Fashion Friday: Pluderhosen

Pluderhosen and doublets worn by Eric, Nils and Svante Sture in 1567. Displayed in Upsala Cathedral.

I had decided that pluderhosen were the MC Hammer pants of mid-16th century Germany – apparently fashionable in their time, but no one can tell you why now. Then a little more research online turned up the fact that they were popular with the German Landsknecht, mercenary soldiers, and a discussion on posits that the stiff outer layer of wool or felt and the puffiness might have helped protect against both the elements and sword cuts aimed at your legs. So maybe not just a ridiculous fashion statement.

I ran across a description of pluderhosen when I was researching Shakesbear’s breeches but, since I had already drafted that pattern, I didn’t go looking for any pictures of them. It wasn’t until I saw drawings of the Sture suits in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 3 that I beheld the majesty that was pluderhosen. They are paned breeches taken to the extreme – fewer panes and a great deal more lining puffed out between them.

Paned trunk hose in Giovanni Battista Moroni’s painting “The Tailor”

When we think of puffy breeches, we are more likely to think of trunk hose, the short pants that most closely resemble a pumpkin. Like pluderhosen, they had an outer layer made of strips of fabric called panes, and a lining fabric that showed (or sometimes was deliberately pulled out) between the panes. Trunk hose were also made with an interlining which sat close to the body and pocket bags between the lining and interlining which were stuffed with wadding to give the hose its puffy appearance.

As a bonus, you could use the pocket bags to carry around a few necessities. Here’s  John Bulwer writing in 1653, quoted in Patterns of Fashion 3:

“. . .a Prisoner . . . who being to go before the Judge for a certaine cause he was accused of, it being at that time when the Law was in force against wearing Bayes stuffed in their Breeches, and he then having stuffed his breeches very full, the Judges told him that he did weare his breeches contrary to the Law: who began to excuse himselfe of the offence, and endeavouring by little and little to discharge himselfe of that which he did weare within them, he drew out of his breeches a paire of Sheets, two Table Cloaths, ten Napkings, foure Shirts, a Brush, a Glasse, and a Combe, Night-caps, and other things of use saying (all the Hall being strewed with this furniture) your Highnesse may understand, that because I have no safer a store-house, these pockets do serve me for a roome to lay up my goods in, and though it be a straight prison, yet it is a store-house big enough for them, for I have many more of value yet within it. And so his discharge was accepted and well laughed at, and they commanded him that he should not alter the furniture of his store-house, but that he should rid the Hall of his Stuffe, and keep them as it pleased him.”

Ridiculous fashion statement, impromptu armor and a place to stash your extra linens. What’s not to love?

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