German headwear – Wulsthaube – Examples & planning

An impromptu white linen Wulsthaube just put together to photograph the Dockenbaret

An impromptu white linen Wulsthaube just put together to photograph the Dockenbaret

After going through my fabric stash and doing my capsule wardrobe record, I came up with not one, but four different collections of fabrics I really wanted to use for German Renaissance clothing.

One is for a Cranach gown, but the other three are for the Landsknecht style of costume which I really haven’t researched much at this point. I figured however that I’d start with appropriate headwear, and kind of go from there. I do love headwear… and I always seem to start with the headwear before I make the gown!

Partially this is also because of the July 2020 Historical Sew Monthly entry from Johanna – a Wulsthaube which made me want to make one too!

The Wulsthaube appears to be a headwear style that was worn by all elements of society, so I figured I wasn’t tied to one dress style over another.

I started first with some portraits to get a feel for the shape, size, and style of the headwear I thought looked interesting, and believed to be some sort of Wulsthaube. Ultimately though, I think I want this for a lower class style – so not to go with my Cranach gown, but rather to go with more of a Landsknecht style. (Which… at the time of writing, I have yet to actually make.  Because again.. headwear first!)

Portraits by Bernhard Strigel

There’s a bit of a challenge with looking at portraits – they’re all going to be of the nobility/etc class, which tells a very different story than the Landsknecht style that I think I’m going to go for – still it should give me an idea of shape, size, colour, etc that was period-correct.  Locally however, all of the Landsknecht style costumers I see – wear this in plain white linen rather than anything decorated or colourful. If I decided to do it otherwise, I’d likely need to find some additional sources.

Bianca Maria Sforza by Bernhard Strigel

Bianca Maria Sforza by Bernhard Strigel

Bianca Maria Sforza

From the Met Museum, this is dated 1505–10. The culture is South German, Memmingen.

According to the wiki entry, she died in 1510 at the age of 38, and was the Queen of the Romans and Holy Roman Empress as the third spouse of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor.

There are also a number of portraits of her in Italian styles of dress which I found wonderful as well – but it’s this one with the halo-like headdress which looks like a Wulsthube that really appeals to me – largely because it’s not white.

In the close up image, it appears that the hat is purple/red, with a lattice of twisted cord, and a looped on oval-shaped spangle over each overlap.

The headwear covers her ears, but some of her hair is visible at the front. The front edge of the headwear is trimmed with what I am guessing is supposed to be jeweled trim. There is no veil, and while other styles have parts that hang down, this style is all up with no draped parts. The shape of the wulst (roll) appears to be mostly round, with slightly more bulk on the sides than the top.

Also… on the rest of her costume, her brustfleck is amazing… and oh yeah.. I happen to have some of that white with gold stripe silk in my fabric collection….

Bildnis einer vornehmen Dame

Bernhard Strigel, Bildnis einer Dame, 1520

Bernhard Strigel, Bildnis einer Dame, 1520

This painting from 1520 is a Portrait of a Noble Lady, but (translated) says that the sitter is undetermined. They note that the coat of arms on the ring on her finger aren’t distinguishable, and thus gives no suggestion as to her identity. However, hood she’s wearing indicates that she’s a married woman, and in couple-portraits, the right half of a duo was for the husband, and the right for the wife. The sitter here is looking to the left, and there’s a coordinating portrait of the pharmacist Huldreich von Wolfhard – so it’s likely that she’s his wife or intended wife (as they note that marriage contracts were often painted in this time).

Annoyingly, I can’t find a portrait of pharmacist Huldreich von Wolfhard to add to my understanding of the context. further explains that the sitter wears a cream coloured hood, a gold brocade dress with slit and puffed sleeves. These sleeves are described as a “noble privilege” and the jewelry also confirm her nobility.

Frustratingly, the photo of the painting on the Deacademic site is very blurry, so I found a clearer photo on Pinterest, which is what I’ve linked here.

It appears that there’s the wulst (roll) under a smooth linen cloth that has some white banding or embroidery on it, and then a sheer cream veil over that with a gold edge. The wulst is very round, and doesn’t appear to have a horse-shoe or ovoid shape from this view. Her ears and all of her hair are totally covered.

I THINK that she’s wearing two distinct layers of clothing in this painting – a red and gold brocade dress under a deep V-neck gown with black velvet collar, red satin sleeves (with slashing? I don’t see the puff that Deacademic sees at the resolution I am looking at – but I ~think~ I see the diagonal slashing on the sleeves. This gown has a set of golden brooches with a black (?) chain between them keeping the neckline closed, which makes me feel it’s got a vaguely Burgundian vibe.

Portrait of a Woman

Bernhard Strigel's Portrait of a Woman

Bernhard Strigel’s Portrait of a Woman

Another portrait like that of the Noble Lady is Portrait of a Woman (1510-1515). The Met Museum describes the painting of an unknown sitter, with an elaborate costume made of imported fabrics and embroidery, with ostentatious jewelry, indicating she was “among the elite echelons of society”.

There has not yet been found a coordinating male portrait that could have been paired with, which might have otherwise indicated the sitter’s identity.

Although the detail of the description is minimal, they have a LARGE version as well which more than makes up for it.

The embroidered head covering over the roll is golden, with red flowers, black outline flowers, and green filling. There are also white dots – I don’t think these are meant to be pearls, but likely more like French Knots or a Stem Stitch. The flowers also have a pale yellow stamen.

Along the front edge of the embroidered hood is a thin green (or black) band, trimmed with golden cord. The hood starts at her hairline (approx), and there’s a fairly smooth transition to the bump – rather than a distinct line.

Over the wulst (the bump) there’s a red padded headband kind of thing, decorated with pearls in what looks to be a geometric pattern. I’m not entirely sure how this works, but it does appear to be a separate piece.

Over the whole thing is a very sheer veil with an extremely narrow hem. It’s wrapped so that the tail puddles down on her lap, and the front hangs to her eyebrows.

The gown is pretty awesome – with flared black velvet cuffs, black velvet front neckline and front guards, a tiny “v” cut in the front with a thin red cord. The under dress (?) is white pleated, topped with a golden geometric print/embroidery with blue and red flowers. Above that is another golden band with three stags, trimmed in gold cord.

Similar in some style is Bernhard Strigel’s Portrait of Sibylla von Freyberg, painted by 1515.

Emperor Maximilian I and his family

Emperor Maximilian I and his family, Bernhard Strigel

Emperor Maximilian I and his family, Bernhard Strigel

This painting shows the Emperor and his family, and wikipedia indicates it was painted after 1515. They also note that it includes Emperor Maximilian I with his son Philip the Fair, his wife Mary of Burgundy, his grandsons Ferdinand I and Charles V, and Louis II of Hungary (husband of his granddaughter Mary of Austria).

Here, Empress Mary’s roll seems to be quite a bit more forward on her head, as there’s a wide band at the hairline back, and then immediately the roll begins. The roll seems to be quite round, with slightly more volume on top than on the sides.

The fabric is golden, with the wide band covered in a line of jewels, and the remainder of the fabric appears to be either pintucked or embroidered – it’s sort of tone-on-tone textured.

Here, all her hair and her ears are covered by the headdress, and I do not see an indication (at the size I am viewing) of another layer at the edge. Unlike the Noble Lady (above) where the transition between head and roll is gradual, there seems to be a fairly distinct “halo” effect of the wulsthaube under the golden head layer.

Her gown isn’t very clear, with a child in front of her and a long scarf, so that doesn’t give me any additional costuming suggestions.

Schussenrieder altar

Although it’s not 100% the same thing…. there’s a woman pictured in Bernhard Strigel’s Schussenrieder altar painting (1460-61-1528) turned away from the viewer – and showing the back of her headdress.  I believe that she’s NOT wearing her veil, and we can see the pleated undercap with the roll under it.  There’s an odd rectangle at the base of her neck – though I have to wonder why one woman in the entire scene would be wearing the style without a veil.

The overall shape depicted is either quite far back behind the head, and very round, or a style that appears to be slightly wider to the sides of the head than tall and slightly flatter on the top.  The latter style appears to be worn by the midwife-type person in the scene, whereas the rounder one is worn by both the mother and the person washing the infant.

Despite most of the other portraits I’ve shown above… nearly every woman’s headpiece in the alter painting is white however… so I think going all-white is a fair decision for both upper and lower classes too.

Modern equivalent

While wandering online, I found something rather interesting… shaper accessories that go under Tichels. A Tichel is a headscarf worn by many married Orthodox Jewish women – but they’re more than just a scarf – they’re also fashionable, and worn by lots of people who also aren’t Jewish. Apparently a popular style of shaper in 2017-2020 Israel has a halo effect around the sides and top of the head, but is flat in the back. Sound familiar?

Now this is worn a bit further on the head rather than sort of behind the head- but the shape once a veil/scarf/etc is added is very similar to a lot of portraits once a veil is added over the supporting structure.

The theory that there’s a linen headband is echoed with these styles as well, as they recommend a velvet headband which ‘grips’ hair and the veil/scarf worn so that the headpiece doesn’t slide off as easily. This is similar to the headband worn under the hennin hat as well. Their velvet ones are either velcro’d or are completed tubes, since they’re made of stretchy material. The ties recommended for the velvet version make more sense for the period headdress.

Other costumers

Finally, I looked to the work of other costumers, returning first to the work of Johanna who first made me want to give this style a try myself.


In her blog post, she talks about using natural cane and raw wool to make the hoop shape that goes behind the head, but ultimately found that the wool was extremely heavy and ended up weighing the headdress down.  Her process was largely based on the video on making a Wulsthaube by The Curious Frau,  Marion McNealy. (Further below)

She also made a horseshoe-shaped wulst, in her September 2020 blog post, noting that it was lighter, smaller, and much easier to wear, but still gave enough shape for what she was looking for. I think that this horseshoe shape might work well if one were to tip it’s head back – there wouldn’t be the bulk of a round wulst (roll) in the way. However, I don’t know if the method of attaching the roll to the hood demonstrated by Marion (below) would work with this shape. Might be something to try!

Johanna also blogged about her earliest versions in July 2017 here, getting a little frustrated – but still it’s really interesting to see where someone comes from and goes!


Marion’s version is based off a cane frame (though she notes that wire would likely be period correct as well), wrapped in linen rags, wrapped in 12″ wide cotton batting strips folded in half at an angle, (she notes they had cotton in Germany, so while wool batting would work too – cotton is ok). Then twine secures it all in place. Then the hoop is set in at a 45 degree angle into the cap. When the ties are tied, where the hoop meets the back of the head, it pitches forward.

Her Wulsthaube & Steuchlein has three layers:

  • the first has no real documented evidence – the Umbinderlein- underbindings which are mentioned in inventories – but after wearing her headwear she found that a linen strip working as an underbinding would work well.
  • Her wulsthaube is  rectangle 26.5″ at the back, by 13.5″ deep, with the face edge pleated in so it can be tied tight along the hairline to about 2″ shorter than the hairline measurement. (22.5″ in her case, with 1.5″ deep pleats).  The rectangle is wrapped around the role at the center top, then the bottom sides, and then the remainder of the sides working upwards from the base. Then the ties are moved from the forehead to the top of the head to check the placement. Finally basting the whole thing in place.
  • Although she doesn’t mention it in this video above, I’m presuming the third layer is the veil.


On her site, Marion shows off a number of woodcuts from The German single-leaf woodcut, 1500-1550, Max Geisberg ; rev. and edited by Walter L. Strauss .  The ones of couples are the most interesting to me, with one from 1530 showing a slightly smaller roll, and one from 1535 with a larger one, and… what looks like no veil between her roll and her Tellerbaret.

I honestly find the woodcuts rather hard to look at, so am not really including any of them here, apart from this 1535 one, linked directly.


Maren & Ellinor  

Maren talks a little bit about the Trossfrau in her post where she shows off lots of photos of her finished headwear. She explains that the Trossfrau were the women who followed the Tross (the troups of the hired soldiers). They weren’t Landsknecht or soldiers themselves, but tradeswomen and family of the soldiers. She explains that some were cooks, brewers, seamstresses, leatherworkers, etc. She also shares some really good woodcuts!

Ellinor shows her finished version along with some woodcuts and portraits on her blog as well.


Linnea identified the different pieces that make up the Wulsthaube headwear:

  • Under coif or cap (Unterhaube)
  • Veil (Steuchlein) ( see below with Genoveva’s inventory instead)
  • Wulsthaube (roll cap – a cap with the wulst – the roll – attached to it)

She also mentions other items associated with this style:

  • Thicker veil (Schleier)
  • Bundlein – a wrapped style of headdress over the wulsthaube
  • A linen band
  • An embroidered piece (Not sure if she means a band or the edge of a veil here)
  • Silk gauze

She mentioned that it’s the most mentioned headdress in clothing inventories throughout all social classes in 16th century Germany, and that “Wulst, wulsthaube and stucklein all appear separately in the inventories,” speculating that meant they were interchangeable items that would be taken apart and used in different ways. She also notes that there are no extant garments to look at to confirm construction or materials. (I think “Stucklein” and “Steuchlein” are the same thing with a different spelling.)

Something found interesting is Linnea also mentions that in the first years of the 16th century, the roll (wulst) is quite large, getting smaller throughout the century and tilting back, while also adding more decorative embroidery to the edge. The Bernhard Strigel portraits I posted above are all from between 1505-1520, and all depict quite large rolls. I appreciate this, since I suspect the woodcuts might be harder to date?


German is pretty much a costume-blog standard I figure… and Genoveva has some different names and pieces to add to the list. She identifies the overall LOOK as a Steuchlein, (taken from a labeled drawing by Albrecht Durer) with the following four parts:

  • Umbinderlein – a linen strip worn at the hairline – most likely to act as the hairband to keep other things from slipping back
  • Unterhauben – a linen under cap
  • Wulst – a round or ovoid buldge – the roll filled with wool
  • Wulsthaube – Unterhauben + Wulst
  • Schleier – veil in either linen or silk

She notes again that this is essential headwear for all 16th century German women, regardless of class.

She gives measurements:

  • Linen strip – 2″ x 36″
  • Under cap – 14″ x 27″
  • Ties – 6, each 1″ x 6″

The linen strip is unhemmed, and just tied around the head at the hairline. It’s never seen. The under cap is pleated, and a hem sewn in catching a cord which will act as ties later. She then wraps batting around either a wire or reed circular form and uses the unhemmed 6″ long linen ties to bind the batting to the form – or uses a padded tube sewn into a circle. She instructs that the wulst is then placed on the back of the head under the under cap, and the cap is draped over it. The wulst is pinned in place and the ties wrap around it. Then the under cap is basted to keep the wulst in place. The veil is worn over the whole deal.


Next, to Cathrin’s Katafalk, where she notes her Wulsthaube starts with a bias-cut tube of linen (16cm wide and 44 cm long) stuffed with wool, and then is pinned into a linen fabric rectangle 65-85 cm long and and 50-60 cm wide.

First the rectangle goes on so it’s fitted at the forehead and pinned at the back of the neck, then the roll goes under it and is pinned into place. Then the rectangle gets pleated wonderfully to the back of the head, stitched down, trimmed, a rectangle put over the ends of the pleats (I don’t entirely understand this part yet) and a band sewn along the facing edge to tie the whole deal to her head. None of the pleating shows, as the Steuchlein – the veil – is worn over it.  (The link goes to the post of how she arranges her veil.) Her veil isn’t anything even vaguely resembling the half-circles I’m accustomed to… it looks more like a liripipe to me LOL – the pattern is here.

It looks lovely with all of the overlapping pleats, but it also feels a bit… much.

Impromptu attempt

An impromptu white linen Wulsthaube just put together to photograph the Dockenbaret

An impromptu white linen Wulsthaube just put together to photograph the Dockenbaret

The idea of something really tailored and worked appeared to be unnecessary when I put together a makeshift wulsthaube for a photo of a large Dockenbaret I had made. I didn’t yet have a Wulsthaube made up, so I sort of grabbed a bunch of different things and threw one together.

I used:

  • Bottom layer – white linen coif
  • Coil – a heavier weight white linen semi-circle veil rolled into a tube and then into a coil, tied onto the top/back of my head
  • Top layer – a light weight white linen semi-circle veil over the coil and tied at the back and wrapped around to the top.
  • … and also – a modern white elastic headband to put over the coil area to make it pop more, and to tuck some of the stray linen bits into. Obviously this could have also been a linen strap – but hahaha I had it sitting on my bedside table while getting dressed!

The result wasn’t perfect, but it felt secure on my head and stayed on for a full round of photos plus a few quick chores. With the hat on it looked good – off, it wasn’t quite as neat and smooth as I’d like, but I wasn’t feeling picky as I feel I could have made it smoother if I’d spent more than 2 minutes throwing it together….

Originally I thought the hat was going to be HUGE too – but this gave me a really good idea of how large I’ll want my *real* Wulsthaube to be – since it was pretty much a perfect fit I thought.

An impromptu white linen Wulsthaube just put together to photograph the Dockenbaret

An impromptu white linen Wulsthaube just put together to photograph the Dockenbaret

So… what I want to do…

From looking at other costumers, it seems to be that there are two distinct different ways of addressing the wulsthaube – one with an open ring at the back of the head – which unless the person were wearing a coif – the hair would show through (especially obvious if wearing a very sheer veil), and one where the back is covered with the fabric of the wulsthaube entirely.

Although I think Marion’s tucked version is the most simple – I really don’t like the visible hair (especially since my favourite veil is quite sheer, so I think I’m more likely to do a version where the back of the wulsthaube is pleated – though likely not as elaborately as Cathrin’s.

The padded reed, padded wire, or stuffed pad all seem to be reasonable options, but I suspect for wash-ability (since I am unlikely to want to baste, un-baste, re-baste over and over) I’ll likely go with a stuffed pad instead.

I think I like the horseshoe shape that Johanna made, and think that will be the route I’ll take.

Although I’ll stick with plain white linen for this – I feel like the only thing that is needed to bring this up into the upper classes is a fancier veil moreso than the other parts being fancy too – so that’s a great opportunity to expand my headwear wardrobe!

I also am quite pleased that the style I have in mind has a good date range to help me focus moving forward – I’ll be looking at around 1515-1530.

So now.. just to the MAKING.




One comment on “German headwear – Wulsthaube – Examples & planning

  1. […] Easier to work on when my sewing area is a bit crowded, I also did a few more accessory projects like my Byzantine hat and cuffs, and a German Dockenbaret. As well as another German Dockenbaret, and a makeshift wulsthaube. […]

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