16th and 17th century Polish Dress — Zupan

In another part of this picture (shown at right) we begin to see the combination of clothing that would dominate Polish dress for the next century — zupan and delia. Both gentlemen wear zupan. The man on the left wears a brocade zupan that buttons down the front. He is labeled ?nobilis Polanus?, a nobleman. His companion wears a plainer zupan but at the lower front opening, it appears to be lined with fur or figured material. The nobleman also wears a hat with feathers in it and a delia, the Polish overgarment that came into use at this time. The word zupan first appeared in the second quarter of the 16th century (around 1542) and referred to a long undercaftan. Originally zupan was lined with wool or fur and intended for use as an overcoat. The poor did indeed wear them in this fashion. However, the zupan came to be the undergarment worn exclusively with the stately delia. The zupan had overlapping fronts secured by buttons to the waist. The right side usually overlapped the left one.

Zupan varied in length, but usually covered at least the knees. The biggest variation among different zupan was in the shape of the collars. Early zupan had quite high collars so they would show underneath the delia. Sleeves were made too long so they could be pushed up to create a pouf effect around the biceps. Later zupan would be cut with sleeves that emulated this effect without wasting so much material. Another distinctive feature of zupan was the flaps on the backs of the hands. The ends of zupan sleeves terminated in shapes, mostly simple curves but sometimes elaborately designed, that covered the back of the hand to the knuckles. These proto-cuffs were worn turned down over the hand or back like a cuff. They are thought to be purely decorative.

The delia is described as an overcoat tight from the waist up and full from the waist down. However many period paintings show the delia looking cloak-like. This may be because the preferred way of wearing the delia was with only the top button fastened and the sleeves over the shoulders. In later decades, the delia sleeves entirely stopped being functional and only decorative streamers remained. However for the period under study, the sleeves were functional.

The delia was often satirized because of frequent changes in the fashionable length of the sleeves and the size of the collar. The fur-lined collars of some delia hung down to the waist in back.

The delia was the most widely-known overgarment from the 16th century until the middle of the 17th century when a new overgarment took over that would change Polish fashion for two hundred years or more  the kontusz.

Lew Saphieha, 1557 ? 1633
Hetman Stanislaw Koniecpolski, ca. 1646
Mikolaj Hieronim Sieniawski
Krzysztof Wiesolowski, ca. 1637
Krysztof Radziwill, 1585 ? 1640
Krzysztof Zbaraski, ca. 1622
Jakub Sobieski, 1588 ? 1646                                       Stefan Pac, 1587 ? 1640
Jan Kazimierz dressed in zupan, delia, and silly hat
Janusz Radziwill wearing zupan and delia
Janusz Radziwill wearing another zupan/delia ensemble

Extant Garments

extant zupan, 17th century
another extant zupan



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© 2004 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.