A couple of people have asked for this, so I thought I’d write a series on the basic garment vocabulary. Lets start with the skin out, shall we?
The most basic layer for a woman is the hemd, plural hemden. This word roughly translates to smock, shirt, chemise, and is the layer worn on the body next to the skin. Of course, its not that simple, there were several types of hemd mentioned in the period inventories, and those are just the ones that were worth enough to note down in the records. (One of the problems with using clothing inventories is that only goods of value were written down in the inventories, as these were used to calculate the value of the estate for taxation purposes and to divide up the goods properly amoungst the heirs.)
Other names mentioned in the inventories are:
- Frauenhemd (woman’s hemd)
- Unterhemd (under hemd)
- Halshemd (neck hemd )
- Nachthemd (night hemd)
You notice that I don’t translate the word hemd when I translated the descriptive terms, I want you to get used to thinking of these garments in the properly vocabulary terms, not the English equivilents.
Now what was the difference between a hemd, a frauenhemd and an unterhemd? We don’t actually know, but we can make some good guesses based on depictions of hemd in artwork.
The styles of hemd changed over time as the dress styles changed, and the style that would have been worn in the 1490’s is probably not what was worn in the 1590’s. I’ve collected a few images of hemd on my Pinterest board, you can see that there were a range of styles and shapes. Since each family made their own underwear, or had it made, each one would have been slightly different. We’ll get into different cuts and styles later.