Landsknecht Wams

We are going to Sweden for the Medieval Week in Visby, and the husband need a jacket for those chilly nights that can occur even during the summer up there in the north. Since he already has a pair of hosen, I basically just used the left over fabric to create the bodice in yellow wool. I didn’t had any red wool left, so I decided to line it with red linen instead.

I started to cut out the bodice and the lining
Then sketch the pattern, cut it out and hem the slashes both back and front. (After slashing the front, I was a bit unsure if the slashing might be too big, so I made smaller on the back side) I might have to adjust the front some way …if they hang to much …but I will solve that after I have assemble the outfit and try it on him)
Back and front with the red lining.

To fit the bodice correctly, lacing wholes was made on the front piece two by two, I use silk thread and button hole stitches20130723-223321.jpg

The sleeves are suppose to be HUGE according to the woodcuts, but he didn’t wanted too big sleeves, so the arm hole is about 76 cm all around; and since I’m in a bit of a hurry of finish it, I didn’t wanted to much work and therefore decided that about 6 cm for each band was the biggest I could make it, and it still look good … And 76/6 is about 12 …so 12 for each arm it is.

The length of each band is calculated by measuring his arm length, then I marked the length on the iron board (because its the perfect pinning surface), and then I took one piece of fabric and pinned it to the right bulginess. The final length is 1 meter per band. I usually sew each slash, but due to the short time to finish, I instead cut every hole into the right shape (which is perfectly period an the wool is nice and non fraying). Before cutting I measured and calculated a good distance between each slash and made a template in a thick paper, so I could draw each slash fast and easy


Each band has 13 slashes, and it took about 4 hours to cut 12 band …then I wanted to line it with white silk, and each band takes 1-1,5 hour to sew. *Wohoo* …good thing with wool and silk is that it is at least very easy to just cut and rip, so that didn’t take more than a couple of minutes.

The silk ha the same width as the wool, but is slightly longer so it will bulge out of the slashes.

Wool band; 100 cm x 8 cm (including seam allowance since I have to hide the silk to prevent it from fraying)
Silk puffing; 150 cm x 8 cm

Back and front of each silk lined wool band.

Note that the each band is slightly smaller in one side to fit around the much smaller wrist (compare to arm hole). I might even remove two bands underneath the arm …this will make the cuffs even tighter and also take away some uncomfortable bulging in the arm hole. I can’t tell exactly how to do until I have had a fitting with him though.

Update July 25;

3 things needed to be fitted;
1) the sleeve
2) the front side lacing
3) the bottom of the wams so they work with the pants




The sleeves is in three layers; the black bands, the red puffing and the lining that will keep everything in order.

I mark every 10 cm with a pen on the lining

Then I pulled a thread on the same amount of lines on the puffing fabric so I had a straight line to follow.

Then I sewed rows, following each line an pull it so it gathered into nice puffs

Then I sewed the puffing onto the lining, and then started to add the black stripes on the top of everything.


Note that I add all the layers on the sleeve while the sleeve is still not sewn together, my idea was that this might be easier to assemble. It was easy to handle the sleeve, but it was a bit tricky to sew it together later, so I guess both ways has it’s perks…

This is the progress of today anyway;

And the good news is since I had to take it in slightly on the sides, the black stripes ended up slightly bigger and though the sleeve has 8 stripes at the top, it only has 7 around the wrist (one stripe is folded like a V at the top) …which means I only need 7 stripes for each sleeve. So I only have to make another 3 *wohoo*

Update 27 July;
Second sleeve is finished and they both are attached to the bodice


After attaching the sleeve to the outer layer (yellow) I fold and sew the lining (red) to hide the seams. The black thread is my horrible fast-attachment-of stripes viewed from the inside. (Did I mention I’m a bit stressed to have the wams done in time?)

I also hemmed the backside of the bodice, but my markings on the front has disappeared during the last days, so I need one more fitting to finish that part, including the lacing holes on one side.

So until then I finished the strings needed to close the wams.

I can’t seem to learn how to make lucet strings even under gun point, and can’t seem to find anyone to trade with, so 5-fingers braids it is …even though it’s a bit old fashion for the period. They still is elastic and will therefore not snap under pressure (well… Not too much pressure of course), which means that they will work as I want them to do. Each string has two small brass aiglets on each end, to make the lacing easier. (and a Landsknecht can’t have to much bling, right?)


The side seams is also finished by stitching small “invisable” stitches, this is the period equivalent of ironing the seams flat (as you would do on modern cloths) and since the seams are folded to one side, it also gives some extra strength to the seam …and the small dotted pattern is what (for me) gives the dress that extra look of completeness.


Update July 29;
It’s finished!


Things I would probably change for the next one;
-make the stripes for the sleeves same size from top to bottom, and instead put some extra around the armpit. Since I calculated the phasing to fit around the wrist, I had to make some ad hoc solutions when I used lesser amount of black stripes as I planned to.
– the front should probably be two square pieces (mine is a triangle, the tip of the triangle is we’re you can see the lacing in their front), since there is wood cuts that shows a lacing on both top parts (right next to the shoulders) on the front.
-the slashing in the front didn’t worked as I thought, so I had to stitch it to the lining, so no diagonal slashing (well, unless you stitch it to the lining of course
-a bit bigger piece of fabric for puffing; ratio 2:1 should probably give a bit more puffiness.
-line the backside of the stripes; this will keep the white silk puff out more in the front.
– when you look at the woodcuts you usually just see only 3 visible strings for lacing in the front, I’m not yet sure of how the front would stay in place, since that would make it bulge between the top and the bottom. I have therefore six strings on the side …so that needs to be look into a bit more.

I still want some more slashes on the bodice, but there is no time for it, but it is still possible to add someday in the future.

Total time of making the wams is about a week …give and take some day.

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.