursplit pattern, and four smaller purses attached, one on each of the four pieces. I have used beads of bone and metal for fastening the lucet cords use for the purse, all made in green wool yarn. And around the opening I used a red lucet cord for reinforcment and adornement.
The stockings or kneehose are in the area of the educated guess. I have not found them in the artwork, nor in any preserved examples from this region. Kneehose have however been found among the Herjolfsnes garments, made in wool and with no whole foot, and a hose fragment has been found in Lubeck as well as one possible kneehigh hose from London. All these preserved examples are in wool, sewn and dated from late 13th century to 15th century. Sewn stockings are therefore my choice for keeping my feet warm.