Fashion blog from 16th century

1:08 PM


Long before Instagram, a German accountant was drawing his everyday outfits to a manuscript. Matthäus Schwarz became world first fashion "blogger" by commissioning watercolor portraits of his best outfits for 40 years, in 16th century. He left us an amazing record of Renaissance fashion and style gathered together in his Trachtenbuch (literally, "book of clothes".) 

left: In March 1523, an evening dress, the short cloak with taffeta, the doublet made from silk satin, the gray over-hose can be fitted with any hose

Matthäus Schwarz was born in Augsburg in 1497 as the son of a wine merchant and innkeeper. Even as a teenager Schwarz showed an interest in fashion, realizing how quickly trends came and went. That understanding would inspire him to meticulously record what he wearing, when and why, noting his age down to fractions of years. After learning bookkeeping through apprenticeships in Milan and Venice, as soon as he returned to Augsburg in 1516 he got a job as a clerk with Jakob Fugger, the head of one of the richest, most powerful mercantile, mining and banking firms in Europe. Schwarz quickly worked his way up, becoming head accountant by the age of 23.

He began to record his sartorial successes – and failures – from the age of 23, using three principal artists. The collection of 137 miniature paintings (including 36 that drew on his memory of what he'd looked like from childhood, to reconstruct his earlier years) is kept in a museum in Brunswick in northern Germany.
On October 1516, this was my first outfit back in German style in Augsburg, when I wanted to become a huntsman
Schwarz took pleasure in gorgeous, expensive clothes, but they were also an important form of self-expression for him. He was successful at his job and made good money, but he wasn’t rich. He was a middle class burgher, but he spent all of his discretionary income on clothes and was involved in every aspect of the design. There was no prêt-à-porter and if there had been Schwarz still would have gone for the couture. 
In February 1521, in a gathering at Steffen Veiten’s wedding – or rather the after-wedding – it was not from silk




Schwarz's outfits are often bright and elaborate, and the doublets and breeches he favoured were seen as very fashion-forward at the time. The clothes carried political significance, too. When Charles V returned to Germany, Schwarz wore red and yellow, the colours of the Holy Roman Emperor's flag, as a show of allegiance to Catholicism.

left: Three types of Prussian leather as hose and over-hose, everything as shown, without doublet, but three kinds of shirts. The middle one [has attached to it] an 8 minute hour-glass on the thigh.

Although he lived until 77, Schwarz stopped recording his dress at the age of 63. By then he had 75 pages of parchment with 137 portraits of himself, including the first secular nude since Albrecht Durer’s. It was a bold nude, too, with both front and back views and an unstinting self-assessment: “That was my real figure from behind, because I had become fat and large.” His son followed in his father’s footsteps, although he was less prolific and his styles less colorful.

Schwarz had the manuscript bound in 1560 and while it was basically a personal account, he appears to have shown it to a select audience. a


20 February 1538, when I decided to take a wife, the gown was made with green trims of half silk

On 9 July 1553, in camlet, fresh and healthy with God’s grace, when Duke Moritz of Saxony was shot with three princes, and Margrave Albrecht of Brandenburg ran away
In June 1518, when I wanted to learn fencing. The doublet was silk satin from Bruges

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