The first known fashion book – Klaidungsbüchlein (Book of Clothes)

Christoph_Amberger-Portrait_of_Matthaeus_Schwarz

Christoph Amberger, Portrait of Matthaeus Schwarz

Do you know this feeling? You stand in front of your wardrobe in the morning and ask yourself “what am I going to wear?” It happens to me quite a lot even though I am spoiled for choice. Perhaps it would have been easier for me to live during the Renaissance when strict laws regulated what clothes and jewellery one could wear that were appropriate for a person’s rank. And it was during this period that one man commissioned 135 watercolour paintings over a period of 40 years showing his dressed self.

This man was Matthäus Schwarz and the album he eventually compiled became the first known fashion book – the Klaidungsbüchlein (Book of Clothes).

Matthäus Schwarz (1497-1574) was a 16th century accountant from Augsburg, Germany and worked as chief accountant for the mighty Fugger family. He was interested in fashion and spent a large part of his income on clothes. This was in a period of time when such interest and sumptuous dressing was for aristocracy and high ranks of society only and law regulated what was appropriate for one to wear. Careful not to break the law he would find his ways around it, for example wearing fancy sleeves if a fancy hose was forbidden.

October 1516: depicted with Jacob Fugger, his new employer 19 years old

October 1516: depicted with Jacob Fugger, his new employer
19 years old

From 1520 until 1560 he documented his appearance and outfits commissioning paintings by first Narziß Renner and later on by Christoph Amberger’s studio. Alongside these paintings he reveals fascinating details about the occasion, his age and details about his clothing.

17th November 1519: his brother's wedding 22 years old

17th November 1519: his brother’s wedding
22 years old

Here are couple of pages from his album.

1518: Imperial Diet of Augsburg under Maximilan I 21 years old

1518: Imperial Diet of Augsburg under Maximilan I
21 years old

Klaidungsbuechlein_FathersDeath

November 1519: his father died. He is shown in four different outfits during the mourning period
23-24 years old

10th March 1521: in his armour 24 years old

10th March 1521: in his armour
24 years old

Klaidungsbuechlein_1524

15th March 1524: wearing a heart shaped leather bag when courting, green being the colour of hope
27 years old

Klaidungsbuechlein_HisWedding

1538: on his way to his own wedding
41 years old

12th August 1545: going to war again 48 years old

12th August 1545: going to war again
48 years old

23rd July 1547: Charles V comes to Augsburg for an Imperial Diet (Reichstag) 50 years old

23rd July 1547: Charles V comes to Augsburg for an Imperial Diet (Reichstag)
50 years old

For a full PDF of the book click here.

I’m reading a fascinating book about clothes in the Renaissance at the moment – “Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe” by Ulinka Rublack – so if this is something that interests you I can highly recommend it.

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