The ‘Kampfrau’ or ‘Trossfrau’ Dress…..under construction.

Erhard Shoen, 1535Encampment_detail-254x300 German Landsknecht and wife (1525-30) Eching by Daniel Hopfer.


Muskateer and                     Encampment detail          German Landsknecht

wife, Erhard Shoen              1500-1550, Max                1500-1550, Max Geisberg

1535                                      Geisberg.                           Daniel Hopfer.


Detail Woman and Knaves -  Max Geisberg        Edhard Schoen G.1235-1238. Detail – Army Train 1532 The German single-leaf woodcut, 1500-1550, Max Geisberg

Women and Knaves,                                  Edhard Schoen

c.1530                                                        Detail – Army Train 1532

The German single-leaf

woodcut, 1500-1550,

Max Geisberg



I was asked to create a ‘Kampfrau’ for my friend Sue.

As I was living in Belfast and Sue was in the Republic of Ireland, It made sense to travel down and stay with her for a week in order to pattern, fit and re-fit properly. There were a few other things she wanted at the same time but they were garments I had made before.

While I had seen plenty of ‘German’ garb, in paintings and on people at events, I had never researched into making any myself. The easy thing to do with a short time frame was to just use the picture of what sue liked –  a costume that was already made – but I was weary of just going off a photo from the internet.

As I had said with my explorations into the fitted gown, do we think something is ‘period’ because we are used to seeing it made and walking around / in pictures on the internet? Seams, pattern and cut, ways of producing the garment – even which region the garment is from, all get mirky if we call it a Cranach gown, Kampfrau or German and go no further.

This is a good experiment for me, I have been wanting to make a dress like this for a while – but there were other things to do. This gives me the impetus to research for not only Sue, but also myself.

Please Note 2014:

Once again, don’t get me wrong – I do not expect people to be as interested in Garb as I am, and I do not expect people within the SCA to burst a vein over it if they are just there to have fun (one of the big reasons I am in the Society) or like a different area of study. An attempt is what is required of those that play, however, the moment that someone claims that something is accurate, want to know more, or need help – that is when I will step up my interest.

Barging in and telling someone that they are dressed ‘wrong’ is a sure fire way to make a person feel awful and to turn them off the SCA. I have heard that story far too many times from the people who almost left because of that kind of treatment by people that probably thought they were being helpful.

I too was made to feel small and useless by this kind of judgement and that is why I try to do all I can to find out about something before I make it within the time-frames given for a project. I will also concede that I do not, and will not know everything within my practice and that there are things out there that seem silly or odd that may just well be ‘right’. Access to documentation, articles, people, materials and time-frames are all stumbling blocks. Looking, researching and making are all important, but if we never start – we will never learn from what worked, and what didn’t.

I am writing this as MY study into this type of dress with the documentation that I have to hand at the moment. I never stop researching or looking into something. Great leaps and improvements are made each time you experiment, and sometimes you do things wrong – but the point is to start. I am basing my garment off what I think is appropriate in terms of cut and materials and this has come from looking at picture research, reading what is out there and my background knowledge. If you disagree with the way I have done something I would love to know so that I can improve.

I am looking at this as an experiment this week to see how far I can get in terms of Internet research – it shall be an interesting challenge……


To start – research pictures: Internet….

Sue had long put together a  board for her research into what she liked etc. and this was my foray into the world of Pinterest. I am always wary of trends in the digital media world, and it takes me a while to get into them (and only then, if they give me something I need). In this case I have found the site good in terms of searching not for pictures of made garb, but paintings, drawings and woodcuts that look similar to what we are wanting to achieve.

I am seeing a dangerous pattern though however in a lack of  referencing and rather in taking for granted the pin is what it says until the original is stumbled upon in other internet searches. I am certainly NOT enjoying seeing something I want to know more about – but not being able to find either the original link (often broken/non-existent) or having a picture and when a search is done, only all the other Pinterest boards that have re-pinned it coming up.

Page on Pinterest that has good pictures:

I have a lot of primary resource pictures of portraits, sculptures and woodcuts etc. from my time in Germany, but as I do not have the physique for a Cranach or ‘Saxony court’ gown, so I have never looked at them closely because of this.

From what I already knew, and doing initial research into what I had access to, I could see that there are several different styles all mixed up in what people call ‘German’ or ‘Cranach.’

Before starting this research, it never sat well with me when people call dresses something generic. From all the portraits I have seen first hand all over Europe and in England, straight off the bat I not only know that Lucas Cranach the Elder (and his son – Lucas Cranach the Younger)  painted in a very stylised way, but that he was from just one part of Germany.

c. 1514 - Portrait of Duchess katharine of mecklenburg                             Lucas Cranach (Northern Renaissance Painter, 1472-1553)  and his workshop The Saxon Princesses (Sibyl, Emilia and Sidonia of Saxe) c 1535

Lucas Cranach the Elder,                Lucas Cranach the Elder,

Portrait of Duchess Katharine        The Saxon Princesses

of Mecklenburg. c 1514                  (Sibyl, Emilia and Sidonia of Saxe) c 1535


There is also a different style commonly seen in other paintings labelled ‘German’, I have been reading that this is identified as the Housebrook style. It seems to be defined by the scoop, the chain at the neck and the pleating under the bust and at the back.

detail from lovers from Gotha, Housebook Master c. 1480, GermanyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The lovers, Gotha,                  c. 1480 Master of the

Housebook Master,                Housebook – Standing Couple

c. 1480, Germany


Written Research: 


The word Landsknecht was also something that sat in the ‘what is real what is sca’ mythology basket for me I have heard different people say different things in passing and have been reading (all be it on the internet at this point in time) about the reasons for the slashing and multi-colours.

One idea that is put forward is because the Landsknecht were mercenaries they had a shorter life span, lived hard and fast to their own tune, and due to that the Holy Roman Emperor gave them a sumptury law waver in order to keep control and not seem a weak ruler. I have read on several websites that The Emperor reportedly said the Landsknecht  lived a “short and brutish life”, however, the reference page for this is now no longer on the Wikipedia link and you never know where the sources come from when they are not noted in peoples pages – whether they all came from that one site or not.

Link commented on :

The other is that soldiers pillaged the bodies and took what they wanted, including clothing to patch their own, and slashed what didn’t quite fit in order to make it functional.

Both are fantastically logical and practical,  regardless of what is true – it was fashion, and from first glance the style of these soldiers seem to have influenced the German and other countries court fashion – especially the Italians.


The ‘Tross’:

More than one of the places I looked while ferreting around for pictures and information suggested that this style should be called a Trossfrau, and that the terms ‘Kampfrau’ and ‘Trossfrau’ were both made up modern words.

“The name of the women traveling with the landsknecht came be known as kampfrau or trossfrau.  Neither
is a period name even though today they are used to describe the group of “females hanging with the
landsknechts”. Just before this class I took a long discussion with Meisterine Katheryn Hebenstreitz, about
what to name to use for all those women who follows the Tross, and decided that Trossfrau, seem more
accurate then the word Kampfrau, and therefore that is what I have decided use…”

The Tross are described as the camp followers that travelled with the Lanchknects  – women, children and  craftsmen. The reason for Kampfrau being used as a popular word within the S.C.A seems to be that the ‘fraue’ were the married females in the Tross as explained below:


“The period description of the women would have to be divided into several categories according to their
role in the Tross: The fraue was the person the Landsknecht was legally married to, even though they also
had a sort of fake marriage that happened when the leaders tried to regulate the number of women
following the tross. Since the war campaigns usually started during spring, this kind of marriage was
known as a may marriage and the wife known as mai fraue. Whure was a women who wasn’t married to
the man she followed, kind of like a modern partnership with a man and a women. Dirne was the
prostitute who made her living by selling her services, and they even could be found in the payrolls as a
legal worker during the war campaigns. Some men left their wife at home while they in the field had a mai
fraue or a whure who helped him and took care of him during the war campaign. The women also took
part in the looting of the battlefield as a way to make some extra money for living. Some of the women
also had a professional role in the camp as neterin (seamstress) or lautenschlagerin (lute player), etc”


The ‘Trossfrau’:

A good explanation for Trossfrau is below:

“Trossfrau (Bumlerin)

Like their men, these women also did not need to follow the sumptuary laws of the time. Their dresses were
primarily wool with guards along the front closure of the bodice, around the collar, and running horizontally
around the skirt, which would be roll pleated in place. Their sleeves were fairly close fitting with slashes at
the shoulder and sometimes the elbow to allow the hemd to show. There are examples of both long and short sleeves and contrasting color cuffs are also shown. Unlike the men, the ladies dresses were made to match.

The hats commonly shown with these outfits are a steuchlein with a schleier pulled across the neck, chin, and sometimes mouth for marching. Over this there are examples of many different styles of hats, most to shade the eyes. Platterhats, strawhats, tellerbarrets, lantern hats, all of large scale and with plumes. The Trossfrau accoutrements are also important since she would walk with her belongings on her at all times- basket, kettle, spoon, canteen, purse, all are worn while marching.”


Another website gives an explanation for the slashing patterns:

“The woodcuts shows that trim, stripes, and sleeves are sometimes slashed, either the ‘x’ or the ‘+’, but also only a simple ‘/’ (which doesn’t necessary means that the dress actually was slashes, but instead was a way pointing out if she was either a German or a Swiss).”

 Summary and update 2015:

This was pure internet research as I said, as it was all I was able to do at the time, in the small time frame that was open to me.

I arrived in Athlone (the Middle of Ireland) at Sue’s a week after writing up what was above, and she had decided that her ‘Tudor’ wardrobe and re-cutting/fitting some other existing dresses was something that she preferred to accomplish at that stage.

Instead. I have now decided that, especially after briefly looking into all this, to experiment with using my off the shoulder pattern, and because I have always wanted a dress like this – I am going to make one for me. I came to this conclusion even more so when I was at Rowany Festival this week at War delivering water and other things to my household…and couldn’t help but think how cool it would be to be dressed up in the outfit carrying out those duties….just saying….

This has left me in the position to delve further into this style before making any decisions – and I will now use all this research to make myself the dress that I have wanted to make for ages.

I will be going through all my photos from my travels in the Art Museums of Germany in 2010, and the more recent trips to see what I can pull from them in terms of visual research, and I will poke around for different written sources, in order to expand what I know about the subject beyond the perils of internet research only.

Surprisingly….this makes me happy – however, I was enjoying analysing what I found on the internet with a grain of salt and seeing what others thought and why they thought those things.

UPDATE 2016!

So, research continued, new things were looked at and I was asked to make a lovely woman an outfit for Rowany Festival that year.

The colours she wanted were purple and yellow with a different colour underdress. I knew that a lot of the websites told me that they used underskirts etc, however, not only did making her an under dress give her another ‘whole outfit in camp’ choice, but it meant that there was extra support, and in certain woodcuts it looked as if there were under dresses.  Knowing also what I knew about Italy and a few other countries at the time, the under dress was also common there and made sense, knowing the influence that Italy had on Germany at that time.

Also logially to me, if you were wanting to strip down out of your dress, walking around camp as a larger chested woman with only a chemise and a petticoat on, wouldn’t make me comfortable. A version of the Lenberg bra could be worn to stop this – but wearing just a chemise and skirt doesn’t sit well with my sensibilities for this project.



‘Germany’ at the time:

(under construction)


 Garb names:

(under construction)


Below are Pictures that fit, (some closely, some not so much) in with the cut of what I was asked to make.

Landsknicht woodcuts and painting:

(note – i still have to label all the pictures below.)

TeMusketeer and Wife c.1535 The German single-leaf woodcut, 1500-1550, Max Geisberg  :Landsknecht und sein Weib ca.1535 Erhard Schoen





Detail Woman and Knaves -  Max Geisberg  Edhard Schoen G.1235-1238. Detail – Army Train 1532 The German single-leaf woodcut, 1500-1550, Max Geisberg

Encampment_detail-254x300German Landsknecht and wife (1525-30) Eching by Daniel Hopfer.

Detail of painting of Karl V camp, 1546


pictures of similar dresses:

seated woman albert durer 1515Anonymous Germany 1500 Illustrations from Johannes Lichtenberger, Prognosticatio


1531 calendar june

Graf Urs (vers 1485-1527) L'amour mercenaire Gravure Vers 1511woodcut made by the German artist Matthias Gerung, c.1544-1558

“Old Man Caressing a Young Woman” from 1530 by Sebald Beham

(this one is interesting to note for the hooks and eyes)



Woman of Basel by Holbein, c. 1520 Basel Woman Walking towards the Left, Costume Study by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1523

nobles  Holbein Hans, le jeune (Les Simulacres de la Mort c. 1526Standing Woman Circle of Lucas Cranach the Elder  (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)


Stoß_(Schule)_Zehn_Gebote_Tafel_6 martin stossDetail of a carving of the Ten Commandments from Nuremberg,1524 (1) Stoß_(Schule)_Zehn_Gebote_Tafel_6 martin stoss

Stoß_(Schule)_Zehn_Gebote_Tafel_4 veit stoss Die zehn Gebote, Nürnberg 1524, Obstbaumholz



Dresses: more middle / upper class but with the same type of front.

Portrait of a Young Girl1507Portrait of a Lady c. 1520 Attributed to Martin Schaffner

Jörg Breu the Elder, and an Anonymous Painter Nuptial Portrait of Coloman Helmschmid and Agnes Breu ca. 1500-05a8ef3f5f2f466491a154402843723351

hans Mielich_Lady_1540   Bernhard Strigel - Bride picture of a patrician lady1500


Cranach_il_giovane,_allegoria_della_redenzione,_1557_13800px-Hans_Holbein_d._Ä.Porträt des Ulrich Schwarz und seiner Familie, detail c 1503

425px-Hans_Holbein_d._J._-_Portrait_of_Anna_Meyer_-_1526Darmstadt madonna hans holbein younger 1526 28 meyer  family   1526 Hans Holbein the Younger Anna Meyer Detail of the Darmstadt Madonna


Dresses: still with the off the shoulder, but upper-class and with a different fastening on the front, still relevant in terms of style – but not what we are after.

Dorothea_Meyer,_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger 1516Portrait of a women by Bernard Strigel, c 1515


Quite interesting: the below are very like the Italian style of the same period in terms of cut and sleeves

I find this interesting due to my research into the style of ‘anti-gravity sleeves’ that was jointly evident between Italy and France. The below pictures share that as well as many other similarities.

The sleeves remind me of Italy in the pictures below.

Portrait of Maria Welzer, née Tänzel 1524 malerMeister von Meßkirch 1531 32 st ursula




Christoph_Amberger_-_Portrait_of_Felicitas_Seiler_-_1537Portrait of a Lady by Barthel Beham,1537

This reminds me of the French style of the same period: 

the bust line is like the french dresses that are often referred to as ‘Tudor Gowns’

ortrait of Anna Scheit, nee Mem(m)inger Beham, Barthel (painter) 1528


Call me crazy:

but the more i look at paintings etc from this period in France, Italy and Germany and a few other places….the more I see the similarities in the cut. The ‘anti-gravity’ sleeves that make the garment look as if it is falling off but aren’t actually is a key feature in nearly all the garments.

I refuse to believe it was a painting style shared by all the court painters of the time, and I refuse to believe it was ‘mannerism’ at a later stage. It is a distinct look and I know from having cut things badly when I first started, having a dress where the shoulder straps fall off all the time is annoying at best, but I know from more recent times, having a dress that looks right and feels right – is gold. If you look like the painting, have the seams in the best possible places from as much study as you can do, and you can actually move like you should in it….then you have won.

It is for this reason that I have decided to base Sue’s dress (if it is ever made) and my dress that I want to make on my pattern for the Italian dress. I think it will look right and sit right and support the bust right (I hope)





Resources used to research this topic online so far:

NOTE: I read all sites on the internet with a pinch of salt. I look for consistencies and inconsistencies. Just because I have included the sites does not mean that I think they are good or bad, I have included them as a record of my research into something that I had not looked into before.



One Response “The ‘Kampfrau’ or ‘Trossfrau’ Dress…..under construction.” →

  1. Heidi O'Conner

    June 24, 2020

    What a wonderful site for research. Thank you so much for all the information!


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