1520s German Pink Linen Rock

An early 16th century gown for a middle class German woman, in dusky pink with black guarding.

Although I saw many examples of dull pink in both middle and upper class gowns, I thought it would not suit me at all – until I had to borrow a friend’s gown, having left my own behind be accident. It was subdued pink with black guards, it looked great, and now I wanted a pink Rock!

Linen/cotton, canvas, cotton velveteen, cotton lining, hooks & eyes. Photo: Bhriannon Fitz-Hammond

Research & Design

This Rock is based on a costume study of a Burgher woman from Basel, by Hans Holbein the Younger. Although there is no colour in the study, there are several examples of middle class dull pink with black guards, including a portrait by Barthel Beeham and this painting by Jörg Breu the Elder.

The Holbein drawing has many interesting features, including the detached lower sleeves (also visible in his other Basel Woman study). The neckline is very low, with the the sleeves off the point of the shoulder. The guards on the front bodice do not go down the front opening, but straight across.

The double guards on the skirt are striking and balance the wide guards on the bodice and sleeves.The Unterrock or has a linear decoration on the hem, with a nebuly section bordered by pairs of straight lines.

Although I was keen to get this made, it took some time before I found a believable shade of pink. I finally found some furnishing weight linen/cotton in a lovely muted pink, and some heavy dark green linen for the under layer.


Making a bodice that would sit off the shoulders but not fall off was a challenge. I decided to use the Raglan cut from my red wool, and a highish back to offset the low front.

Because I was fitting myself, it was a slow process.

I made a toile, tried it on, check the mirror, take it off, make an alteration, repeat… It took 23 iterations to get what I wanted – frustrating, but I wanted it to work and fit as well as I could manage. Stay-stitching the neckline edge before fitting was essential to getting a good fit.

For the lower sleeve, I adapted the pattern from my green linen.

Pink linen bodice pattern

The next challenge was the slashed sections in the upper and lower sleeves. I wanted to make them stand out, so I experimented with various options. Eventually, I made long narrow strips lined with black linen – with the lining slightly wider, so it showed at both sides. I cut the strips into small lengths for the sleeves.

I cut the bodice in pink linen and interlined in heavy cotton twill canvas. I made up the upper sleeve with the strip insertions, then sewed the bodice together along the Raglan seams. I checked my pattern for the bodice guard, then followed the same construction process as my red Holbein Rock.

For the lower sleeve, I made up the shape using a row of the small strips between two bands of pink linen, with black velveteen for the long cuff and top band. I sewed this up, then lined the two sections with black linen, leaving the strips clear.

Detail of the sleeves

The process for constructing the skirt, adding guards and finishing is basically the same as the one I used for the the green linen Rock, with the addition of a narrow black binding around the hem in black linen.

For the under-dress, I made a simple petticoat using straight drops of heavy dark green linen, cartridge pleated into a simple waistband. For the decoration, I sketched out the elaborate nebuly design, sized so it would fit exactly around the hem, cut a stencil, then drew this onto the hem.

I machine-sewed black heavy woven cord over the lines, using a zigzag to flatten the cord, and hiding the ends in the seam. I was pleased with the result, but after washing for the first time, realised my mistake – I had forgotten to pre-wash the cord, which had shrunk badly.

I pressed it out, but after several more washes, gave up. I unpicked it all, and replaced the cord with a different flat braid – heavily pre-washed this time!

I was really pleased with the whole effect: the colour, the black guards and how the sleeves sat right on the point of my shoulder.


I still really like the effect of this Rock – the cut, colour and contrast. These days, I would make the slashes by facing each one, as shown in my red linen Rock, and use different construction techniques, but it still stands up well.

In 2021, I did a major wardrobe cull to remove items that no longer fit, and passed this one on to my friend Mikhaila (who is wearing it in the image at the top of the page).