Barbara von Erlach

Barbara von Erlach by Diebold Schilling the elder: Spiezer Chronik. 1484/85. Burgerbibliothek Bern.

The reason I got interested in the late 15th century fashion of southern Germany/Switzerland is because of the spectacular headdresses! I feel SO uncomfortable wearing an ordinary veil, so three years ago I looked through various digital medieval manuscripts to find other types of headdresses. When I found the Spiezer Chronik from 1480’s Switzerland I knew that I had found the right thing for me!

Spiezer Chronik is a chronicle by Diebold Schilling the elder. It contains the early prehistory of Bern from the foundation of the town to the events in the middle of the 15th century. It was commissioned by Rudolf von Erlach, knight, bailiff and member of the Great Council of Bern. He was married to Barbara von Praroman in his first marriage. Both Rudolf and Barbara are depicted in the chronicle.

Rudolf von Erlach by Diebold Schilling the elder: Spiezer Chronik. 1484/85. Burgerbibliothek Bern.

The moment I saw Barbara I fell in love with her dress! Her bright pink/brown kirtle is probably worn directly over a smock which is decorated in the neckline. The reason I believe this kirtle is not an surcoat is the tight fit, the color of the dress underneath – it is white, the common color of the smock – and the fact that she wears a belt with a drawstring purse attached, something almost never worn on top of the surcoat in this period.

The kirtle has a deep V-shaped neckline and is closed either with lacing rings or metal clasps at the front. It is not entirely clear to me whether the kirtle is constructed with a waist seam or straight panels and gores. The skirt is very full however, and it looks almost as if it was pleated at the waistline. If that’s that case, it indicates a separate skirt and bodice.

Detail. Diebold Schilling the elder: Spiezer Chronik. 1484/85. Burgerbibliothek Bern.

The 3/4 sleeves are open at the back, which means that the full length sleeves of the smock are visible. The kirtle sleeves are laced with green ribbon at the back, and it appears as if lacing rings are used, rather than worked eyelets.

The yellow decoration on the shoulders is a mystery to me. Is it some kind of lacing rings? Or plain decoration? I really have no idea, since I haven’t come across the same kind of decoration in any other picture from the same period. If you know more about this, or if you have your own theory, please drop me a line!

Lacing rings in the neckline. Is this the answer to the mystery? Detail from young girl and old man, c. 1475-1480, Housebook Master, South Germany (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam)

The reason that I love Barbara’s dress because of the flattering fit and interesting details. However it is worn by a very rich and probably influential lady. Since I go for a little more common look when recreating 1480’s dress,  would not be appropriate for my imagined persona (middle class townswoman). But, what would happen if my imagined persona saw Barbara von Erlach wear this kirtle, went to the tailor and asked for something similar in cut and shape, but with cheaper and less material? What would that dress look like?

To get an idea what ordinary Swiss women wore during the same period, I went to another digital manuscript by the same author: Bern Chronik – The Bern Chronicle. It was commissioned in 1474 by the City Council of Bern. About ten years later, Diebold Schilling was able to hand over to the Council the three-volume work, adorned with colored pages, initials and more than 600 large illustrations. The third, artistically richest volume contains Schiller’s own description of the Burgundian war, including its prehistory until 1480. And in this third volume I found some very detailed images of camp followers wearing kirtles very similar to Barbara’s.

Detail. Diebold Schilling the elder: Amtliche Berner Chronik. 1478-1483. Burgerbibliothek Bern.

This woman has the same V-shaped neckline at the front, cut almost down to the waistline. She doesn’t seem to wear a belt in the natural waist – instead it is probably used to bring her skirt up, managing her to walk more freely. You can see the bulk of fabric below her waist as a result of this. And this indicates that her kirtle is cut with a waistline, rather than with straight panels and gores.

Detail. Diebold Schilling the elder: Amtliche Berner Chronik. 1478-1483. Burgerbibliothek Bern.

The wounded woman in red in the picture above has the same 3/4 sleeves as Barbara. They are open at the back and tied in three places. In this picture you also get an idea what the kirtle looks like at the back, with a very deeply cut neckline. She has got the same bulk of fabric below her waist, indicating a separately cut bodice and skirt. 

By using the Bern Chronik as a source for my new kirtle, I think I’ll manage to get as close to Barbara’s dress as possible, without having to ”try to rise above my station”. These kirtles have all the details I’m so fond of: the sleeves, the neckline and the marked waistline.

Now it’s time to start making my new kirtle! Wish me good luck!

About the chronicles by Diebold Schilling:
Barbara von Erlach, Spiezer Chronik:
Wounded women, Bern Chronik:
Camp follower:

Dressing the Tudors

This weekend it was finally time for “Dressing the Tudors” – workshops and seminars about Tudor clothing together with the authors of the book Tudor Tailor that I bought almost 10 years ago. It all started with a demonstration – what would a lady at the Elizabethan court wear in 1603? She started off with quite an informal outfit – a waistcoat, an open gown, a silk skirt and an apron. After getting some help from the silk dealer, she was ready for the masked ball.


Later this weekend followed four workshops. “Gather thy thoughts” was the first one. On how to use pictures, extant garments and documentary evidence to recreate Tudor garments.

Jane Malcolm-Davies on documentary evidence from the Tudor period

The second workshop was called “Cut thy cloth” – on how to lay out your pattern pieces in the most economical and Tudor way. Piecing is the Tudor thing!


Next came “Spend thy shillings”. On Tudor and modern material. What to use and where to find it. I just loved this project plan below!


Finally it was time for “Slash thy sleeves” – on how to pink and stamp your fabric to create that unique Tudor look.

Ninya Mikhaila is demonstrating different pinking methods

All in all I had a really good time. Some things I already knew, but some thing were completely knew, especially the last workshop that included several techniques that I had never tried before. Now I’m looking forward to their next book, “Typical Tudors” – on how common Tudor people dressed. Until then I have a “white cottoned waistcoat” to finish!

Why so silent?

What have I done since my last update, in December last year? Mainly worked (I work as an antiquarian and museum teacher). And my computer is so old that I didn’t bother to update the blog when I DID have time to sew. Instead I have used Instagram on my phone. If you want more frequent updates, you are welcome to follow me:

As soon as I buy a new computer (any week now!) I’m going to post about every garment I have made since December. So stay tuned :)

Making a movie: On set

Min goda filmarvän Stina och jag har länge grunnat på ett nytt filmprojekt, och när så äntligen idéerna började spruta dröjde det inte länge förrän Lizzie J. hoppade ombord.

En lagom mulen dag i oktober ägde själva filminspelningen rum. Vi höll till i Nyköping, på samma gård där jag tidigare fotograferat Lizzie J. i samma utstyrsel som hon ses bära på bilden ovan (undantaget de moderna accessoarerna som fingervantarna och sjalen, dessa var endast till för att hon inte skulle frysa allt för mycket – det var en lång dag!)

My dear friend Stina and I have for a long time wanted to make a new movie and when we finally came up with an idea it didn’t take long before Lizzie J. wanted to be a part of the project. 

We shot the movie a cloudy day in October. We went to the same house in Nyköping where Lizzie J. and I took some pictures to the exhibition, and she wore the same clothes (well, the mittens and the scarf were used only to keep her warm – it was a long day!)

Filmn_3Photo: Lizzie J

Vi vill med filmen undersöka hur livet för en piga arbetande i en tämligen rik stadsgård kunde se ut under slutet av 1700-talet. Kanske behövde hon ta hand om de äpplen som växte på gårdens träd?

The aim with the movie is to examine how everyday life could be for a maid in a fairly rich city house in the end of the 18th century. Perhaps one of her dutys was to take care of the apples in the autumn?

Filmn_2Photo: Lizzie. J

I en scen som vi filmade håller pigan på att skura fönster. I bilden ovan kan du se hur Stina och jag såg ut under tagningen…

Nu återstår efterarbetet innan filmen släpps på en videokanal nära dig!

In one scene the maid is cleaning the windows. In the picture above you can see what Stina and I looked like during the take… 

Now only post production remains before you can watch the movie somewhere on the Internet!



För dig som missade utställningen “Född i fel tid” i Friluftsmuseet Gamla Linköping ges nu en ny chans att ta del av en något förminskad utställning – denna gång i samband med kulturveckan vid Prosten Pihls Gård vid Alla Helgona kyrka i Nyköping. Utställningen pågår 18-24 augusti och har öppet måndag, tisdag, onsdag och fredag kl 13.00-15.30, samt torsdag kl 17-19. Fri entré. Välkommen!

There is a new chance to see my exhibition “Born in the wrong era”! This time in Galleri Stallet, Prosten Pihls gård, Nyköping. No entrance fee. Welcome!

Miss Sophie on the radio

Two weeks ago I was interviewed on the radio about my exhibition in Gamla Linköping open-air museum. It was broadcast live, but can still be heard on the radio website, just follow this link or click on the picture below. Perhaps I should mention that it’s in swedish…

Vintage Vogue


This is the result of my latest project: a dress made from a Vintage Vogue pattern (V2787). I’ve used this pattern before and since I’ve got time to get used to it I think this dress turned out better than the last one.


There is a 1940’s sew-along that I wanted to take part in: “Sew for victory” hosted by Lucky Lucille, and that encouraged me to make this dress. Well, to be honest, I bought the fabric last summer and was already determined to use this pattern together with this fabric, but sometimes you need a little push to get started…


The back of the dress – not as amazing as the front, but in this case I blame the pattern =P


The hat and shoes was borrowed from my sister, Lisa (or Lizzie J as you can read about in the post below.)

MissSophiesAtelier_Vogue48_4Photos by Gerd Jansson

Guest post: Meet Lizzie J.

Hello all you lovely visitors of Miss Sophie’s Atelier!

This is my letter to you, me being one of Miss Sophie’s friends, where I tell you a little bit about myself.  In my everyday life, my name is Lisa and I’m Sofia’s younger sister, but on this page, you will more frequently get to meet my alter ego, Lizzie J. She’s the woman you see gazing into the distance in the photos, popping up in different times and locations, wearing beautiful historical costumes.


Eliza Bennet… ehm, I mean, Lizzie J

I share my sister’s interest in costume history and have done so for a long time. In high school, I wrote a paper on women’s fashion history during the 20th century. In my teens I sewed some garments that I’m still very proud of, among them a 1950’s dress. I’ve also learnt the hard way what hard work lies behind a readymade garment. To my prom, I sewed a Titanic-inspired evening gown, which, I fear, wouldn’t have been finished in time, had it not been for my sister and her ability keep cool and sew on, and to attach reluctant buttons and bows to a slippery fabric.


The Titanic-inspired evening gown I wore to prom. I can only take credit for the front, since my sister helped me with the back. She also made the reticule, which was the Edwardian equivalent of a hand bag.  

Even though other interests now occupy my time, I’m very happy that my sister has the talent and patience required to turn pieces of fabric into lovely creations. For me, you see, that means that I occasionally get to wear the results! And that’s something that I really enjoy, as you hopefully will be able to see in the photos of me.


Going a bit anachronistic in between takes

Except for modelling, I’ve been my sisters “right hand” in this enterprise, when it comes to discussing ideas as well as trying new things at photo shoots. I’ve helped out where I’ve been needed, sometimes in front of the camera and sometimes behind it.


Miss Sophie having a cup of tea in the garden. On this occasion, I was behind the camera.

When I’m not working with Miss Sophie, I’m studying ethnology and I am currently writing a paper on superheroes. I share my sisters’ passions for tea and history and I love to just walk around in old cities with old buildings, IRL as well as in videogames, for instance Assassin’s Creed II, where you jump around rooftops in renaissance Italy.

Bad jokes, books and board games are things I refuse to live without, as well as singing, learning languages and countryside walks.


Now you know a bit more about me. You’ll probably see more of me in photos to come. Or who knows, perhaps we’ll run into each other on a renaissance fair in the summer!

Yours etc.

Lizzie J


P.S. Considering the name and the picture, it hardly comes as any surprise that Jane Austen is on the list of my top-ten favorite authors. I’m currently reading Persuasion for a book club meeting in two weeks. Can’t wait! And for those of you who have not yet seen Lizzie Bennet Diaries, the Emmy-award winning modern day adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Congratulations! 100 episodes of greatness await you!

P.P.S. Actually, I don’t have a list of favorite authors. But if I did, Jane Austen would most certainly be on it! As would the brilliant Irish author Marian Keyes, for that matter.


The grand opening!


Last Saturday was the opening day for my exibition in Gamla Linköping open-air museum! The exhibition is called “Född i fel tid” (“Born in the wrong era”) and in it you can see some of my historical garments and photographs. My inspiration is the movie “Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen, where the main character wishes that he was born in the 1920’s, instead of living in the present era.

The idea of an exhibition was born a year ago when I helped my cousin with her exhibition in Pargas, Finland. I liked the idea of having a little space of my own to show some of my creations. And I’ve actually planned and executed exhibitions before, since it was an important part of my education as culture and media producer.


Lots of stuff in the car when we arrived at the museum on the opening day… The red building is called “Curmanska magasinet” and when you pass through the doors, my exibition is on your right hand side.


The finishing touch: putting up the signs – two hours before the opening…


Making sure that the TV and the movie is working.

This last autumn, my friend Stina and I made a short movie with one of my Regency dresses. We have been making films together for more than ten years now and this time we wanted to make a movie that shows just how beautiful autumn colours can be. My sister Lisa was kind enough to be in front of the camera and she did a marvellous job!


I bought mead (non-alchoholic) and lingonberry juice from the general store in the museum…


… and served together with home made historically inspired canapés. I found some old recipies that I just had to try: ham and herbs in puff paste (a recipie from 1664, originally named “Een Skincka in uthi een Pastey”), and mini pies with saffron (15th century or so recipie).


But the most unusual recipie I tried was from 1609: carrots filled with hard-boiled eggs, almonds and raisins.


Family, friends and colleagues were there, as well as other interested people! Big thanks to all of you!


And here you can see some more of the exhibition, my dress from 1780’s and my green medieval kirtle.


A journalist and a photographer from the local newspaper showed up, and here I am – posing in my tricorne hat together with my early 1960’s dress. Definitely born in the wrong era!

The exhibition is open every day, Mon-Fri 10-17 and Sat-Sun 11-16, until 8 June. No entrance fee! And did I mention that Gamla Linköping open-air museum is a gorgeous place?!

Big thanks to Gamla Linköping open-air museum, and to my family and friends for all your help and advice! I couldn’t have done it without you!

Photos by Fride Jansson and Lisa Jansson

Behind the scenes


Some weeks ago, me and my sister Lisa went into town to take some new pictures of my 1780’s costume. She got dressed up at home (actually in another outfit, but historical as well) and do I have to say that the people on the bus stared quite a lot…

Anyway, adjacent to one of the old churches in Nyköping there is a house that today serves as a parish house and café, but was originally built in the 1720’s as a private home for one of the priests. I have a special something for this house – I spent some time there as a child, and in my early twenties I worked in the café – so I knew immediately that I wanted to include the house in the photos.

It was quite a chilly day, so Lisa wanted to keep her jacket on while I made all the camera adjustments, as you can see in the picture above.  The broom is unfortunately not from the 1780’s -I made it the same morning with dead branches from the woods. The cap is also made specially for the photo shoot, since I actually didn’t have one before.

Try tying (modern) shoe laces with a corset on… it’s hard!


I think my sister will agree when I say that the most fun was to see the reactions we got from the people passing by. Most people just stared, probably wondering what we were up to, but one woman with a small child stopped for quite a long chat, and the little girl was really excited and thought that my sister looked so pretty. A fairy tale coming true? One young man took a photo (in secret…) and an older woman said some really kind words when passing by. And I made a new friend this day! He stopped by and all three of us had a really long talk, and this spontaneous chat actually resulted in a new friendship!


The result of the photoshoot will be displayed in the upcoming exhibition I’m working on, and on this blog of course. All in good time!



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