Landsknecht Cap …what should a man wear underneath his hat?

Maybe you don’t want to wear your wool hat directly on your head, it can be itchy but it also makes the hat dirty with all that human sweat penetrating the hat for day after day. As a women it’s usually pretty simple, you just wrap a head floaty, where a haube or something else similar, depending on what kind of German class you belong to.

Lately several people have asked me for what a man properly should wear underneath his hat and it makes me so happy because I’ve tried once to convince my husband into wearing the awesome period caps you sometimes see in paintings, underneath his hat. He wasn’t as amused as I was, and to his defense, he more often puts on his Landsknecht outfit more to please me and make me happy …he definitely prefers early period clothing. So I let him wear his hat as he please, with either a Schlappe or a coif underneath, it’s not the end of the world.

But for those who might be a bit curious about what a guy can wear underneath a hat, I present the cap, a neat little haube for men and i only have seen it being worn once so far and it made me excited to see that little cap on this guy (thank you Sir Måns!), because paying attention to details is such a satisfying feature and I applause all those who do it.

Here is a small sample of different caps worn by men in Germany during the 16th century, and maybe I make one and just hope I’ll someday may convince my husband to wear it.


Feather, feathers and plumes!

How do I decorate my 16th century hat?

The ostrich feather, big voluminous plumes, in a hat is what catch your eye when you see the 16th century Germany dresses, even though many hats during that period didn’t have any feathers, or maybe only one single one. The feather comes from the ostrich, who derives from Africa, but now has spread all over the world via farms due to their adaptations to the climate. The feathers of adult males are mostly black, with white feathers on the tip of the wings and a white tail. Females and young males are greyish-brown and white.

The ostrich gives you a couple of different kind of feathers, depending on where on the body it was located, long, short, stiff, soft etc. The wing feathers provides the big fluffy and soft plumes.

The plumes has a very nice and soft tip that ‘bobble’ when you wear it, in contrary to feathers which have a stiff tip …but plumes are also more expensive then the regular feathers, so choose what you want to spend.

Wing feather/plume (left) and feather (right)

How many feathers should I use?
The feathers are important for the impression the hat is going to make, a hat without feathers can still be a beautiful piece of handicraft, but adding feathers always gets the ooooh and aaaah. Feathers also provides stiffening to the brim …as well as extra sail for the wind. How many feathers depends on how you planning to show them and depending on the purpose of your hat; is it going to become an art and science piece competing in period accuracy? Then you should choose feathers appropriate to your outfit, the feathers was expensive back in the days, and even today the feathers cost a lot (Plumes/wing feathers are more expensive then ordinary feathers, the one I use cost around $6-7 (45-50 SEK) per plume, and can be found at Pimp Your Garb or Kapitelhusgarden).

My small hats has a tendency to have around 7 feathers, that gives me the look I want too have (I loose some, I add some…).

To give you an indication of how feathers was used, study woodcuts and paintings of different classes and sexes and areas of what we usually define as the 16th century of Germany. There is woodcuts with Landsknechts, paintings with Saxon princess, religious paintings and portrait, you can study, depending what area you are interested in.

Here is some example:

You can spread the feathers evenly all around the brim like this:
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You can have one or two feathers, straight up or hanging down, or one point forward or both pointing backwards or evenly resting on the brim on both side of your head:
1eb18c98805cce811fbc56649a39c5d9 31f078860de87e7d95503744fc05b8d0 48419fc660f518f63e185b47f7392fb1 aa70b59b773b422a2eb40db9243353b4 20b7c332a7a7231d050cbbc7e40ab2fb 954b64610bcc73999a96b9f7eb53ece8 043588d0380473131d10e812df8e5b2b 3a6c41560e379f19b1bc11912b49d950 86adf443496d39995c8f7582f3332075 878914f7b1aec33daf957ecc2c56474c

You can choose an amount of feathers somewhere in between, and have them point straight up, or spread evenly on both sides, or all to the front, or all hanging in the back:
0da67f16fa11683a60fe96d4b6d7b095 5f8df91f5819b850965d99f7c6356043 82ff4f5764d902de2d5f9a354cbc1f22 a5876ccc40392befe4fa165b0199416b beb9d19a8c3dbb2a1f8686c98393236b ecd0214a2ec6107fa8c74e28e92a4a9f

Strictly speaking, the amount of feathers depends on your status: an officer has probably more feathers then a simple drummer, a Saxon princess has probably higher quality feathers then a trossfrau etc. An officers female follower has probably more feathers then a follower to a foot soldier, a middle class women has probably fewer then a general etc. There is probably even a different depending where in Germany you live, so there is all kind of different variable that needs to be taken in consideration when making a hat proper to your dress …or just choose to add the amount of feathers you wish to have, and be satisfied with your ooooh’s and the aaaah’s as you walk by.

Most of the woodcuts and paintings are portraits, often made to make the motif look their best, or sometimes a generalization of how a group is presented. The feather was probably not part of the everyday dress, especially for the lower classes, but more often used when posing, processing etc, and they could also been added as a symbol of power, purity or flamboyant. I’ll talk more about symbolism in renaissance paintings and woodcuts in the next blog.

If we then study paintings of camp scenes or painted groups of people, we will probably get a more appropriate window into the every day life:


Detail of painting of Karl V camp, 1546
You see around 50 people in the painting, and still nobody is wearing any feathers among the landsknechts and camp follower, even though almost every single one is wearing same style hat as above (one guy in a red hat has something that might be interpreted as feathers laying on his brim)

Feathers seem to be more common among the nobles (especially women …and men dressed in armour)…and landsknechts. The middle class seem to have a more humble approach and maybe only wear one feather, if they have any at all. The trossfraus, the camp followers of the landsknechts (which I’m specifically interested in), seem to wear feathers more often when posing; alone or in the company of a landsknecht, rather then during a march, cooking, or any other everyday chores (which makes sense of course).


One exception is the picture “La Lansquenette” (pic no 7) which shows a fully dressed trossfrau loaded with things and obviously on the march.

More woodcuts and paintings from the 16th century, Germany, can also be found at my Pinterest

How do I attach the feathers?
First you have choose the amount of feathers you wish to have on your hat, then you want to attach them in some way to prevent them from falling off. Some people stitch them to the hat, I prefer to use pins, sturdy pins around 2″ (7-10 cm) so I can re-arrange them if I want, but it’s also easier to get them to stick where I want them to be. I prefer this type of hat pins:

Before I attach them, I always curl them to give them that perky look, there is several ways to curl a feather, but I’m usually just start at the top of the feather, grabbing it carefully between my thumb and fingers and pull it towards the tip …working my way down the stim until I have reached the curl I want.
Normal feather and slightly curled feather …and curled feather and really, really curled feather that takes the shape of a spiral

Spiral curled feahter

Some feathers might have a thick vane, so you need to soften it: boil a pan of water and hold the feather over the steam to soften the stim before curling.

It becomes very obvious when you curl the feather from which side of the bird the feather comes from, use the natural right or left feather when decorating the hat.20130927-175641.jpg Left and right curl

Don’t rush this part of attaching feathers, it takes me around an 30-40 min to attach feathers to a new hat. Do it in steps: curled the feather, attach it, take a look, attach another two, take a look of the result etc. After you’re finished with the placement, then use the pins to be secure them in place.

20131016-151046.jpg 20131016-151055.jpg
Slightly curled feathers attached to a Saxon hat

Spiral curled feathers attached to the same hat

20131016-151220.jpg 20131105-145027.jpg
The hat to the left has 22 curled feathers, the hat to the right has 29 spiral curled feathers
Same hat, with spiral curled feathers, where the feathers are pointing upwards instead of resting on the brim.

Don’t forget to attach the pins to secure the feathers from not falling off in the wind.

How many feathers, how you curl them, depends on what kind of hat you have and what kind of result you are after:


1) My small hat: where my feathers points straight up (the surrounding people are very happy about that) and I use on top of my wulsthaube.
2) The easy one: that I can just slip on top of a simple headpiece
3) The Saxon hat that gives great protection from the Californian sun (and Swedish rain): The last hat should be used to a Saxon dress, but apparently I can’t find any picture of myself in one… I apologies for the slightly anachronistic way I wear it. But it was a GREAT sun protection! …note that I basically just added some feathers on one side on the last one.

How do I transport and storage the hat?
The feather is pretty strong, I usually just roll it into my veil, mostly because the feathers has a tendency to get stuck in the zipper… I rarely remove the feathers from the hat, but I also have soft hats with no wire nor buckram or anything that stiffen it. Just plain old double layer of wool. Well, except for my Saxon court hat, that one actually has a layer of plastic inside, and the size is perfect fit to my bag, but with out the feathers…

My feathers has been through rain and has always regain their fluffiness after they dried, but if the feathers starts to look a bit sad, then remove them from the hat and use a mild shampoo and rinse them in luke warm water, dry them with the tip down, or if you are in a hurry, blow dry them on cool settings, smooth the vane with your fingers during the time your air blow them and redo the curls if necessary to make them fluffy again.

Heat, sun, dust, soap etc can damage the feathers in the same way as your skin and hair, becoming dry and fragile. My feathers seem to have about 2-3 lifespan before they become dry and brakes when I curl them. (It doesn’t stop me from using them as filling between other more fresher feathers) The feathers can be attacked by insects and mites so storage your feather (and hat if they are still attached) the same way you storage your wool dresses, cedar has a natural repellent to insects, and you can buy cedar balls to put into your hat box, the box will keep the feathers away from direct sun light when your are not using it. Avoid storage the feathers in plastic bags, since that will prevent them from breathing.

(If you choose to use dyed feathers, then be sure that they won’t bleed in the rain, otherwise it may discolour your hemd.)

Lucas Cranach Digital Archive
– M. McDonald, Ferdinand Columbus: Renaissance (London, British Museum Press, 2005)
– Wikipedia
– Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce
– Bishop Museum, The care of feathers, 1996
– Pinterest

The Lansquenette Hat

I found an old hat project I started on a couple of years back, which I never finished because it kind of failed… Now, three years later, I realized that it might be able to get something out of it anyway.

The Lansquenette hat is a kind of unique, as in that its not one of the most common ones to be seen , the concept and construction is popular, and I have seen a lot of trossfraus all over the world wear something similar.

Anonymous, La Lansquenette, 1567

As you can see, the hat has its slashing slightly shifted, creating a spiral slash pattern.

The first tryout I made was just a rectangle with straight slashes, since I had the idea of then sew them into a tube, flatten it, shift it, to make it look like the woodcut, and then simply stitch it in place. This didn’t work at all…

So my next try was this;

I instead cut the slashes diagonally and sew it all into a tube, fold it…

And tadaa, it worked!

This is when it kind of failed a couple of years back; the fabric I have use is to light weight/thin and it’s just hang there like a sad starfish.

So *drums* …years later I suddenly decided to try to reinforce the fabric, by simply adding a thick linen on the backside of each slash, which made the construction much sturdier and less floppy.

I then added silk on the inside


Stitched it in place and fold everything back and sew the inner side together.


The next problem is though that the brim is still to floppy;

So I decided to add some stiffness by sewing a simple stitch around the inner edge and pulling it tighter

I got the idea from the woodcut by Erhard Shoen, 1535

Which hat looks like its a piece of fabric, simple gathered in the middle by a pull string.

Next step is to figure out the top of the hat, since the woodcut doesn’t show any of that part, I kind of thought of adding the popular folded square (that makes it looks like a square with a flower pattern.

…here I use a quarter of a paper to get the idea of what size I needed, but the size I wanted to have, didn’t have me any good way of attach it to the hat without stitch it through the slashes, and that wouldn’t give enough sturdiness and would make the hat pull weirdly when wearing it.

So I decided to make a basic 16th cent construction, and was inspired of the pattern from this woodcut (which is about 50 years to early, but decided to be a bit anachronistic and ignore it …just to finish the three year old hat project) as you can see, the hat is worn by a male person, but since I have seen so many examples of unisex hats, I it feels kind of okey anyway)


Trying out the paper pattern.

20130819-123951.jpg20130819-124002.jpgcut out two round piece, one with the pattern of my choice, and one with a whole in it (this is the one that connects the top to the brim)

Attach your silk (or fabric by choice)
-silk puffing
-top piece with decoration
-middle piece

Turned everything and finishing the sides, then attach it to the hat;




Improvements to be made for the next one;
– use a thicker wool
– use wider and lesser amount of ‘bars’
– make the width of the bar rectangle a little more narrow, maybe around 20 cm instead of 25 cm

An overview of the Trossfrau

Landsknechte (German plural, singular Landsknecht) were mercenaries from the late 15th to the late 16th century. Knecht, meaning servant, helper, or stooge, was also used for the paid foot soldiers that were to be known as the Landsknecht. The format of the German mercenaries was inspired from the Swiss army, as was the dress fashion. Swiss mercenaries were called Reisläufer, and you can use the slashes to spot the difference between them: Germans had “x” slashes and Swiss had “+” slashes.
The tross were the camp followers who traveled with each Landsknecht unit, carrying the military necessities, food, and belongings of each soldier and his family. The tross were made up of women, children, and some craftsmen.
The name of the women traveling with the landsknecht came be known as kampfrau or trossfrau. Neither is a period name even though today they are used to describe the group of “females hanging with the landsknechts”. Just before this class I took a long discussion with Meisterine Katheryn Hebenstreitz, about what to name to use for all those women who follows the Tross, and decided that Trossfrau, seem more accurate then the word Kampfrau, and therefore that is what I have decided use in this hand out. Feel free to use the term you like, the important issue is that other people know what you are talking about.
The period description of the women would have to be divided into several categories according to their role in the Tross:

The fraue was the person the Landsknecht was legally married to, even though they also had a sort of fake marriage that happened when the leaders tried to regulate the number of women following the tross. Since the war campaigns usually started during spring, this kind of marriage was known as a may marriage and the wife known as mai fraue.
Whure was a women who wasn’t married to the man she followed, kind of like a modern partnership with a man and a women.
Dirne was the prostitute who made her living by selling her services, and they even could be found in the payrolls as a legal worker during the war campaigns. Some men left their wife at home while they in the field had a mai fraue or a whure who helped him and took care of him during the war campaign. The women also took part in the looting of the battlefield as a way to make some extra money for living. Some of the women also had a professional role in the camp as neterin (seamstress) or lautenschlagerin (lute player), etc.

The most popular theory about the elaborate dress is that it started as loot from the battlefield, and was then altered to fit the new wearer. A new leg replaced the old one, a piece of brocade became a trim, etc, which can be done easiest by slashing the parts that might be too tight. The style of dress later developed and eventually became so flamboyant that Kaiser Maximilian I exempted it from the prevalent sumptuary laws as an acknowledgement of their “…short and brutish” lives. One theory though claims that Kaiser Maximilliam had trouble controlling the Landsknechts and therefore gave them the freedom to dress as they wanted rather than seem like a weak ruler.

Remember… your dress doesn’t have to be an exact copy of a 16th century woodcut, you are free to cut any corners you want to – but always be aware that you also are part of someone else’s dream.

The small picture of paintings and woodcuts are not necessary an image of a Trossfrau (as you probably noticed), but added to give you a broader perspective of the different construction and appearance of the 16th century German dress. The head-to-toe woodcuts under the section “The dress”, are all images of a Trossfrau.

The Gollar is made out of wool and lined with linen, and often just covers the top part of the body. It can be pointy in the front, have a high neck and be worn open in the front. It has usually decorative trim, and can be lined with fur.overview gollar

The Apron is made out of a rectangular piece of linen, with pleatwork embroidery (smocking) at the top, using the same pattern as seen on the chemise. The early recreations of a split Trossfrau dress (separate jacket and skirt) were probably a misinterpretation that the apron was a part of the chemise visible in the waistline. You can find three different kinds of aprons: as a skirt, as a rectangular piece in the front, or as one with two rectangular pieces sewn together in the sides and pleated in the top and with bands over the shoulder.
The pouch is made out of leather and has several compartments.

The chemise, or shirt, is made out of linen, with pleatwork embroidery or smocking. The chemise can be either low cut or have a high neck collar and comes to mid thigh. The chemise is made out of rectangular shapes gathered by the smocking around the neck line and cuffs. The pattern for the chemise is usually based either on the Sture Shirt findings from Sweden and the fragments from Alpirsbach monastery in Germany. The chemise is basically unisex, except for the few examples that have more smocking on the sleeves.

The dress is a fitted bodice with a contrasting colored trim, which hides the stitches from the closing (either laced or hooks and eyes). It has long sleeves and some woodcuts indicate that the sleeves are attached to the dress by ties. The skirt is made out of a gathered tube, either with rolled pleats or double box pleats, and has often two stripes in a contrasting color (some woodcuts indicate the use of brocade). The woodcuts shows that trim, stripes, and sleeves are sometimes slashed, either the ‘x’ or the ‘+’, but also only a simple ‘/’ (which doesn’t necessary means that the dress actually was slashes, but instead was a way pointing out if she was either a German or a Swiss). The outer dress is made out of felted wool and the bodice is lined with one layer of linen. The slashes are either white silk or linen, depending on your budget, but many of the pictures may indicate that it’s actually the chemise you see through the slashes, and not added puff. But if you study upper class clothing, you can clearly see that the puffs are made by adding extra fabric sewn into the dress between the lining and outer fabric. If you want to add extra puffs, then silk is recommend for the sleeves or any other places that you want to puff them a bit more. Linen looses the puffiness, attracts dirt easier, and is heavier than silk. The skirt is hoisted up by a belt worn over the hips, letting you use the opening in the front as a pouch. The Trossfrau rarely had any complex double puff/slashed sleeves, their dresses are usually very simple without the decorations that the male garb had.
Overview Trossfrau

The hat has many different shapes from small to big, from stiff to sloppy, from a few feathers to totally covered with a large amount of feathers. It’s made out of wool and the puffs can either be of colored linen or silk, depending on your budget. There is even knitted berets preserved from the period, which were used for both man and women. The ostrich plumes (preferably plumes and not feathers, since the plumes has a nicer softer approach), should be natural colors (white, grey, black, brownish). Almost all the feathers are white in the woodcuts and paintings. The head cloth consist of three layers: it probably was just two braids, crossed over the head to form a bulge underneath the cloth, wulsthaube. On top of that you can wear either a steuchlein (plain thin cloth) or a värcher (face is lined by pleats). The cloth covering the chin is called bendlein. The “tail’ is called schleier, and was used to cover you face during the dusty march through the country. The cloth is made out of linen, but can also be silk. Either way it can be decorated with embroidery

The underskirt is made out of linen and is a plain tube pleated at the waistline, and can have one or two stripes in a contrasting color. The hose were sewn out of thin wool, and held up with a band above the calf/knee. The hose can either be in one colour or several. The Shoes (Kuhmaleshoe = cow nose shoes; from the similar shape) has a specific flat front part, usually one band crossing the foot, but could also be more rounded as a modern shoe.

– Rogg, Matthias: Landsknechte und Reisläufer: Bilder vom Soldaten
– Holbein, Hans d.J.: Zeichnungen aus dem Kupferstichkabinett der Öffentlichen Kunstsammlung Basel
– -Mistress Katheryn Hebenstreitz, a Laurel and Pelican in the SCA with a focus on 16th Century German Clothing -Web Gallery of Art, The Web Gallery of Art is a virtual museum and searchable database of Western (European) fine arts of the Medieval, Renaissance etc – digital archive of paintings by Lucas Cranach and his sons – a community for Landsknechts and Trossfraus all around the world–Basic info about the Landsknecht and high resolution pictures of woodcuts, and don’t be afraid to try to search in a different language, it will give you a good start to find more pictures and inspiration.