Polish Boys' Clothes: Chronology--16th and 17th Centuries

Figure 1.--Stanislaus comes to Tenczyn. His father was Ioannis Palatini Crac[oviensis] Ultimi Virorum de Tenczyn de Tenczyn. The artist is unknown, but it was painted in 1634. It shows Stanislaw Tenczynski in a zupan. Note the strange cape, it's not a Polish traditional delia.

Polish boys generaly wore clothes similar to those worn in the rest of Europe. oys untill they were about 5 years old wore tunics. Older boys wore miniature versions of adult male clothing. In the court of King Sigismund III Vasa (1587-1632) boys were dressed in the German-Spain fasion. (King Sigismund in Polish he is known as Zygmunt III Waza, in Sweden he is known as Sigismund I. At the time the Hapsburgs ruled much of Germany and Spain. The Hapburgs were the most powerful force in Europe. Thus German fashions were very influential in Eastern Europe.) Garments included: pludry [HBC does not know what this means], doublets/jerkins (polish: kaftan), ruffs (polish: krezy) and hats.

The Polish Kingdom

Poland was in the early Medieval period a land without central control, racked by warring tribes. Prince Mieszko I was baptised in 966. Mieszko and Roman Catholic Christianity provided stability and cohesion for the first time. Poland had by the 17th century had become the largest state in Europe. An elected kingship and the power of the nobility significantly impaired the development of a strong national state. Despite important reforms in the late 18th century, Poland was partioned between Austria, Prussia, and Russia and the Polish monarchy ended. Napoleon was aided by Polish nationalists in his campaigns against Austria and Prussia, but his devestating defeat in Russia, ended any hope of a restored Polish monarchy as the peace was dictated by the very powers that had partioned Poland.

Polish Nobility

The Polish nobility had some unique characteristics in comparison to the Feudal nobility of Western Europe. There were differences in both the structure and prerogatives. The nobilility in Western Europe (England, France or Germany) had various classes (ranks) of nobility. Up untill the Third Partition (1795) when Poland disappeared as an independent country, there was only one class of nobility--the szlachta. The only exception here were several dozen families who were entitle to the rank of prince. Many believe that Polish Medieval Govermental traditions and institutions developed the ancient Slavic rod or clan. The Polish knightly class are believed to have descened from these ancient clans. Other sources suggest that early Polish governmental forms were not connected with the clan system. The clan system was primarilt founded on the basis of common ancestry and kinship. Poland had developed a monarchy by the 10th-11th and by this time the importance of the ancient clan system on government was minimal. The clans syste, however, did play a major role in develoing Poland's social customs and civil legal relationships.

The Hapsburgs

The Hapsburgs in the 16th and 17th centuries were the most powerful dynasty in Europe. Tey ruled much of Germany and Spain as well as many smaller European territiries and a vast overseas empire. The Hapsburgs over the centuries came to be the expected choice as Holy Roman Emperors. Thus Hapsburg fashions fashions were very influential in Germany and Eastern Europe. Polish kings appear to have used fashion to make a statement of national identity at a time when the nobilityin different countries often dressed similarly.

Polish Fashion

Polish boys generaly wore clothes similar to those worn in the rest of Europe. oys untill they were about 5 years old wore tunics. Older boys wore miniature versions of adult male clothing. In the court of King Sigismund III Vasa (1587-1632) boys were dressed in the German-Spain fasion. (King Sigismund in Polish he is known as Zygmunt III Waza, in Sweden he is known as Sigismund I.) Garments included: pludry/panned slops [HBC does not know what these terms means], doublets/jerkins (polish: kaftan), ruffs (polish: krezy) and hats. [HBC note: The author of this page refers to "pludry" and "paned slops". These are not English language terms that HBC is familiar, although admitedly our knowledge of 15th-16th century garments is limited.]

Paned Slops (Polish Pludry)

It seems that HBC has missed one important type of pants--(paned) slops. They were also called also pumpkin breeches, pluderhosen, round paned hose, and trunk hose. They are a form of very short pants, worn over tights or other long pants. They look rather like romper pants that baloon out. They are characterised by being made up of two lawyers, usually in contrasting colors. The inside layer acted in part as stuffing to give the characteristic pumpkin or baloon shape. The outer layer was often made in fabric strips of fabric under which the the inner layer would often show through. Polish boys' paned slops were also made of fancy cloth full of patterns. Apparently King Ladislaus Vasa (Wladyslaw IV Waza) (1632-48), son of Sigismund III, did not care for this fasion. He commanded that his son be dressed in traditional Polish attire. The traditional style was the same for boys and men. His son, King Sigismund Casimir (Zygmunt Kazimierz) (1640-1647). A portrait exists of the King's son when he was about 5 years old. He wears traditional Polish clothing of zupan, cape and long pants tucked into boots. The clothes were made in green damask with gold ornaments.

Traditional Clothing


Zupan (pronounced like joopan) was the Polish national costume worn by the gentry and noblemen. It was worn under the body armor that was still worn at the time. This style began to be widely worn in the second half of 16th century. It was a kind of long coat worn at lengths extending below the knee. The zupan sometimes had a characteristic standing collar, tight ending of sleeves a bit to long o that they were creased, series of small buttons on the breast and right coat-tail widened so that it covered left coat-tail. Belted with soft and wide piece of silk fabirc. Paintings from the 17th century show some boys in adult' attire, like the painting of Zbigniew Ossolinski, a Polish nobleman with his three sons (about 1654). They wear a zupan covered with a delia.


A delia is a kind of loose cape. It first appeared in the middle of 16th century. It was closed with one lerge button under the neck. Many had large collars. The larger the collar, the more elegant the delia was considered. There were cuts in the cape on both sides to put the hands through them. The delia was usually made the same length of the zupan or longer. The delia went out of fashion in the 18th century as it was replaced by the kontusz. Many period paintings show that boys were cpmmonly wearing traditional Polish clothes, including zupan and kontusz. They were commonly colourful, just like adult clothes. Popular colors included: burgandy (cramoisy), azure, olive, and citreous (I'm not sure what this color is, presumably a yellow or orange).


Kontusz (pronoune like contoosh) appeared in the 1640s as an outer garment-coat. It had a long bottom with vertical creases and even strips of fabiric on the back. It was narrow at the waist. Cuffs at the sleeves changed with years. Sleeves were very characteristic, cut off at the elbow or even higher. Jedrzej Kitowicz in his description of customs in poland during the reign in Poland of Elector of Saxony Frederick Augustus II (in Poland known as King August III (1733-63) gives us a view of typical boys' clothes from 18th century: zupan and kontusz, belt made of bright silk fabric, white stockings, shoes made of calf-leather, in summer hat, in winter cap lined with fur.

Reader Comments

A British reader writes, "You mentioned the popular colours of the delia and one colour you weren't too sure about was citerous. I'm not sure but it could refer to citrus, which could mean lemon or orange. It looks as though the cape that the boy is wearing is lined with fur. The hat puts me in mind of the kind that is worn by Scottish pipers. And the shoes look very much like suede."


D. Zaladz-Strzelczyk, Dziecko w dawnej polsce, Poznan 2002.

B. Fabiani, Zycie codzienne na zamku krolewskim w epoce Wazow, Warszawa 1996.


http://monika.univ.gda.pl/~literat/kitowic/index.htm#ilustr - Polish text of Jedrzej Kitowicz's [description of customs in Poland during the reign of Frederick Augustus II] Opis obyczajów za panowania Augusta III.

Tomek Jankowski


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Created: July 2, 2003
Last updated: March 29, 2004