of the 17th C. -Red Kontuz and Golden Sash
Magdalena Bartkiewicz - Polish Costume to 1864Translation RB, Gentleman, ©2006
Overview & Men's Fashion
Dress - Part II
Wealthy noblewomen of the
court wore luxurious garments of simple ornament, but rich embroidered and
imported fabrics from Persia and Turkish ‘shot’ (zlotoglowiu).
They wore satin (atlas) and velvet.
Typically the skirts / petticoats were finished with satin, and the
bodice with dark or black velvet; the whole of the skirt was covered by a
pattern of silk decorations or appliqué.
section’s translation is draft)
Women who were less wealthy
sewed their own garments out of lower quality cloth, but in the cut and general
appearance of high-society clothes. Instead of costly velvet, they used poorer
cloth made out of cheaper yarns. (Tabl
Petticoats were executed
with fine-yarn mohair (goat wool) fabric, made in the east in the Turkish
fashion, or with locally produced fine mohair.
The striking two-color contrasting construction of the upper class
garment was paralleled by the townsfolk, trimmed and decorated with ribbons or
lace of one color. (tabl. VIII). Another fabric, also often mentioned in
townspeople’s records, was ‘czamlet,’
of which was sewn light clothes for summer wear, or pants and petticoats. Czamlet
petticoats were often lined with kirem
or bagazja in order to fall better, or to better complement the letnik.
If the wealthy townsmen
liked the typical Polish fashion, their women generally did not seem as
entranced with Sarmatism. Wealthy townswomen preferred to copy the western
styles (tabl VII) 
A significant influence on
the evolving feminine silhouette among the fashionable set in the 17th C. is the
farthingale (fortugal), a circular
frame of stays that spreads out the dress from the belted waist. (fig 116,117)
The wide petticoat drapes
over the farthingale decorated following western fashion with ties with points
and lace, often silver and gold. The usual manner was to have matching bodice
and skirt. The western fashion was called by Poles Alamode (in reference to the French expression for fashion.)
The Alamode style was worn by
urban ladies, and also as wedding attire, but other people based their wardrobe
on quality cloth and the characteristic (western style) details.
116 Two illustrations of western-influenced costume of elegant married noble
Dress arranged in pleats over a farthingale. Stanik (bodice) is finished
similar to a man’s kazjaka (jacket or doublet).
On her head she wears a stiff linen coif.
– Smooth petticoat on farthingale. The front of the bodice is stiff and
elongated, and adorned with embroidery in rectangular figures.
A short cloak covers the shoulders.
For example noblewomen used
velvet, decorated the collar with ruffs and various types of lace (koronkami). The influence of western fashion is testified by the
preserved votive pictures, in which appears a similar striped jacket (kazjak)
with leather gloves, under which one can see orange, decorated ribbons (wstążkami).
Lace decorates the sleeve of the shirt (fig 118)
luxurious clothing was customarily decorated for wealthy ladies
with Holland and Venetian lace with gold Passementerie adorning
the front and sleeves of the bodice (stanikow)
and robes, with a generous display of lace reaching to the hands, called
“angazantow’ (engagement) (fig 119). Starting
in the late 1680s, ladies used lace to
pin up a high headdress known as
‘frontage’ (photo 45) or made up a flat/narrow bonnet with the ends loosely
falling over the shoulders, an example can be seen on a portrait on a
noblewoman’s casket of the 17thC.
(fot 46). Venetian Lace is pleated evenly
under a fur hat, covered with black taffeta kerchief (chustami).
The styles of woman’s dress could vary markedly.
City life allowed interaction between women from the town and nobility,
and those who could travel to or purchase their cloths in town were more attuned
to novelty and current fashions. Those
who stayed at their rustic villas, preoccupied with family and husbandry of
their estates, had their own styles.
Fig 117 Dress of Cracow townswoman – over a shirt with a stiff lace ruff is a sleeveless bodice, the petticoat is decorated with stripes, the other layer is an apron. The kolpak fur hat is worn over a starched bonnet.
Dress of Lvow
A – jacket (kazjaka) with short sleeves and bonnet with fur lining.
– jacket with short sleeves, on her head is a black embroidered kerchief (chusteczka)
Best dressed were the women
of Magnate families or those with foreign sources of income to pay for luxuries.
We see in the portrait of Jadwiga Tarlow Topot Mniszchowej (died 1629) the
dress’s collar is sewn of lace, with sleeves hanging to the rear , the whole
arm of the shirt may be seen. On her head is an embroidered hat with a
wrapped with a fringe of pearls. A rantuch
(headscarf) is thrown over this.
Similar dresses, with the
shirt’s collar and pleated sleeves appearing under the bodice, were owned by
Krystyna Lubormirski and Katarzyna Ostrogski.
The dress worn by Lubormirski is made of rich red velvet, piled on two
high peaks of great ornament, undoubtedly of Venetian derivation. She
distinguishes herself with a clinging shaped girdle or understructure (ksztalcikiem)-
without sleeves, with ferret fur trim lying casually around the shoulder.
Under the girdle we see a delicate linen (płótno) shirt with
collar. The petticoat was arranged over the farthingale (bell-shaped under
stiffened linen), velvet fabric cascades over the wide frame. Completing this
fine outfit is a bouquet of flowers. (Fot 49)
Ostrogski’s portrait shows a very structured
silhouette. The white dress has an
even cone-like form, created by the structure of the farthingale. The fabric is
laid out with symmetrical pleats and decorated with cuts (like cut velvet, not
pinks) and colored embroidery regularly repeating the motif of a scroll with oak
leaves and twigs, and every free spot filled with figures: bears, birds, dogs,
Polish lady in French fashion, gown trimmed with gold lace, passementerie and
fur. Across the arms is the ‘angażanty’
On her arms is draped a
velvet cape with fur. The bonnet is
slid low to the rear of the head, and is finished with an edging of pearls and
gems, on which is a garnet bauble. This sort of motif for a bonnet is seen in
many Polish portraits, attached by servant with a thin head covering like a
small shawl (rantuch) (fot
Scarf from wide cloth, a kind of shawl worn by women. Usually made from expensive tissue-like fabric and
are often found in 17th C. woman’s fashion as a head-covering bonnet.
They typically were made with rich, embroidered decorated edging.
Generally they are embroidered with a floral motif, finished with silk in
several colors, with gold and silver thread.
(fot 51) One can find simply–executed Rantuchy
in the inventory of women who decorated it themselves with black or red silk
(using a silk embroidery method of a luxurious kind called ‘red stitching’
or ‘black stitching’). Rantuchy among women of the Royal Court were so fine
as to be translucent (fot 48), and came into use starting in the 1650s.
Indeed some rantuchy were made with fine Flemish linen originally intended for
church altercloths. People dressed in the new style of rantuchy more.
It was decorated with artistic embroidery, an ornament that does not seem
characteristic of the 17th C. to modern eyes.
Wealthy women usually had a
substantial jewelry chest, especially bracelets (mamelami), zausznicami, gold
neck chains (lancuchy, pro. Wan-cuch-y)
and belts with sewn-on pearls and other stones. Men and women were adorned with
chains, usually made of gold and often featuring the king’s face or religious
emblem. Usually these represented a
major investment of capital. In style of workmanship the gold would interchange
with silver, for example gold writing on silver ground on a wroth buckle or
clasp (spinka). Some used fake gold jewelry. Some wore watches (sort of like
early ‘pocket’ watches) hanging to the chest from neck chains, others had
crosses. In the beginning of the
17th C. the fashion was to have small often cross-shaped boxes hanging from
chains with perhaps religious messages or instructions within. Gradually these
became more often oval in shape. After 1650 these adopted various shapes –
usually fruits, butterflies, stars, flowers, and shells. (fot 52)
P. 97 TabVII
120 kerchif linen
covering the neck, worn in the home or under fur kolpacks
121Fur kolpack worn over two-part
bonnet, white around the neck and black wrapping the hair.
novelties marked woman’s dress in the 2nd half of the 17th C.
Fashionable fans had silver hilts and ostriches feathers.
Necklaces were also valued for accessorizing female dress, and the chains
often included gems and pearls
among women were headcovers which were in the
first half of the century stiff linen kerchief-like bonnets
(czepce) (figs 116a, 120a, b) over
which, before leaving the house they
would put fur kolpaks (figs 111, 116b, 117, 120c). Kolpaks were seated on a set of two stiff czepce
which covered the head and neck, as on sepulchral monument of Zoffi Zolkiewski
in the church in Zolkwi. (fig 121).
In the second half of the 17th C. nobles and townsfolk
adopted the fashion of an under kerchief covered by a kolpack as a fur roll.
Very popular as well as velvet embroidered czepce,
often true masterwork of embroidery (fot 53) Other types of czepce
had the appearance of gold embroidery with lace around the face with fur eyelets
and also would pass under the chin. Worn
with this czepce of Cracow style was satin
finished with ties bodice/waist, under
which comes out puffy, decorated with lace to the hands, or with pink,
silk petticoat and sewn below belts or ties (fig 122).
P.99 (this section’s
translation is draft)
Many are testified to in Jakub Wancznowolski rhymed
work: Nowe zwierciadlo modzie dzisiejszego stroju akomodowane damon polskie
In this year, where ... (translators note: could not make this out... ąęł áâ é ćç ŕś ůúý
In the whole of this work the
author listed exceptional woman’s fashion underlining the lack of critical
discretion of polish women when it came to novel French fashions.
short, so our girls fashion beguiles...
whichever way the French sway
matter how dear the price, the Poles pay
However Jakub Haur in Ekonomii
Ziemianskij in 1683 regards as sinful the high fashion crown bonnets - called
fontage:” they were so towering that they became downfalls”.
Lace of the type called ‘czubach’ was in general dammed as third
rate, yet residents of Warsaw wore these still at the beginning of 18th c,
It should be understood that the women cared not only about fashionable
dress and decorative jewelry and other valuable garnish but also cared about
possessing as valuable and to beautiful undergarments, which was discreetly
under their dress. Undergarments
were mostly shirts, Giezłami (?) or Czech style, which were either of
one-piece or two-piece style. The
one-piece Shirts were inconvenient for poor women, which got them dirty quickly
which required much washing. They
preferred less fancy 2-piece shirts, of which the lower part, the vest, has been
made up mostly with coarse hemp or flax material produced locally.
The upper collar, bosom, and sleeves could be made with the best imported
linen. The source was mostly Colon,
Flemish, Dutch and Silesian and
sometimes even Chinese linen. Women
decorated their shirts with many stitches, and lace and other fancy additions
sewn to the sleeve.
Undergarments include woman’s
stockings. On the subject of
stockings S. Lam wrote:
there are stockings pinkish and with style, design, and the color.
Wool with fluffy or uniform pile, kastorowc, silk; fat and thin, plain,
red, black and white. Certainly, they stitched with silk a lot themselves, which
they loved, because finest, on their feet they pass with daintiness. (??)”
Jarzemski also in 1643 tells us
of “stockings with gold embroidery decorated with sewn-on pearls.”
Servants helped to fasten stockings with garters (suspenders) with ties of silk, usually of fine china silk “kitajek” highlighted sometimes with gold and silver. From the 1630s, estate inventories start mentioning “garters with embroidered lace” Usually red and black
took on various styles and forms, usually imitations of western fashions.
We find the first mentions of high womans’ boots in 1626, by a Wroclaw
cordwainer (szewcow). The national
museum at Worclaw houses a pair of original 17th C. lady’s boots
with high heels with an attached sole joining the heel and front (fot
54). Slippers (pantofle) or low
shoes (trzewiki) worn by
women around 1624 were sometimes buskins (e.g laced or otherwise fastened over
the ankle but with open toes) and their cut increasingly followed established
trends. One could find during these
giddy and optimistic times openwork
trzewiki with heels wrapped in
stretched leather, and by the end of the
decade shoes were embroidered with silk, sometimes without heels, or sometimes
with high heels and pointed toes (fot
Vanities and ostentatious excesses in Polish clothes were not much
influenced by the difficult economic conditions in the middle of the century.
The economic situation of the nation (especially after the Polish
–Swedish wars) was difficult, underlain by a drop in production of cereal
crops plus the effect of added excise taxes and anti-luxury statutes. The
economic crisis certainly most affected the poorer strata of society, peasants
and poor townsmen, but did not much suppress the luxurious tastes of the court,
magnates, and richer nobles and even townsmen. Patricians and commoners alike
continued to dress in the most fashionable and expensive styles, and nothing
could stop them.
The proliferation of fashion in the 17th C. is best
characterized in Pamietnikach (Memoirs) by
Jan Christopher Pasek, who said:
 Zlotoglowiu or shot: cloth that achieved a shimmering appearance through the use of different color threads in the warp and weft.
 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.
–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.