A Men's Garment: The Kolder

A kolder was a men's garment designed to clothe the upper body; it was a broad term that could refer to a jerkin or buff coat. Jerkins tended to be sleeveless and made of either leather or cloth, while the leather buff coat, tight-fitting around the breast and flaring towards the thigh-length hem, was perfectly suited to activities such as riding and fighting - in fact, it seems to have originated in military dress. Early examples were sleeveless, but in the first quarter of the seventeenth century, long and often richly decorated sleeves came into fashion.

The Ximenez inventory mentions several kolders, and they all seem to have been particularly sumptuous garments. One was made from silk velvet, decorated with a slashed pattern and edged with braid, and came with matching breeches – it thus represented a rich style of clothing appropriate for a prominent member of Antwerp's wealthy elite. Most of the Ximenez kolders, however, were made from leather, either from buffalo leather or from a less substantial variety; two "perfumed" kolders would have also been made of leather, as such a treatment would not have been applied to a textile – a fact doubtlessly known to a contemporary of Ximenez. Such costly items of clothing called for very rich decoration: silk braid and gold buttons are regularly mentioned, and for the latter, their precise numbers were carefully recorded. At least in some cases, the number of these buttons clearly went beyond their fastening function: seventy-two gold buttons applied to one of the perfumed kolders turned this garment almost into a piece of jewelry.

The Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich preserves a buff coat that probably represents the type that Emmanuel Ximenez chose for his wardrobe. Fashioned from buffalo and goat leather, its cut and decoration seek to combine elegance and comfort. A high waist and wide skirts allow for movement; the sleeves have open seams in the front, so that the wearer does not have to carry their weight when lifting his arms. His every gesture would have revealed their yellow silk lining and displayed the silver bobbin lace running down their edges to best advantage. In this example, leather bands ending in silver points served as fastenings instead of the buttons mentioned in the Ximenez inventory.

Garments of this type were worn at elite social events, especially for outdoor activities such as hunting. Two hunting ("picqueur") saddles kept in the vicinity of the Ximenez stables and the specific weapons used for different kinds of game (for example, the inventory's "lightweight bird blunderbuss" and "two swine prods") seem to confirm that Ximenez participated in such activities or even hosted hunting parties at his country residence. For obvious reasons he would not have chosen a perfumed buff coat for the actual hunting, but such garments could have made for an impressive appearance at the ensuing festivities.

Birgitt Borkopp-Restle, University of Bern


Modelejon. Manligt Mode - 1500-tal, 1600-tal, 1700-tal. Ed. Lena Rangström. Exh. cat., Stockholm: Livrustkammaren 2002. Cat. nos. 96, 97.

Mit grossen Freuden, Triumph und Köstlichkeit: Textile Schätze aus Renaissance und Barock aus den Sammlungen des Bayerischen Nationalmuseum. Ed. Birgitt Borkopp-Restle. Exh. cat., Munich: Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, 2002.

Kolder, made of buffalo leather, goat leather, silk taffeta, and silver bobbin lace, Germany or the Netherlands (?), Munich, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum. Image: © Bayerisches Nationalmuseum.