Skirt and attached bodice, 17th century

Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
Date of production:
mid 17th century
Place of production:
coral; cut-pile velvet (Italy)
decorated with coral beads; embroidered with gilded silver thread
diameter: 105 cm
length: 120 cm
width: 380 cm

The skirt and the attached bodice constitute an outstanding ensemble of old Hungarian costumes, a harmonious alloy of the exotic oriental traditions of earlier centuries, and elements of the fast-changing Western European fashions.

A cambric blouse and a broad lace apron used to belong to it, the former being reconstructed. The originally light blue, now grayish-green skirt is gathered at the waist its pattern consists of Renaissance flower bushes embroidered in metal threads and adorned with corral. The large symmetrical flowery bushes with back-turning tendrils alternate with straight stems of tulips.

The bottom of the skirt is finished with a narrow strip of tulips. The lower part of the typical “Hungarian bodice” projects in front and at the back into the skirt V-shaped. Its raised metal thread embroidery of tulips and pomegranates is similar to that of the skirt. The bodice had broad lacing, done up with a ribbon put through flower-shaped eyelets adorned with a coral bead each. 

Earlier researchers attributed the costume to Pál Esterházy’s (1635–1713) first wife Orsolya Esterházy (1641–1682) and later to his second wife Éva Thököly (1659–1716). The original owner can no longer be traced but the cut and the embroidery ascertain that either could have worn it at her wedding.

Contrary to Western European customs, in Hungary, later generations gladly donned the ornate costumes of their forebears on some festive occasion. The suite was restored by Mrs. Sándor Borsi between 1969 and 1971.

You can read about Hungarian embroidery here:

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