What would Snow White “actually” have worn?

17 Feb

On April 11-12 we will be invading the Midrealm’s Golden Seamstress event.Currently we are an inter-kingdom squad of Mid, East and Calontir. I have been obsessed with creating a period appropriate Snow White since I last went to Disney.

The goal is not to create a Disney dress in period, but to create a period dress in Disney colors. Or fix the hot mess that is Snow White.

The trick for this project is to reverse engineer the Disney version of Snow White, into period appropriate SCA clothing. If you look at Disney’s version, it is a hot mess of styles from mostly around Germany in the 16th century. The sleeves mid century, skirt and later 16th. But the thing that is odd is the two colors between bodice and skirt. Disney’s movie version is set somewhere in Bavaria, but she’s dressed in a dress that you would expect to see in Saxony.

Going back to the origins of the faerie tale as written by the Grimms, the story was told to them by 2 women in Kassel. And by the time of retelling of the folk story, it was already “old”. Kassel is located in the area we know now as Hesse and bordered Saxony.

Add in another wrinkle of Margaretha of Waldeck. There are scholars that believe there is a direct connection to Margaretha of Waldeck and the Snow White story. The time period would be correct, as she died in the mid 1500s. The geographical area would be correct. Waldeck was a sovereign principality in the German Empire and is comprised of territories in present-day Hesse and Lower Saxony. There is a scholastic presumption she was killed by poison, long illness that started when she was at court, long drawn out death in 1554. The earliest Grimm tale of Snow White, has her hair being blonde. There are accounts of the family owning copper mine, worked by small deformed children called dwarfs.

I’ve got books on the way for the historical accounts of the House o Waldeck. Hopefully the get here in time and that translating the German doesnt prove to be a really large rabbit hole of time.

So I have, time, location, motive and a bunch of circumstantial coincidences. 1550s, Saxony here we come. The good news, is I am really familiar with this time/location combo and I have a bunch of manuscripts to paw through.

I think we have a winner for portrait inspiration. Christiana Eulenau by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1534 That collar line is nearly spot on. Now we just need to figure out how to make the standing collars for the bodice AND the hemd. The big guns suggest that the hemd is actually a gollar, which has decreased the level of difficulty exponentially. A gollar can be a little caplet, that is circular in nature and worn over the top of a dress. Or it can be like a square partlet. Modernly, we would call this a dicky.

Christiana Eulenau by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1534 Germany


Posted by on February 17, 2014 in 16th Century, German, Sewing


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5 responses to “What would Snow White “actually” have worn?

  1. opusanglicanum

    February 17, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Did you see the “authentic Snow White” dress someone documented last year on lj dress diaries comm?

  2. Alysten

    February 17, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    I’ve seen the Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat. I have not seen the Snow White.

  3. Cherry

    February 18, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    That’s fabulous! I’ve never thought about what a fairy-tale character would actually have worn. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  4. Eleanor Deyeson

    February 20, 2014 at 6:57 am

    Also look at the images of Katherine von Bora, Martin Luther’s wife. It is the Saxon Princess style, with a more modest twist. I have some images here
    The hemd’s look the same. I’m actually thinking it is a high necked hemd, not a low necked hemd and linen goller. Most of the goller images I’ve seen were fur lined. Maybe Mistress Katrine de Saint Brieuc would have some inventories to help us out there.

    Also, one of the museum websites I found mentioned that there were sumptuary laws regarding how many gold chains could be worn. I have no idea where to start looking for that.

    • Alysten

      February 21, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      And we have Mistress Sophia Kress hear in the East who is all things German. I will consult with the higher powers after A&S.

      I think I have the sumptuary laws saved somewhere.


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