1560-70 Fencing Clothes

It’s time, once again, for a new sewing project.  This time, I’m making clothes after the illustrations in Joachim Meyer‘s fencing treatises.

Meyer produced a printed book (which saw two editions) and a manuscript, both with illustrations.  Here’s one of the woodcuts from the printed book:


The manuscript has color, painted illustrations.  I’m basing my sewing project on this one, because I like the colors and also because it’s one of the simplest depictions of this fashion, with relatively restrained slashing.  (It happens to also be the first illustration, but I have looked through all of them and still like this one best, even better than the other lavender, white, and black pluderhose.)


In order to recreate this fabulousness, I’m using patterns from Janet Arnold‘s 1985 Patterns of Fashion; she studied and measured the clothing of Svante, Erik, and Nils Sture which was preserved by Marta Sture, Svante’s wife and Erik and Nils’s mother, following their deaths by politically-motivated murder.  The clothing they died in, as well as some items that had belonged to a third brother that died two years earlier, were preserved and buried in an iron box, discovered in the 18th century, and displayed ever since.  Here’s a photo of the display (source), which is in Uppsala Cathedral:


This collection is of course wonderful just as examples of well-preserved clothes, but the details of the provenance make it especially valuable to costume historians: these suits were all fashionable at the same time, with a young dandy kind of variation (Erik, whose clothes are on the right, was 21, which might explain his extra poofing and stripes everywhere), a practical sporting kind of variation (Nils, center, more in a moment), and a middle-aged man’s more sedate clothing (Svante, at left, with wider panes and shorter poofs, a less dramatically shaped torso, and rich but not elaborate braid-trimmed velvet).  Also, both Svante and Erik’s suits have been altered to accommodate weight gain.  Erik’s suit appears in a portrait of him from a few years earlier.

I’ll be working most closely from Arnold’s patterns of Nils’s clothes, shown in the center.  She believes this outfit might have been his riding or traveling clothes; it’s made of sturdier materials than the other two, with the puffs of the pluderhose made from wool rather than silk (although the panes are still velvet), and the doublet and internal structure of the pluderhose made of chamois leather (originally probably also black).

Since the guys shown in Meyer aren’t wearing hats, I’m not planning to do a hat for this costume, but if I do, I may base it on the hat remains in the center of the Sture display.  I actually haven’t read much about the hat itself in terms of fashion details, but it belonged to Sven Svantesson Sture, who wore it with the small glove seen at the left edge of the display case pinned to the band.  The glove is knit very finely with a fancy pattern and the name of Sven’s betrothed, who may have knit it for him as a token.  You can see a better photo of the glove and read more at Knitting Daily.

So… that’s my sewing agenda for the next month or two!  I’ll let you know if I survive the trials of linen blend, microsuede, and poofing.


1560-70 Fencing Clothes