In my review of German renaissance paintings of women, I’ve seen many upper class ladies with lovely beaded chokers around their necks. I took these chokers first to be jewelry.
Later, I noticed that some of these chokers appeared with a fine, translucent material that covered the bare skin between the top of a gown and the neck.
Closer looks revealed that these were not so much chokers but possibly bands into which this material was pleated. And then I realized … these could be high-necked garments, made of a fine material and pleated into a beaded and possibly jeweled neckband. For the purposes of my research, I am calling these Halshemd (Hals = neck, hemd = shirt).
It’s interesting that sometimes the pleats of the Halshemd are painted, and sometimes not. My theory is that the tiny, translucent pleats were challenging to reproduce, and painters sometimes chose not to paint them. It’s also possible that the choice of a translucent material meant that these garments were intended to be “invisible” (in the way modern bras can have “invisible” straps) and thus were not included in the image.
I’m not clear on is the length of the Halshemd. Are they short, like gollers or partlets, or long, like an underdress? The material is so fine that I’m inclined to think they are short, as it seems impractical to have such a fine material next to your skin that would need to be laundered regularly. But when you look carefully at the neckline of the gowns worn by the women, you can see no other garment showing besides the Halshemd. And, one nude shows the Halshemd, and it clearly has sleeves and is not goller-length.
The above painting may be misleading, however, as you cannot see any material near the neck or chains. Did the painter chose not to paint the folds of the Halshemd there so that the other details were clearer, or was the garment open in some manner? It’s also entirely possible that this painting does not reflect reality, and is rather a fantasy of the painter’s imagination. And, on the flip side, it could be evidence that the chokers were separate from the Halshemd (if you click the image to enlarge it, you can see she has a bracelet on one of her wrists which doesn’t appear to be attached to her diaphanous hemd). Mysteries, mysteries!