Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Costume of the 17th C. -Red Kontuz and Golden Sash

Magdalena Bartkiewicz - Polish Costume to 1864

Translation  RB, Gentleman, ©2006

Polish Dress 15th C.

Polish  Dress 16th C.

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Men's Fashion

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Translator's note


Overview 17th C.

P. 78

The 17th C. is identified in European culture as the Baroque era, and the term ‘Baroque style’ has a clear connotation.  The style is associated visually with painting, carving, architecture, and even with clothing fashion.  The style can be characterized as a lack of simplicity and naturalness, and a trend toward finely detailed decoration and even shameless splendor. One effect was to set apart the wealthy, who were able to indulge in finery.

The Western model of Baroque high culture had the strongest impact in Poland in the Royal court.  Western fashion was especially evident under Wladislaw IV and Maria Ludwika, but continued with some restraint even in Sobieski’s Royal Court.  The same movement pervaded the Magnate’s Courts except with a rather oriental twist.

In the first half of the 17th C. one could speak of two competing baroque tendencies in Poland, The Royal Court’s and the Noble’s.  The Court, though diverse and complex, was influenced strongly by western fashion as seen especially in the decorative arts and choice of apparel.  The other, as a manifestation of evolving Commonwealth culture under the influence of the Orient, is best illustrated by some Polish Ambassadors’ foreign travels.  On these official occasions the Polish dress, emblazoned with sumptuous finery, startled the residents of several European Capitals with its strange opulence.  The exotic Polish fashions so fascinated the foreigners that they soon adopted some of its elements into western dress. This trend most immediately influenced casual house dress, which incorporated the characteristic passementerie braid with buttons “pentlicami” as decorations.   A Western example of men’s domestic clothes decorated in the Polish manner is found in the Danish King’s wardrobe in Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen.

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Polish nobles of the baroque period loved oriental style artwork and décor, and showed it both in public decoration and personal dress. The native Polish styles were proclaimed superior to those of other nationalities.  The nobles’ national ideology, Sarmatism, embraced and stimulated an intellectual interest in all aspects of the putative steppe-warrior ancestors: ethnicity, society, culture, politics, comradeship mores, and dress. In the beginning the Sarmatian cultural was dynamic and ambitious.  It could boast of being modeled on the Roman republic and styled itself a ‘nation of noble brothers’.  Around the mid 17th C a degenerative pattern emerged and elements of former worth decayed; pride changed to conceit, ignorance reigned, and the ‘golden freedom’ became anarchy. The baroque Sarmatian culture had a fondness for the richly decorated and the splendid to the point of bombast, both in the material culture and in spiritual matters.  Many aspects of Sarmatian culture were driven by oriental influences, and can be understood with regard to the nobles’ endeavor to trace their ancestral history from the East.

This then is the context of the flowering of Polish culture in the 17th C, a fashion not only of the nobles, but also of the townsfolk. The fashion record is preserved in a few surviving garments, but mostly through artwork and documents.

A virtual snapshot review of fashion and clothing is presented to us by the unknown painter of the ‘Dance of Death’ in the Bernadine church of Cracow.  The pageant of dancing nobles, peasants, townsmen and lay dignitaries move in tandem with their shadow, the skeleton they are and will be, led by the great organ’s music. Along the sides small skeletons invite the viewer to dance with bits of doggerel rhyme. Carved sepulchral busts, similar to the paintings, illustrate period fabrics, clothing, and accessories in three dimensions. Illustrated morality scenes and votive icons complete the presentation. 

Some of what is known of the popular national fashion in the 17th C comes from probate documents. Numerous preserved inventories systematically list townspeople's clothing.  These are written in fixed order; first Polish clothing, then Western style clothing.

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This evidence of the strong interaction with Western culture is reinforced by the early adoption of Polish fashion in some other countries, especially Italy and Sweden.  The Italians called the popular and comfortable peasant clothing that allowed free movement Polish-style: ‘polaccchina.  It was a shortened version of 1630s Polish żupan or delia garments, without a fur collar and sewn of various local fabrics.

A painting shows the young Leopold Medici wearing a child’s żupanik of light damask, under a darker delia. To complete the ensemble, the boy holds a miniature mace (buzdygan) a Polish symbol of high rank (Photo. 24)fot24.jpg (205153 bytes). Few pictures remain of children from this period, and portraits usually show royal children in western fashion, but it is possible to judge from written sources that much care went into children’s wardrobes and toys.  Surely Polish boys of noble and townsmen origins wore miniature versions of adult clothes. Probably, they were dressed in a żupan, narrow and soft breeches, footwear reaching the ankles. Over the zupan would be a Delia or Kontuz cut similar to that of the Father’s. Adults and children also shared similar haircuts.

The colorful Polish fashions were popular at court festivities such as parades and ceremonial processions throughout 17th C. Europe. One such event was the "Carrousel Certamen Equestre" in 1672 celebrating Sweden’s Charles XI accession to the throne.  In the procession a group of Swedish gentlemen wore long Polish coats, with abundant passementerie decorations.  According to the spirit of the time, in 17th century Poland dramatic theatrical elements combined with solemn ecclesiastical ceremonies in careful compositions designed to provide astonishing visual and aural effects.  Wedding and funerals provided another stage for elaborate spectacles featuring elegant maneuvers of groups of marchers directed by carefully choreographed scripts.


When Zygmunt III second wife -Queen Constance - arrived in Cracow in 1605 the event was painted with great care and realism on the so-called Stockholm Roll, which allows us a glimpse of the day’s fashion.  It gives a rare opportunity to see the livery of a Polish town guard, marching in western apparel with halberds on their shoulders, on either side of the Queen’s carriage. Courtiers in western apparel, dignitaries on horseback, and other carriages with her female attendants accompany her. A hussar banner provides escort.

The most opulent procession was perhaps the famous entry into Rome by Jerzy Ossoliński - ambassador of the Commonwealth in 1633.  The oriental qualities of clothes and arms, and the luxury and wealth implied by the bejeweled outfits, amazed viewers.  The march’s choreography created colorful effects, including a group of riders dressed in crimson delia of Venetian silk velvet surrounding the envoy. The trip to Rome by Ossolinski was immortalized in paintings by the Italian artist Stefan della Bella.

In 1645, the city of Gdansk greeted the French queen Mary Ludwig Gonzaga, wife of Wladyslav IV. Every detail was recorded by Jean Laboureur de Marszałkowej Guebriant, who led the French procession as Ambassador Extraordinary for Poland.  The author admired the fine Polish clothes, sewn with golden Persian fabrics and colorful silk velvets, precious furs, as well as the splendid caparisons and tack on the horses.  A group of noble horsemen escort the Queen’s carriage, as well as an honor guard of Gdansk townsmen, who wore black velvet clothes, sewn according to western fashion.  The jewels, furs and other riches displayed, in the estimate of Guebriant, were valued in amounts approaching ten thousand ducats.

At Century’s end, paintings record the solemn, but comparatively low-budget, coronation of August II in Cracow.  Representatives of the city’s townsmen took part in this march, according to contemporary descriptions.  These included Cracow guild members and other trades people, squadrons of troops from the Saxon guard, and three elite hussar banners.

P. 82

Behind the gentry and royal dignitaries follow all sorts of vehicles, including the Queen’s empty carriage and a gilt sedan chair borne by hand.  King August II rides horseback in a golden coat- "paludamencie traderowym" (drap d'or), bordered with ermine. At the coronation ceremony the king wore a golden armor suite in the ancient Roman fashion (ŕ la Romaine) with a golden cape thrown over it.   Such armor, favored also by the circle of knights of the court of Louis XIV, pleased the Polish gentry with their respect for the image of the "warrior" in the Roman tradition. fot26.jpg (185859 bytes)

Much fine Polish clothes of the 17th C was sewn of Italian damask adorned with almond flower motifs called Mandorla Fiorita in Italian (photo. 26), or damask and velvet fabrics with fine geometric and formal floral designs or scattered flowers and paisleys in thick fabric (photo. 25,fot25.jpg (694598 bytes) 27-29). The great magnates displayed their grandeur through showy silk velvet attire. Chancellor Jerzy Ossolinski grandly entered Rome outfitted with a velvet delia, which exposed stripes of underlying Venetian velvet ornamented with stylized roses as gussets and highlighted with lace chain, a style reminiscent of the 15th C. fot29.jpg (114130 bytes)

The crimson velvet is made of silk and is ‘cut’- decorated by a design shaved in two heights, a fabric style called altobasso (fig. 100). The value placed on a fabric stemmed mainly from itfot28.jpg (632975 bytes)s luxurious look, and this no doubt impressed the Romans with its exceptional quality.fot27.jpg (95758 bytes)

 Polish clothes of silk Italian Fabrics begin to appear in mercantile lists at the end of the 17th C. Two popular fabrics were called lastra and restagno.  The name lastra, or ‘lame’, comes from narrow strips of metal (lastra) woven through the surface of the fabric, and for the glittering effect this produces. Restagno was produced in Florence and Venice and imported by Italian tradesmen living in Poland.

In the 17th C. many surviving records mention clothes from woolen fabrics.  Many noble and wealthy townsmen clients preferred clothes sewn similar to frocks and gowns made of  English, Dutch, French, Italian and German fabric.

   fig. 100.  Fragment of maroon Venetian silk velvet cut in two heights, a type called "altobasso"

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Garments in the first half of the century were made in lively primary colors, but in the second half of the century the colors influenced by western fashion begin to be muted.  Popular colors were called "spicy" (pepper, cinnamon, clove), delicate green ‘celadon’, the golden color of an autumn leaf ‘felmortowy (feuille morte), pale gray/blue "gryglinowy" (gris de lin), and blue lake ‘blemarantowy’ (bléu mourant).[1] Linen and lightweight woolen fabrics were used for everyday city dress. Sparkling mohair and inexpensive part-silk velvet, called trypem, were bought by middle class townsmen. Less wealthy townsmen and domestic servants wore clothing predominately of white and russet fabrics, but colorful accents were important, most often red, green, and blue lining and facing.

Oriental commodities for Poland arrived in the southeast provinces; Lvov had the biggest role as a trading center, followed by Brody and the fortress-city of Kamieniec Podolski. Istanbul was the major clearing center for commodities from the many lands of the Near East, and even from the Far East.  In addition to products from Turkey, goods could be found from Syria, Egypt, China, India and Japan.  Persia played an important role in the realm of artistic crafts.  Persia maintained most business contacts with Poland through Turkey; however, they were sometimes direct, especially in the import of fine fabric dyes, and gold foils. The Polish market was important for Istanbul from the 16th C., especially for delicate silk scarves and fabrics used for interior decoration (carpets, rugs, tapestries and curtains).  Greeks were often intermediaries in the commerce with Turkey.  The Greeks operated out of Lvow, where many eventually settled, becoming a community of substance and property.  The Armenians importing Persian commodities were even called Persians (Persjanami).  The Armenians were specialists in light silk fabrics and other decoratively woven oriental cloth. For woman's dresses Poles eagerly bought ‘shot’, a smooth golden fabric with gold weft and red, blue and green warp, called złotogłowia.  This was especially used as lining for fancy delia and dresses. 

P. 84

The demand for shot fabric was so large in Poland that the Armenian craftsmen were unable to fill the orders. It is recorded that Hetman Stanislav Koniecpolski contracted with the Bordach manufactory for production of this cloth.  The manufacturing activity spread in 1643 with a contract to a factor in Lvov.

Western imports entered Poland through Gdansk and Ebling.  However, imported goods did not meet the demands of the market. In the 17th C there were further technical developments in production, especially for the clothiers of Great Poland as a result of the market demands created by the 30 Year War.  Many fabric weavers fled with their skills and knowledge to nearby Great Poland, and eventually elsewhere in Poland. That movement begot new fabric factories and helped build great new cities which were involved in production of fabric; mainly Krotoszyn, Kobylin, Rawicz, Bojanov, Leszn, Wschov, Kargov, Obrzyck, Czarnkov, Lobzen, and others.

Polish craftsmen and businessmen in the first half of the 17th C received hot competition from the Jewish artisans and traders, or so claimed Sebastian Miczynski in ‘Zwierciadle Korony Polskiej’ (Mirror of the Polish Crown) in 1618.  Jewish merchants in Lvow and Cracow handled lynx and sable fur and had extensive contractual arrangements with the cattle industry. They brought also goods to Nuremberg, Lipsk, Frankfurt on Main, and shipped goods to almost all the markets in Poznan, Gniesno, Torun, Lublin, Jaroslaw and Lowicz.  They handled saffian and other better kinds of leather, and provided shoemakers, saddlers, bookbinders. or clothiers and finishing shops of Jewish craftsman.  The magnates and the proprietors of towns and villages sponsored Jewish traders and craftsmen, whose services were in great demand.

The first third of the 17th did not bring any major changes in men’s clothing fashion, the same cut and length held from the second half of the 16th C, from the Court of King Stephan Bartory (tab VI). One can see similar old-style clothing on the Starost (Sheriff[2]) of Cracow, Gabriel Tarnowski (died 1628 ). A reconstruction of his clothes  (based on a tracing of the surviving garment) shows a quite short żupan with a collar lightly lined in the rear and gently lowered in the front. (fig. 101).

Fig. 101. Reconstructed garment of Gabriel Tarnowski shows a żupan, silk lined delia, fragment of belt with metal plates, and his hat.


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tabv_vi.jpg (468091 bytes)tab V. Magnate’s dress. Fur lined delia, and satin żupan

tab VI. Noble’s delia lined with lynx fur; low collar.

P. 86

This żupan is sewn from a boldly patterned Mandorla fiorita damask.  Żupans lengthened in the rear aftefot30.jpg (325218 bytes)r 1640 (fig. 102), they also widened, and the rear of the collar was lined. The front of the collar gently unfolds, about equal height (photo. 30). Characteristic for żupans was a sleeve loose and wide up high but narrowing at the wrist, which created an impression of length.  All these elements have been taken into consideration in a żupan of golden satin found in the National Museum in Cracow (photo. 31)fot31.jpg (182395 bytes).  It is fastened with small passementerie buttons, with uncut front and back waist line and pleats gathered in the back next to pockets. A deep overlap of the right breast over the left was an important particularity of żupans.  The collar is decorated with silk golden cord (sznureczkiem), from which button loops and buttons were made (photo. 32). fot32.jpg (501775 bytes)

In the 1660s, the cut of the żupan collar changed again.   It became lower with the ends cut (photo. 33) at an oblique angle, as can be seen in the example (photo. 34)fot34.jpg (147289 bytes) of a brown żupan of fine damask recovered from a tomb.  fot33.jpg (230258 bytes)

The custom of tying a wide silk sash about the żupan spread in Poland in the final years of the 17th C. Sashes were brought to Poland from Turkey and Persia, and more rarely from China and India.  These where masterpieces of oriental decorative art and were copied by Polish craftsmen, as were other oriental luxury articles.  However, domestic products differed from imported oriental sashes.  While a model may have been copied, the result was original and introduced native Polish motifs and decorative details. 

Fig. 102. Riding clothes ‘jeżdziecki’ – Zupan with high collar and petlice/passementerie buttons, Hungarian shoes with tops of knee-boot

P. 87

In addition to the oriental silk sashes, there was a fashion from mid century of net "siatczane" belts, an elastic net of knots constructed from thin rep silk cords.  Other belts were called "sakiewskich" or bag belts usually constructed from a net braided from thin silk.  Decorative patterns were woven or braided in with fot35NetBelt_siatkowy.jpg (36969 bytes) golden thread, the ends finished with pendants (photo. 35).  Depending on the color scheme of the żupan or other garment, the belts were black, yellow-gold, maroon, crimson, or violet.  The less wealthy cinched their clothes with a patterned woolen belt, which fot35b.jpg (71572 bytes) are described in a contemporary belt shop’s catalog of goods.

They wore various types of narrow metal belts with engraved or molded decoration, popularly called Przeworsk or Lvow-style decoration, after the towns of origin. Belts had a base of leather or fabric, and various types of articulated links of metal, joined with a series of dots or shields, finished with an ornamented buckle or fastening (Fig 104). A metal belt with buckle and decorations, on which hung a saber, was worn in fot36.jpg (182121 bytes) 1650 by Chancellor Jerzy Ossolinski (fot 36), currently in the National Museum of Cracow Polish collection, 17th C, metal belt with various stamping (cechuje) and ornament.  Small links are cast or wroth as chain-mail (fig 105, fot 37)  This style of work is characteristic to that found in metal belts imported from the orient (fot 38)

Fig 103 Belt of the Przeworsk style with molded decorative plates of gold color, and tin disks and belt buckles(klamry), the underlay’s edging is fretted. P38.jpg (50809 bytes)

  Fig 104 Przeworsk style belt of silver low-relief, joined plates, with etched (rytowany) ornament The under-layer is fretted on the edges. 

Fig 105 Metal belt, worked and etched plates, polished chain mail and big decorated clasp

Polish fashion in the first half of the 17th C. underwent changes, as documented by contemporary records.   The popular delia, in the years 1585-1630 short and collarless, appeared in Provincial probate inventories as ‘kontuz’ as an outer-garment worn over the zupan, recorded for the first time in a Krakow offical account or tax document for a tailoring establishment in 1648.  One may reasonably expect that the fashion of the kontuz existed several years earlier.  Evidence of this includes clothes of Stanislaw Daniwovicz of around 1640, of even roundly laid out pleats, finished on a line with embroidered piped edging.  The satin Daniwovicz garment is a lower (lined?) kontuz genotype with wide arms and wide cut armpit and a low collar fastened with two passamantre buttons (fig 106) This is without doubt one of the earliest Polish kontuz,  its name appears in Province inventories before it grew in popularity  and eventually became ubiquitous.

Essential features of the kontuz can be seen in other garment types and it is possible that it was modeled from one of these that also may have regularly laid out pleats in the rear and on the side wide allowance for big free movement. It is worth noting that this precise cut cannot be seen in any eastern or western fashion.  Polish dress in the 17th C, was oriented towards only one particular thing – armor, belts, decoration, but not entirely, of this testimony accumulation of their native elements, seen in the cut and finish.

Worn over a zupan, fastened with small buttons  the outer garment, a doubtless kontuz with slit pendulous arms was worn in 1683  “real/legitimate rytrackcie” by Mikolai Hieronimus Sieniawski, Hetman of the Crown, (fig 107).   

Fig 106 Kontuz of Stanislaw Danilwiez, notice typical cut of the back


Fig 107 Outerwear over a zupan, most probably a kontuz


Clothes with extended decorative fur collar reminds one of 18th c fur lined kontuz, which superseded the earlier delia.



P. 88  

Indeed the kontusz was characteristically trimmed with petlicami button knots.  Twelve peltic button sets are on Alexander Jablonowski’s crimson kontuz with dangling arms, from the second half of the century (fig. 108).  Rows of peltic knots and buttons finish this kontusz of 1655-1660 that is currently housed in Stockholm, Sweden (fig 109).  This kontusz has a strongly marked profile, and it is clear that the rear is made of a single panel of fabric, to which sides are attached triangular panels for the skirt. The collar is low and standing, finished with a oblique angle, as are żupans of 1660. The narrow arms have a flap cuff covering the hand. It is lined with the same material. This simple kontusz was cut in such a way that when one panel deeply covers another, then both panels were widest on the top near the collar so they opened all the way down to the first (highest) button to show the żupan.  They used great care and originality in finishing the kontusz with passementerie.  There is evidence that from the very beginning galloon was used in trim.  This kontusz was finished with silver galloon 5mm in width sewn along the seam line of the arm, and the rear side of the arm sewed up to below the armpits.  

Fig 108  Outerwear  w/ pelticami  in the style of kontuz


Fig 109 Polish kontuz with pelticami, characteristic cut







Fig 110 Ferezja fur lined, low standing collar, decorative pelticami.




Fig 111 Ferezja indoor gown (“smoking jacket”) w/low standing collar,  with pelticami  and buttons; black zupon on border embroidered with gold string   fabric belt; woman’s foundation-garment (Ksztalt) with polerynka, under which is visible sleeve of a white shirt, on head a fur kolpack hat.

P. 89

Braid galoon trim also marked the sewing line of the flaring sides of the dress from waist line to the hips finished with small trefoil design.  The edge of the kontusz on the flaps collar and around the pocket opening are embroidered with cord, of a type called ‘pstroka’ (mottled) by tailors (krawieckim).  Underneath was sewn a lining (podszewka) with gold flowers, of a type only used on simple clothing.

A kontuz of this same cut and similar arrangement of passementerie trim is displayed in the colorfully figurative decorative works in an altar in the church in Tarlow, completed in 1641-47.  The armed nobleman lifting his haP39.jpg (802913 bytes)t wears a military kontuz with an expanded skirt split along the sides, characteristic for riding clothing (fot 39). The Tarlow kontuz follows the fashion mostly seen in the 1640s, passementerie /petlicami trim with buttons finished on the sides, called  ‘kwastami’ (pompons).

Richly decorative passementerie was embraced in the 17th C not only on the kontusz, but earlier also on the delia, which the kontusz fashion gradually replaced. An example of an extremely rich Passementerie decoration is on the delia and red gown (suknia) on the portrait of Hetman of the Crown StanislavP40.jpg (145365 bytes) Koniecpolski (1646), decorated with red petlicami on the whole width of the front.  (Photo 40).  This garment recalls the lateral round termination, and fine buttons interlaced with string embroidery, on the passementerie of the red kontuz in Stockholm.  The arrangement of the buttons can also be seen on the portrait of Stefan Czarniecki (Photo 41) P41.jpg (248083 bytes)

Fig 112 Black Ferezja with standing collar, without buttons and button-lace, and lined with deep red ‘borszcz’ color); żupan with standing finely stitched, pea-green collar; belt is black, shoes are red, hat with red top and black fur.

p. 90

Passementerie petlicami also finish the ferezje with the hanging sleeve, and low standing collar of a style current in Poland around 1630 (fig 110-112), it reached to the knees only so as not to impede movement (fig 85b).  In the 1670s the use of knotted trim on kontuz faded out.  Instead fashion called for small jasper buttons (guzy) or silk (jedwab) braid (splatane) with metal threads.  Typically fancy buttons were made of delicately worked filigree metalwork, and for most luxurious effect included colored stones, especially turquoise and red coral. (fig 113) A suitable belt rounded out the Polish style. These were worn with variability, because the nobles often tied the belt on the kontusz, while townspeople usually wore it on the żupan. 

The practice of wearing weapons especially influenced Commonwealth attire.  Already by the 16th century a costumers' guild had formed to outfit elegant gentlemen. The work was carried out with great artistry; sabers made a flamboyant statement with their rich ornaments in the Oriental style, handles molded in gold and set with precious stones (photo 42, drawing 114).  Sabers were worn on their belts.  Although this practice wasP42.jpg (96688 bytes) reserved by law to the noble order and to constables and other magistrates, it became accepted tradition for wealthy townsmen to wear swords.  To public events and ceremonies, the wealthy would also carry richly ornamented, Eastern style, walking-stick axes (czekans) and even maces (buzdygans), even though these maces were technically reserved as a symbol of military authority. (See Fig 107, 108, 114, and Photo 40,41)

113b.jpg (20894 bytes)113.jpg (20898 bytes)Fig 113 Buttons: thin foil, turquoise, oblong filigree azurite, filigree and granulated designs, gold wire twisted, enamel and stone, cast.


The hair cuts and head covers worn were a continuation of the fashion of the end of the 16th C.  In the first half of the 17th you could see older people with long hair.  But by mid century even the conservative Senators had adopted the fashion of long hair on top and sides shaved. We can see a representative 1670 haircut in a portrait of King Jan III Sobieski - smooth even cut, shaved on the sides and rear.  This style of haircut stayed in fashion through the end of the 18th C. Shaved heads went with Polish Sarmatian style colpak fur-faced hats, folded up on the sides and the front and typically with a feather decoration attached with a pin. (Fig 101, 114, Photo 32).

Typical national footwear was the cavalry soldier’s boot, baczmagi, made in the eastern style, with soft tops, of variable height but typically knee-high, and with semicircular heel.  The fancy version used gold or redP43.jpg (108092 bytes) saffian[4] or embossed (kurdybanowych) leather  (fig 114 foto 32, table V). The heel back might be also layered with red or green or, most often, gold saffian. (foto 43).

Peasants wore shoes (łapcie –pron. wapcie) of strong leather and linden wood, and boots with cholcwami or walonki or with felt tops.  Peasants’ workclothes was usually linen, wool and various available alternatives. Usually these were plaited. They wore shirts which could reach the knee, had long sleeves and chinched with a leather belt, rope, or sash.  Pants, mostly baggy, reached the ankle.  On the headP44.jpg (113592 bytes) the peasants wore a high ‘magierka’ (a Hungarian style felt cap) or hat with loose flaps.  

114.jpg (45722 bytes)Fig 114 Representative Polish Dress.  Delia or Ferezja lined with fur and zupan of cloth with prominent floral pattern;  fur hat with medallion in front and side with feather; belt with metal buckles, saber, and in his hand a mace (buzdygan)


Fashion details were affected much by region, observed Kasper Lujckena, Dutch etcher and engraver, who was in Poland in the time of Sobieski.  Mountaineers and Outlaws from the south and east at that time wore shirts with falling collars, and very wide arms, tight pants, shoes (kierpce) tied around the ankle with string, hats with big, high crown and folded up on the right side. This costume was finished by a crossed bandoleer decorated with metal discs. (fig 115)

115.jpg (15124 bytes)Fig. 115 Mountaineer dress (goralski) – shirt with wide sleeves, tight pants, soft leather shoes (kierpce) tied around the ankle with string, hats with big high crown and folded up on the right side.  

Festival peasant dress arose in imitation of noble’s costume cut and design.  The holidays found peasants dress in a way that that reminds one of what is called the national dress.  This includes delia, germaks, (zw. Wsrod ludu siermiegami) and also long robes laid out on the shoulders of the collar, that reminds one of the look of the Cracow kierezje.   In winter the peasants wore besides shirts also long fur robes (szuby) and short capes (bekiesz). Dress most often found in graves is worsted homespun, lined with sheep or rabbit fur.

Among the many townsfolk of foreign extraction and among the Royal court, the fashion was Western, following the ‘Spanish’ mode.  This fashion was influenced by German, French and Dutch trends.  The Spanish mode preferred rich and heavy material, brocades (brokaty), damask (adamaszki), velvet (aksamity). The cut was simple and severe, and the color was predominantly black. The collar was straight, white on black. This simple and modest mode entered Poland through Dutch immigrants, but later lost ground when these townsmen readily adopted the noble’s oriental ‘Sarmatian’ fashion.   The evidence from 17th C, inventories of immigrants from Holland is that many who may have first incorporated some Polish detail into their attire, like a belt, eventually adopted the complete wardrobe.

Female Dress - Part II

[1] Zlotoglowiu or shot: cloth that achieved a shimmering appearance through the use of different color threads in the warp and weft.

[2] M.B. suggests that by avoiding copying men’s fashion some perhaps also sought to protest what many perceived as the bad influence of Sarmatian culture.

[3] ksztalcikiem –girdle.  Part of feminine underwear according to fickle requirements of fashion shaping the bosom /bust line. In Poland for this purpose 16th century tight and shaping garments were made from firm fabrics sewed and stiffened with whalebone or metal wires.

[4] Saffian: thin flexible yet hard-finish goat leather, yellow or red, prepared with a sumac dye

Translator’s note:

This translation has been in the works for several years and has several people’s substantial contribution.  This was a difficult and educational project for me, since the terminology and academic style was all new to me and beyond my limited Polish skills. At this writing it is not complete, and I know of several weak areas that represent my guess at the meaning. But I have been sitting on a mostly-complete draft for years so here goes.  Also, this is just the 17th C. chapter of a much larger work. 

Some folks proofed bits of the translation, but most of it has not been carefully checked, even by me. I found no volunteers who would complete the job.  Therefore I solicit any input readers may have.  If you have a correction, please send me a complete sentence or complete paragraph of corrected text.  (Also, maybe I’ll put it on a Wiki.)  If you have lots of energy, the chapters on the 14th, 15th, 16th and 18th C. are blank.

Through an intermediary I managed a few years ago to contact my hero Professor Bartkiewicz, then semi-retired at Worclaw; she seemed very interested in a translation in English, or writing something new, and had lots of new pictures. I was very excited by the prospect.  Unfortunately I have not been able to reestablish contact, but I trust that placing her wonderful and valuable work where the whole world can access it would please her. I originally hoped to translate the entire work and publish a paper volume in cooperation with the original publisher, but substantial and repeated efforts to contact them were fruitless.