Evidence for Hooks and Eyes on 16th Century German Garb

When I created my red wool “Dorothea Meyer” goldwork gown, I used hooks and eyes to close the bodice in the front. Since then, I’ve been asked if hooks and eyes are appropriate to 16th century Germany. I think this is an excellent question and I’ve been seeking definitive answers. While it’s impossible to know 100% if hooks and eyes were appropriate (unless someone out there has a time machine I can borrow!), I feel confident that they are entirely period. My best evidence is this woodcut by Sebald Beham dated to 1530 from Nurnberg/Frankfurt, which currently resides in The National Museum of Western Art:

Old Man Caressing a Young Woman (ca. 1530)

What’s remarkable about this woodcut is that we do not normally see persons in states of undress, but thanks to the lecherous actions of this old man, we can see the inside of her bodice. And if you zoom in closely, you can see what clearly look like hooks!

Detail of woodcut

Those sure look like hooks, don’t they?

If that isn’t enough evidence, there are extant hooks and eyes from the 16th century that have survived. They are fashioned from brass wire, or coiled wire, and may have been “Japaned” to cover the metal. For example, the Svante Sture Doublet from 1567 uses hooks and eyes (as noted in Patterns of Fashion 3 by Janet Arnold, pages 57-58).

As I find more evidence, I will update this page. Feel free to research these references yourself for their validity and use them in your own documentation and clothing!

Germane German

This weekend I attended the 2012 Kingdom Arts & Sciences Competition. I had the privilege of entering two projects and the honor of winning first place for both of them. Now that it’s over, I’m eager to learn and do more! So I’ve decided to branch off from my existing blog, HonorBeforeVictory.com which covers all things SCA, and create a web site dedicated to 16th century German artifacts and creations. In these pages I will record what I’ve learned, what I’ve made, and what solutions I’ve found. I intend it to be less like a blog and more like an informational site. My hope is that it will become a resource for others like me who enjoy the diversity of Renaissance Germany!