The 1630 Dutch *Thang* – Beginnings

A still from “Tulip Fever” (2017) – outstanding costuming by Michael O’Connor.

As so often happens, after a no-sew period of downtime and feeling phlegmatic about costuming, I was struck by a small bolt of inspiration and have jumped into a new project.

It’s often nice to stick with the familiar…or I should say it’s “easy,” rather. Sewing another 18th century Italian gown is easy. Sewing another vintage dress is easy. But sometimes you just want to get stuck in to the nitty gritty of a totally alien time and place. My alien planet this time is the Netherlands in the early 1630s.

Though this image is a little earlier than my 1630 date, it shows details of the “vlieger” costume in detail. This costume did not change much (the sleeves are a little different), from the earlier 17th century onwards. Dirck Hals, Jacob Matham, 1619 – 1623 Rijksmuseum

I’m saying the Netherlands because that is where, generally, this style of dress comes from…but the surviving garments I’m referencing are all from Cologne, Germany. Cologne is quite close to the Netherlands and was heavily influenced by Dutch fashion in this period through trade and immigration. There is a very clear link between the styles in a variety of primary sources – portraiture, inventories, and other records – and several of my secondary references connect these two, so while I’m calling this my Dutch Thang, I reserve the right to call it my Cologne Thang in the future if I find there is actually too much differentiation.

One of several of these bodices in the Darmstadt collection, featured in Kölner Patrizier.

Mooooving on.
I first came into contact with these eye-popping basque bodices in “Tulip Fever,” a film I’ve written about here before. The costumes in this film are outstanding, and as with anything weird and brightly colored, I was drawn to the “lobster bod” like a magpie. It wasn’t until Patterns of Fashion 5 came out, though, that making one of these ensembles was a “must do,” for in that incredible book there are two such bodices from the Darmstadt collection. Supplied with the drug of gridded patterns and detailed notes on all the layers and padding, the Thang started to make much more sense.

I draped my pattern over a pair of hemp-boned bodies, comparing it to the pattern shapes in Patterns of Fashion 5.

Plus my bestie gave me a length of searingly-bright imperial yellow silk for Christmas.

Down the research rabbithole I went, and took the pains* (yes, pains) to import “Kölner Patrizier- und Bürgerkleidung des 17. Jahrhunderts Die Kostümsammlung Hüpsch im Hessischen Landesmuseum Darmstadt” (Cologne patrician and civic clothing of the 17th century: The Hüpsch costume collection in the Hessian State Museum in Darmstadt) on the recommendation of Angela Mombers.

This book, though written in German, comes with an English translation of the first three chapters, which discusses each of the garments in the catalog in detail, including construction notes, as well as the tailor’s trade and sumptuary laws in Cologne in the early 17th century. There are excellent photos of men’s and women’s 17th century garments, including several basque bodices and women’s upper garments, complete with pattern diagrams and photos of details and interiors.

The German book works brilliantly with Patterns of Fashion 5, which features the same photographs (licensed from the Darmstadt collection, I assume) but with significantly more information on the pattern and construction from a maker’s perspective.

So to get down to brass tacks, here are the pieces of this ensemble:

  • Shift/Shirt – linen, high necked, simple.
  • Skirt Supports – I’m using a ginormous Elizabethan style bum pad for the back and a smaller bum pad for the belly
  • Petticoat – referencing Tudor Tailor
  • Lobster Bodice – the coup de grace!
  • Vlieger/Surcoat Robe – referencing Janet Arnold, Norah Waugh, and portraiture
  • Sleeves – made separately and tied onto the vlieger
  • Millstone Ruff – dear lord save me
  • Rabato/Ruff Support – referencing Janet Arnold
  • Cap
  • Cuffs

My goal/deadline is Costume College in late July 2020. Wish me luck!

The German book and Patterns of Fashion 5 cross-referencing each other, and the smooth cover of my basque with the trim lines drawn out.

*This book is only available in Germany and at the time of my ordering it could only be paid for by wire transfer. While this method of payment is common in Germany, it is abnormal, inconvenient, and expensive in the US. The book is large and comes with an invaluable English translation of the first three chapters, but be prepared to pay close to or upwards of $100 USD for it.


  • Ticia

    January 24, 2020 at 2:12 PM

    If I had seen the bodice in another setting, I would have thought it was a modern fabric and creation with that crazy bright pink and black together. I'm pretty sure my niece had a fabric with a pattern like that.

  • Sweet Kitty Storyteller

    January 24, 2020 at 5:38 PM

    Oh man, best of luck, Loren!I love this time period, so will follow your progress, or lack there-of, hair-tearing, and tearful frustrations with great interest. Nice that the sleeves tie on, eh? Lol! And that ruff–dear god…..You go girl!!!

  • Hedgefairy

    January 25, 2020 at 9:37 AM

    Aaaah, I think the costume exhibition was closed when I went to the Landesmuseum Darmstadt last! What a magnificent project, I'm really excited to see the whole progress!
    Should you need a native speaker to translate something from that catalogue I'd be more than happy to help, just drop me a line (@hedgefairy.tales on Insta). 🙂

  • Jenn

    January 29, 2020 at 3:09 PM

    Amazing! I can’t wait to see how you approach this style, it’s one of my absolute favourites. Does this also mean we might see some early 17th century American Duchess shoes sometime in the future?????

  • Goatberry

    February 2, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    One place w some incredible ruff makers is the Elizabethan group on FB. Only if you want some tips or hand-holding. Intrepid sewing warrior, you! My 13/14th C persona comes across the channel w the Queen, but married a wool merchant & is now a widow. Of course, Queenie introduced the Gates of Hell surcoat & everyone was scandalized!
    Most seem to be wearing the same stuff, at that time…. But, you get to dive headfirst into the weird & wacky! Enjoy!

  • Pippa

    April 7, 2020 at 12:34 AM

    Actually, in the south eastern point of the Netherlands the dialect is so similar to the German Cologne dialect that people understand each other without any problem.

Leave a Reply

Discover more from American Duchess Blog

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading