Reproduction of Extant Mary of Hapsburg Chemise – Cathain Reiter

East Kingdom Wiki:

Link to full documentation and photos:

Looking through history, there are very few extant examples of clothing that are intact and more than a few hundred years old. Most garments and construction methods we utilize come from fragments or artistic renditions of what was worn. One rare example of an actual extant garment is the Mary of Hapsburg hemd (a hemd is the German name for an underdress or chemise). This article of clothing was likely made between 1520 and 1530, and is currently on display in the Hungarian National Museum. It is a gorgeous piece, and ever since I saw pictures of it, I wanted to make both the hemd, and the green overdress it is paired with. While the overdress will have to wait its turn, it is finally time to put the hemd into the spotlight!

3.5 oz/yard linen

Size 6 silver passing thread (berlin embroidery)

Size 4 silver passing thread (berlin embroidery)

Silver passing thread (Tied to History)

Linen sewing thread


Fabric: The extant garment is described as being made from closely woven fine evenweave linen. Sumptuary laws of the area suggested hemds would be made of linen, since these laws placed restrictions on silks, velvets, and brocades, and indicated that linen hemds were viable wedding gifts (Greenfield). Since this is often portrayed as the underdress for a wedding outfit, that fits in with expectations of the time. For the recreation, a 3.5oz/yard linen was used. Having worked with it in the past, it is a nice texture and weight, holds up to smocking well, and is fairly evenweave. It seemed like it would be perfect for this job.

Silver Thread: Metalic thread during this time was used in both fabric and for embroidery. Typically, they “consisted of metal strips that were… wound around a fibrous core of silk, linen, cotton or other yarns…Pure gold, gold alloyed with silver, gilded or gilt silvered copper and gold like copper alloys… were used as the materials of the metal strips or wires… utilized in weaving and embroidery” (Jaro 40-42). I purchased 3 different types of thread to test for this. I wasn’t sure how well different sizes would hold up to embroidery, or how they would work. The end result is they all showed some wear, especially at the eye of the needle, but all 3 sizes and sources of silver thread worked well, and I actually ended up using all 3, since I apparently didn’t quite buy enough!

Considerations Before Construction
As previously mentioned, there are very few extant garments from this region and period; linen often does not survive time. While this shirt is a rare example, getting a lot of information on it actually isn’t that easy. There are no real descriptions of how it’s made, no detailed pictures of the sleeve embroidery or back embroidery, and no real descriptions of the embroidery beyond “satin stitch”, which is not what it looks like to my eye. I did try to get more information on this, and wrote to the Hungarian National Museum (I even have a co-worker who speaks Hungarian who offered his translation services to me). However, since this year has been tumultuous, I unfortunately never heard anything back. As such, I actually did need to base a lot of things on information from other extant examples I had more information on, and on knowledge I have obtained through my research and personal experience.

Continues at:

27 thoughts on “Reproduction of Extant Mary of Hapsburg Chemise – Cathain Reiter

  1. First, Wonderful garment. 2nd: Question: how do you create entry for the A&S like this? I have one upcoming and wonder how you created this “posting”? Please pm me.

    1. If you mean the blog post, I just created a site using “Google sites”. Its easily found through a search, and is fairly intuitive to use.

  2. I am unable to view the docs at the google links – could there be a permission problem? I’d love to read more about the techniques you used!

    1. Thanks! I am not sure why you can’t access it. Doesn’t seem to be an issue for others. I will send you the pdf 🙂

      1. Yay, I got it to work! I had to change some google setting! That is awesome! I love the shape of the construction.

  3. Beautiful work, and I highly commend your research as well.

  4. Beautiful work! That pleating is so tiny, it’s hard to imagine EVEN tinier! I like seeing your thought process for work-arounds given the pandemic, and I hope the Hungarian Museum gets back to you.

  5. This looks amazing! Great handiwork and fantastic sleuthing, given the limited resources to do so with!

  6. Very nicely done! Great process descriptions. Trying to replicate a specific item has its own challenges, especially if one can’t actually handle the real thing!

  7. Beautiful work!
    I commiserate with projects going sideways. However, you should be very proud of what you did accomplish.

  8. This was really beautifully done. I love the care you put into the hand stitching and embroidery — especially the use of period-appropriate needle styles. You have me wanting to smock things. 🙂

  9. Well done! It turned out beautifully! Very even seam finishing & tiny pleating, and the documentation is impressive, especially with this year’s roadblocks. Thank you for sharing this!

  10. WOW!!! This is some stunning work!
    Thank you for sharing your process with us!

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