Thursday, October 9, 2008

German Folk Costume

Black Forest Costume
As part of my sabbatical research, I visited the area of Germany known as Schwarzwalder, specifically to visit the Trachtenmuseum (Folk Costume Museum). This was in the town of Haslach. The Black Forest is a region of Germany, found in the west side, and it borders the Alsace-Lorraine area of France. As you drive, you are viewing the numerous trees, which of course, is how the region gets its name. There are rolling hills, small towns, and beautiful buildings everywhere.

It was a pretty drive from Ursula’s home in Saarland. We drove through France, as this was the shortest route. I always marvel how language can change in a second, as you cross borders.

The Trachtenmuseum was extremely well done. They had hundreds of pieces of clothing, and presented them, in vignettes, according to the various villages/towns/regions of the Black Forest. Each window generally included at least one woman’s costume, a man and a child.

The typical woman’s ensemble is composed of the following pieces:

Blousa – blouse, typically made of linen. The neck was generally gathered into a band, and then adorned with lace of some sort. The sleeves were typically full, gathered at the top armhole, and in varied lengths.

Leibli – a bodice, typically joined to the skirt. This would be sleeveless and did not meet in center front. Rather it was laced closed, and covered a separate piece called a breastpiece (Brustlatz ). The neck and armholes, and front fastening were often decorated with braid, velvet, or pleated ribbon. The bodice was generally black and made of cotton velveteen. Sometimes the fabric was embroidered.

Gollar – This is a collar-like accessory (similar to a yoke) that was positioned over the blouse, and then tied in place. A ribbon extends from each corner, and the wear positions the gollar in place and the ties the ribbons under her arm. The gollar was heavily trimmed and embellished, the style varying, according to region. This piece is also called a halsmantel.

Dirndl – The skirt attached to the bodice of the garment. These were generally black (but could be colored or even printed). To make the skirt, a rectangular piece of fabric (typically wool) would be carefully pleated into a band at the waist The skirt could be quite heavy. An interesting sausage-shape device would sometimes be used, tied onto the body, and serving the function of supporting the weight of the skirt, or to raise the waistline to a higher empire position. The pleating detail was amazing. See a future blog, where the Austrian tailors show me how the technique was created.

Schuerze – This is the apron, worn over the skirt. It was quite a full apron, so often you don’t even notice the skirt from the front. The color of the apron varied, but often were white linen. They could also be patterned cloth. Starting as a rectangle, aprons were gathered/pleated into the waistband which was attached to ties. Embellishment could be pleating, drawn threadwork, embroidery, etc.

Jackets- I don’t know the German word, at present. In colder weather, women would wear jackets over their bodices/blouses. The style varied, but all worked in style with the rest of their outfit.

Shawls – In many areas of Germany, and of course the Black Forest, women wore shawls as part of their dress. The style varied, but most were solid colored, with an embroidery used to outline the shape. The shawl was often pleated in a specific way at the center and held in place with a pin.

On her head a woman would wear a headdress. In the Black Forest, this was a major point of interest in the women’s ensemble and the style varied from village to village. They could be any of the following (but not exclusively these, as there were many, many headdresses. Ranging from large bows, to beaded crowns, to caps, you would be amazed at the variety of styles. The main styles could be categorized in English as hats, crowns, caps, bonnets, and bows.

A few in German:

Schnaphood and schaeppel
(beaded crowns) – These were amazing structures, and had to weigh a lot! See the image for an idea of the embellishment involved.

Hut– Hat styles varied. Many had brims. The most interesting was the style that was made of straw, but embellished with bright red pompoms. The number and style of pompom would dictate which village you were from. Married women wore black pompoms while young and unmarried girls wore red pompoms.

Hauben – cap-like headdress – This style covered the head and hair. Some hoods were plain and supported yet another structure, such as a large bow. Others were more involved, and had dimension to the style. Embroidery was used to embellish the back of some of these. A hauben would often be worn by married women to cover their hair, as generally, only young girls and unmarried women exposed their long braids.

A man’s ensemble was composed of the following
Shirt – Made generally with linen, the shirt was typically cut of simple shapes and gathered onto bands at the neck and cuff. The sleeve would be cut full, and gathered onto the armhole (sometimes in ornate manners, e.g., smocking).

Mieder – vest or waistcoat – These varied in style, and could be single or double-breasted. There was often a turned-back lapel, and a stand-up collar. Some trim was used, but minimally. If you did see trim, it could be a contrasted strip of fabric, framing the long center front line, or braided trim, outlining the buttonholes. At times there was a multitude of buttonholes, only a few of which were functional.

Coat – Again, I don’t know the German name for this, but coat styles varied and resembled the vest style, but with the inclusion of sleeves.

Breeches/trousers – Knee breeches were often black. Leiderhosen could be seen in some villages. These are the leather bibbed shorts (see these in an upcoming blog on Austrian costume. Full trousers or pants were also worn; these generally were black.

I will discuss more on costume, as my study progresses. Austrian costume is next.

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