Munich Costume before 1800

I have a strong preference for the fashion of the 18th century, but all the serious research available deals with French and English fashion only. Research on Munich costume, on the other hand, tends to focus on the 1820s-40s. Therefore I collect every bit of material - even tiny, blurry figures in landscape paintings - about the (preferably female) costume of Munich and Southern Germany prior to its "classic" era in the early 1800s.


Schrannenplatz by an unknown artist in 1636

Schrannenplatz is the old name for the central square in Munich, now Marienplatz. The painting is in the possession of the Munich City Museum.

Two Ladies in stiff, pointy bodices with ruff collars. Probably members of the upper class. The clothing is similar to what can be seen in Dutch and Flemish paintings of a slightly earlier time. The apron seems to have been an inevitable addition even this early.

Two upperclass ladies and a girl, dressed much like the two in the first image.Large ruffs and fair dress colours send the message "I don't have to work". Note the pillbox-like hat. Note also how two good-for-nothings sneak up close, probably to steal a purse.

Common woman. Collar and hat belong to the early 16th century, but the "slashed" sleeve is reminiscent of the early 16th century. She appears to wear a long jacket, similar to that of the man, that hangs in tabs around the waist, with a large bow in back. The crude shoes probably place her in a relatively low stratum of society. Presumably, she's an honest citizen being accosted by one of the marauding soldiers that the 30 years war had brought to town. Note the man in the backgroud who appears to watch the scene while carrying ware to market.

Middle-to-upper class women. Again, long jackets and "slash" style. Again, hats like the ones that men wear. The end of the orange sash of the right woman hangs down her side back - that's probably what generates the bow in the previous image. Note the unusual apron: blue! Again, she's being accosted by soldiers and doesn't look very happy about it.

Commoners and soldiers. The woman in the foreground is handling a cart - probably a peasant. She wears a "blouse" (chemise?) with a small collar ruff and a dark skirt, suitable for serious work. The waistband is interesting: were all waistbands that wide? The two women in the background wear the kind of clothing that you would expect in that year - respectable middle class.



Paintings by Joseph Stephan, c. 1760

The first three: A scene outside an inn at a raft jetty south of Munich. Rafts were how logs were brought downriver from the Alps. The fourth: Scene near brickworks in the Rosenheim area, about 50km southeast of Munich. All paintings at the Munich City Museum.

The lady to the right could be in Munich costume, with an early form of Riegelhaube and a Spenzer jacket. The one on her left is from a rural area outside Munich, I think Southeast. I'm not sure. The sleeveless bodice and the fur-lined cap were still in use in the 19th century.

The woman in the centre wears a fair casaquin jacket with a red jupe - her clothing is close to the casual French fashion of the time.

To the right, a woman in jupe and casaquin with sleeve cuffs - a style that was discarded in France in the 1750s. The front of the jacket is closed. On her head, the predecessor of the Riegelhaube. The lady to the left is obviously upper class and probably of the older generation. The dress style looks very much like French 1710s.

The woman on the left wears the robe skirt gathered up, a style that looks back on the eraly decades of the 18th century - it's improbable that it is an early version of the polonaise. The woman walking away to the right wears a costume similar to the one in the first picture, only the skirt and bodice colours are reversed.


Horse Race by Joseph Stephan, 1779

In the porcelain collection of Nymphenburg Palace there is a large painting of a horse race somewhere outside the city walls with a large number of spectators in the foreground.

A group of middle-to-upper class persons. The lady to the left is clearly dressed "in fashion", as are the men. The lady in the middle is in "mixed" dress, in a caraco or similar, with winged cuffs, i.e. a conservative style typical for regional costume. The hat and apron add to the Tracht-like appearance. The lady in the background can be clearly identified as a Munich citizen by her golden Riegelhaube cap. The red Spenzer jacket is typical both in colour and shape.

Almost all of the people in this detail are dressed fashionably. Only the woman just off the middle, who appears to look at the one in cape and big bonnet, wears the combination of apron, Spenzer and Riegelhaube that gives her away as being from Munich.

The lady to the far right could be in Munich costume, but the cap looks strange. It was hard to make out details even in the original picture. Right in the middle, towards the top, and to the far left are women in a costume from just outside Munich.

Apparently a peasant family from just outside Munich. The woman's costume closely resembles that of the two in the previous picture.

Two women pushing a wheelbarrow with children in it. The woman to the right could well be the upper class mother, while the one at the handles is probably the nurse. She wears the usual Riegelhaube and Spenzer jacket. Note that the sleeve cuffs are in the 1740s style. The Spenzer basque stiffly stands out - probably not an artifact of the painter's fantasy as the same degree of stiffness is apparent in another painting i know of.



Pilgrimage Church Niederschönenfeld, late 18. /early 19.Jh.

All images in this table are reproduced with kind permission by Monika Höde, costume consultant of the Swabian province of Bavaria. The church is located about 60 km to the north-northwest of Munich - two or three days' travel from Munich at the time. All persons in the votive paintings here wear what I call Munich Tracht. Pilgrimage churches did attract worshippers from far away, but I wonder whether all the worshippers here were from Munich, or local folk imitating the citizens of the capital... or whether what we believe to be Munich Tracht was in fact in much wider use than we thought. Who knows, maybe it was only during the 19th century that distinct regional costumes began to develop out of a common base, with Munich staying closer to the original than any other region.

Cild, painted by Nikolaus Weiß, October 1800 (private property). Quoting Ms Höde: The youngest daughter in this family portrait is wearing the shirt-sleeved rococo clothing with the ribboned cap that only little girls wear. The partlet is pinned to the bodice with a golden needle. The necklace has two little angels at the ends, decorating the front of the bodice.

Woman praying, 1797. Different from other portraits of the time, casaquin and skirt are made of the same, patterned fabric. The only thing showing that it's really two garments and not a robe is the basque with its white lining sticking up stiffly atthe back. The fichu is red, which is rather unusual, and instead of the médicis-like Flor she is wearing a wide Kropfkette. The wristlets appear to be knitted in a pattern. The Riegelhaube is gold and red.

Woman and child praying, very late 18th century. The woman is wearing the typical casaquin in blue with a large, stiff basque. The black apron seems to reach up the the neckline where it would be pinned, more like a work apron than one for going to church. The golden Riegelhaube in its early, large form and the gold (embroidery?) on the skirt hem hint at a certain wealth. The child is wearing basically the same dress, but the colours are inverted. Both their Riegelhauben seem have some red in it,so the foundation beneath the gold is probably red.

Woman praying, very late 18th century. There, too, a black apron (only up to the waist this time) with a blue casaquin. The skirt is also blue, but the popular black/red/blue combination breaks surface in the details, such as the pattern of the gold-edged fichu. The wristlets are unusual - I'd only known the knitted openwork kind, but these seem to be made of black fabric with red facings, a slit edged in silver and closed with silver buttons.

Woman and girl, 1798. Here we see the black-and red wristlets again, this time with gold details, but of basically the same shape. She is leaving the usual colour code to wear pink, but again the apron is black. The bodice has a gold border - I'm not sure whether that is unusual because usually the neckline is covered by a fichu. Not so here. What she wears looks mor like a scarf slung about her neck, with a bit of skin, a pearl necklace and the chemise frills showing. The girls is wearing grown-up's clothing, bit her bodice has a lively pattern in gold, red and green and is long-sleeved. This picture and the one before the last show that contrary to a widely held belief, not all umarried womenfolk wore silver Riegelhauben, while gold was reserved for married.

Woman and boy, 1817. This woman is wearing the later, smaller form of Riegelhaube, not quite as small as in the "classic" (1820-40) period. Her bodice is also almost classic in style - the casaquin, which had been very similar to its international, fashionable (as of 1740) forebear, has evolved into something very regional.



Votive Wax Effigy, Kaufbeuren, 1776
Beneath the half-unbuttoned Spenzer jacket, horizontal rows of chain are visible. Together with the line across the breast, this suggests the presence of a stiff, chain-laced bodice (Mieder) underneath. The black neckcloth with heart-shaped, ornamental filigree clasp is also typical of early Munich costume.

A pair of Stutzl, the wristlets worn during the late 18th century to cover the arm from the chemise sleeve hem to the hand. Knitted of black wool with metal pearls that create the pattern. See effigy to the left.





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