Upping my sewing game – trossfrau

The fashion of the 13th century is my comfort zone. I am making garments of this period for 10 years now. The patterns are in my head and when I make something from that era I most of the time do not need paper patterns. This is mostly because the garments are predominantly constructed of rectangles and triangles and partly because I have made loads of these garments. Only when I’m making stockings or chaperones, I will draft a paper pattern. 

What my planning of a 13th century dress consists of is asking myself what the status of the person wearing it is. With a higher status the garment will often be wider and that is attained by more or wider gores. This decides wether I need 3m or more of the fabric. Drawing the pattern on the fabric is done within minutes and then I just cut and start sewing. It really became a routine.

The pieces of my simple dress for the 13th century.

To up my sewing game I wanted to make other garments as well and from the 14th century on there is a shift in how clothing is cut. The style changes from wide garments to body fitting. This also means that the patterns and techniques are changing. 

For my first project outside of my comfort zone (yay! Learning new stuff) I wanted to make a trossfrau. This term is a modern name for all the women supporting the landsknecht, a type of soldier from the 16th century.


Landsknecht und seine Frau
1526 -1550
ESchön AB 3.14
Geisberg 1923-1931, III, 1159, 1213; 
Hollstein German, XLVII, 188, 134b
Landsknecht mit Zweihänder und seiner Frau
1491 -1542
ESchön AB 3.19

A start on the trossfrau rabit can be found here https://whiljascorner.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/an-overview-of-the-trossfrau/ . These Landsknecht and their support are known for their lavish clothing with slashed loden cloth, smocked shirts, pompous hats and tight-fitting stockings. Perfect weirdness to get out of my comfort zone and to up my sewing game!

Luckily the sources on this period are more detailed when depicting clothing. Apart from many period woodcuts, statues and drawings I used the excellent blog of Katafalk https://katafalk.wordpress.com for patterns and inspiration. For the first time I made a drawing of what it should look like, I made a mockup of the bodice and many pattern parts! 

What struck me the most while making this garment is that the cut is very different and that far more techniques are used. I have become really curious what made the shift from wide simple garments to more fitted complex garments from the 14th century on.

The slashing and smocking in this garment are new to me and the cut is definitely a transition to a modern cut. It was also fun to use more detailed sources. For 13th century you often make educated guesses for closures and other small details that are not depicted. Wandering through collections searching for the details I needed really made me hungry for more early modern sewing projects! But for now some more work in progress pictures.

ps: I have to admit that the choice for trossfrau was not only based on the wish to up my game, but also to playfully look at the current wardrobe of the helpers of the dutch Saint Nicolas. The costumes are inspired by historical costumes, but are also very modern. The ruff always reminds me of these papers found under cakes. My trossfrau is a historical genderbend of the Hoofdpiet from the Sinterklaasjournaal :’) So Sinterklaas here is my application for the highly esteemed function of Piet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s