Saturday 27 March 2010

17th Century Upper Middle Class Garments from Cologne

One of the most fabulous gifts I have ever received is the book of 17th century Cologne Costume published by Abegg-Stiftung in 2008. (I think it means I have to be good for the rest of my life.) The text is in German, and the book comes with a separate English translation of the main chapters. Apart from the images of the fabulous items of clothing themselves, there is a full analysis of the stitching and construction of each garment, including diagrams of all the pattern pieces. It is a hard task to choose which items to show you. The sleeves have it for me on this jacket - they enhance the body and give presence, yet with a provocative glimpse of the man beneath. And I try to imagine how those sleeves would move along with hand and arm gesticulations, can you see them?

What is truly astonishing is that the strips which compose the sleeve are virtually all air - strips of lace threaded with thin silk ribbon. The woven damsk of the body is beautiful in its simplicity and understatement - I must take myself off with some linen and thread and try to pattern darn this design!

This woman's jacket seems almost ordinary by comparison - what is there to get excited about that? Apart from its age? Let's look a little closer....

Here you can see that the entire jacket is meticulously and painstakingly pinked and stitched to reveal the contrasting lining beneath, creating the most marvellous texture and colour combination. I wonder how long it would take us to do that?
By the way, the colour pink is a recent addition to the English language, in the past the word rose was in common use. Pink meant serrated edge (think: pinking shears) - and the clove gillyflower having serrated petals came to be called pink because of this. The fact that the flower was rose coloured and very popular led to the transfer of meaning.


  1. Yes, the images and info in this book are astounding. I was lucky enough to see the exhibit in person. A word: breathtaking. The Abegg-Stiftung itself is pretty spectacular, housing textiles (mostly NOT costume in function) UP TO the 18th century - nothing more recent. Their diggs are pretty darned incredible, if you ever get a chance to our it.

  2. Great piece, even though I've stumbled accross it much later!
    Do you have a link on amazon or elsewhere for the book as the museum is currently closed :(