Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In the Streets of Munich: 1816 Style

There are precious few books on the subject of clothing in early 19th century Germany, and I was very happy to be shown a couple good resources during my visit to the Trachten Informationszentrum in November.  (I'll write a lot more about the TIZ in coming posts, but for now let's just say that I learned a lot there, and am very grateful to Herr Wandinger who was a veritable fount of information.)

The only two books within their collection which contained depictions of
regional dress within my period of interest (1810-1830) were München Im Jahreslauf (Munich in the Course of a Year) by Paul Ernst Rattelmüller and National Kostüme Des Königreiches Bayern (National Costume of the Bavarian Kingdom) by Felix Freiherr Von Lipowsky.  Aaaand naturally both are out of print and not easy to come by.  The first, München Im Jahreslauf, contains a series of art works from the year 1816, one for every month of the year, each depicting a scene of average people on the streets of Munich.  The original pieces were three dimensional and created from wax and collage, and still remain super colourful and vibrant even when reproduced.

Fig.1 (1816) März. München Im Jahreslauf  

Fig.2 (1816) April. München Im Jahreslauf 

Both images above depict women selling various food goods in the Munich marketplace during the spring of 1816.  There is obviously a great deal of similarity between the clothing worn in both images, with the greatest similarity lying in the colours worn.  Blue and white are dominant, with black and red providing contrast.  Considering that the national colours of Bavaria were blue and white, it’s difficult to know if these artistic representations actually reflect colours that were commonly worn in the streets of Munich or if the colours served as a visual shorthand to more easily indicate the setting.

A closer look at Fig.1 shows many elements of fashion still hanging-over from the 18th century, and which would have been considered old-fashioned in 1816.  The woman depicted is clearly not young, which might be why she’s not exactly on the cutting edge of fashion.  Her black, buckled shoes and blue, clocked stockings resemble those from the late 18th century, as does the cut of her jacket with its cuffed, elbow length sleeves. These older styles are coupled with the high waistline of the time and short, calf-length skirt which, though not in line with high fashion, was ubiquitous amongst the lower sort and working class across Germany.  Perhaps the most uniquely regional aspect of her dress is her fur trimmed hat.  This style of hat had been worn in the Munich area since the 18th century; although unlike the shoes and jacket depicted, its size is indicative of 1816 as the same type of hat worn in the previous century was significantly larger.

The younger woman in Fig.2 is a bit more up-to-date than her counterpart in Fig.1, yet also wears certain styles of clothing specific to the Upper Bavarian/Munich area.  Her skirt is of approximately the same length, although a little less full, than that in Fig.1, with an almost identical apron worn at the raised waistline.  Unlike the shoes in Fig.1, her blue shoes with the low, contrasting white heels are actually rather fashionable for 1816.  (It's possible that these shoes in the national colours of Bavaria are as much a symbol of national pride as they are of fashion.)  The rest of her dress is in the regional style, with a sleeveless garment called a Mieder worn over a white shift and finished with a kerchief around the neck.  I'll break down and discuss the individual items of clothing in much greater detail in the future, but the style pictured here is a very good representation of the time.

Other images from München Im Jahreslauf depict a wide range of individuals, including an old wood-seller, a sailor, gravedigger, farmer, bar-maid, and young boy carrying a Christmas tree on his head.  With the exception of the sailor, all the figures are pretty representative of the common people within Munich during the 1810s, and give a wonderful insight into the everyday life and clothing of the time.


  1. Thank you very much for sharing this exciting information. It's amazing how much there's still to discover.
    These images help a lot of getting an idea about fashions and that they actually happened a lot more gradually than today. It's not like everybody was dressed like stepping out of a journal's fashion plate (and - to be honest - it still isn't today either).
    Recreating the past means stretching the focus to the prior years - thanks again for this reminder.
    I'm looking forward very much to learning more from your research.

  2. Nice! I I didn't know these yet.

    If you can, you should also try to get your hands on the "Münchner Polizey-Uebersicht" from 1804/05. There are a lot of cheap facsimiles out there. It it a bit earlier than the period you are looking at, but it demonstrates that the middle class fashion was 10-15 years behind.
    (Sadly only a small image, but here is one excerpt:

    Alexa on Marquise.de also has a wealth of information on Tracht through the ages:

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, I'll be sure to look it up! And yes, Alexa has a lot of wonderful info on her site... I almost forget about static web pages these days!

  3. Wonderful information, and well written. I own the book, München Im Jahreslauf, and will be offering it for sale soon. It is in wonderful condition. Please come and take a look as I will list it in the coming weeks. My shop name is HilltopTimes, and located on Etsy. Here is the link to my shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/HilltopTimes?ref=shopsection_shophome_leftnav