General description: Large painted wooden peg dolls in traditional costume
Dimensions Both 23.5 x 7 x 7 cm
Date when acquired 2010
Original Date Unknown
Source Flea market in the Bochum region. Present from Fritz W.
The body and the neck of both dolls seems to have been lathed in one piece. The heads are made of wooden balls with the growth rings starting in the middle of the nose. The wood is stained brown where the skin can be seen, being slightly darker for the man. The stylised facial features are painted on. The short hair is also painted on, black for the man and a beige-colour for the woman. The heads appear to have been milled separately and are stuck on the necks.
The woman has a long dress on, but the man has two round legs, which have been tooled separately and stuck on the body.
The painted-on clothing is in the colours of Italy — green, red and white (il tricolore: the tricolour) — with black, which makes me think they are Italian in origin but I have seen nothing like them before.
Woman: she is wearing a long skirt in red and black stripes. The black stripes have geometric patterns in yellow and green running down them. Over this she has a long-sleeved, high-necked blouse with a black bodice. The bodice has a red zig-zag at the front. There appears to be a golden brooch painted on the front of the blouse. Over her skirt, she has a green apron with a small bag painted on the right held in place by a painted chain (I think). On the crown of her head is a small round black cap. It is decorated with a red diamond shape with a green open diamond painted on top. A red bow is painted at the back of the cap.
Man: He is wearing an interesting white jacket painted in stripes of red and green. A collar and string-like tie are painted on the neck in a bronze colour. Two black panels are painted on the right and left of the chest, each with three yellow buttons. He is wearing black knee trousers with white stockings and black shoes. The stockings have a red lattice painted on the outside of each leg with a bow on the bottom of the trouser leg.
I would be happy to get some information as I have found nothing so far.
General description: The doll is wearing the traditional costume of a married Matyó woman with the special pompom headdress and highly embroidered apron.
Dimensions 34.5 x 24 x 19 cm
Date when acquired October, 2016
Original Date Unknown
Source Village flea market Niedernjesa, Lower Saxony, Germany
The body is made of padded material over wire. The head appears to be ceramic with material stretched over it. Her features are painted on. She is sitting upright on a roughly hewn wooden stool made of some type of light wood.
Her blouse/jacket is made of yellow figured silk. It is high-necked, has short very puffed sleeves and has a short gathered skirt. There is white lace around the cuffs, neck line and over the skirt of the jacket. A piece of wide white braid (3 cm wide) is sewn around the body of the jacket forming a bodice. It is decorated in and red flowers with green leaves. Along the top edge of this braid is a piece of 1-cm-wide, scalloped-edged white braid which is embroidered with dark blue silk: blanket stitch along the edging and with a design of flowers and leaves. A piece of narrow dark brown braid hems the lace around the neck and the skirt of the bodice.
The basic material of her skirt is red cotton with an intricate pattern of geometric designs, hearts and flowers in green, white, light blue, black and yellow. The wide long skirt is gathered tightly around the waist and pleated to roughly half its length. It then falls bell-like to the ankles. Roughly one third down the skirt is a double circle of white braid (0.7 cm wide) embroidered with red and green flowers and leaves. Around the hem are three stripes of braid (each 0.5 cm wide) in red, white and green silk, respectively, topped by a strip of a thick yellow cotton braid. Then just above these four strips of braid is a layer of tatted cream lace (2.5 cm wide). The skirt is lined with white cotton and is held in form by a thin cord sewn in a circle inside the skirt.
Underneath the skirt are two plain white cotton petticoats: one short to above the knee and one long almost as long as the skirt. Her white cotton knickers have lace around the legs.
A typical fringed black Matyó apron covers the front of her skirt. It is tied at the back with white braid embroidered with a green fruit pattern. The front of the apron is decorated with rich embroidery consisting of flowers in reds with dark blue and yellow features, green stems and leaves with white buds and a single pink and yellow bud at he top. Above the fringe is a geometric design consisting of two lines of stem stitch in blue (top) and pink (bottom) with a yellow cross-stitch pattern lying between them.
Her ankle boots are made of black plastic with black felt soles.
Her crowning glory is the typical married woman’s headdress, the csavarintós kendo, made of a scarf in brown cotton with a floral design in light blue, orange, light grey and green. The scarf is tied tightly over her forehead. It has two round pompoms attached at the front, and two elongated pompoms attached behind these: a smaller one on the top of the head and a longer one going around the back and covering the woman’s ears. The basic colour of the woollen pompoms is bright red. The round pompoms have each an oval of yellow wool in the middle, surrounded by green and then white wool. The elongated pompoms each have three ovals of different coloured wool. The neck pompom’s ovals have a green centre and a white edge; the crown pompom’s ovals are in light blue with a yellow edge.
In Northeastern Hungary live the most colourfully dressed Hungarian ethnographic group, the Matyós. There are three main centres of Matyó culture: Mezökövesd the main town and the villages, Szentistván and Tard. The fame of this region is founded on the rich and fabulously patterned embroidery of their embroiderers. Apparently, these patterns were developed by a local artist, Bori Kisjankó. The sarmentose (branched) patterns, feature brilliantly coloured, harmonious mixes of various types of flowers (e.g. roses, tulips), leaves, birds, hearts and stars. It is one of the most beautiful and well-known folk arts in Hungary. It became part of the UNESCO World Heritage in December 2012.
According to legend, there is a special symbolism in the colours used in Matyó decorative work. The only colour found in the oldest embroideries and hand-woven fabrics is red, which was primarily used to express joy, passion and high spirits (decorative folk art only started to become multi-coloured in the middle of the 19th century). In the old days, red was considered to have a protective power: it was associated with life and blood, fire (which gives or takes life) and light. It was believed to protect infants from witches and their evil eye. The red bonnet or headdress worn by brides and young women as part of their folk costume expressed health and youth. Red is also considered to be the colour of summer – representing light and joy. White was generally used to express clarity and innocence. Blue and green were also often associated with ageing, and most young women did not wear these colours. In addition to old age, dark blue represented wisdom, sensibleness, love of peace and reconciliation with the world. Green is the colour of mourning and was used to embroider the sides of aprons to mourn the dead of the world wars. In contrast, black represents the soil from which life springs. Yellow stands for the sun.
According to another legend, the Matyó motif world with its colourful garden originated when a young groom was kidnapped by the Devil. The young man’s fiancée begged the Devil to give her beloved back to her but the Devil said: “You will get your love back only if you bring me the most beautiful flowers of the summer in your apron”. This seemed to be impossible as it was winter. Finally, the girl figured out how to accomplish the Devil’s demand: she embroidered beautiful roses on her apron. She gave the apron to the Devil, who then gave her back her lover.
Nowadays, elderly women in the Matyó region still produce this wonderful embroidery but the area is being affected by the young people leaving for life in the cities and there is a danger of this artistic work being lost.
General description: Traditional hand-made female doll used for protecting the home.
Dimensions 15.5 x 13 x 8 cm
Date when acquired 2016
Original Date 2016
Present from Victoriia W.
The body is made of looped light brown woollen yarn like a traditional yarn doll (see http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Yarn-Doll). The large head and stiff arms are covered by tightly wrapped very thin yellow yarn. The lower part of the body’s loops are cut to make a skirt. The chest area has been tightly wound with narrow red threads. A magnet has been placed in the centre of the back.
Light brown and cream coloured woollen yarn has been plaited to form two long side plaits.
Like all Motankas, the doll does not have a face but a cross made of narrow gold braid over the front of the head. This is one of the three traditional crosses included in a Motanka; the cross-like shape of the doll forms the second one. The third cross, the one on the chest, is missing in this doll.
The doll is dressed with a form of blouse consisting of just a front and arms made of woven material in white, black, red and yellow. There is no back so that the crossing of the red threads over the back of the doll can be seen.
She has a long apron made of similar woven material to the blouse, tied at the front with the red threads used for wrapping the body.
On her head is a scarf, again of the woven material. It is tied straight across the forehead and falls in a point down the back.
The Ukrainian Motanka (a form of rag doll) is a descendent of the Rozhanytsa (the one giving birth) goddess doll made by the ancient Slavic and Trypillya (Kyiv region) cultures. Such dolls have been found in copper epoch villages (4th– 3rd millennium BCE) in these regions. They were in every peasant house and had a protective function, protecting the house, household, children and sleep. The Ukrainians believed that the Motanka would bring them wealth and good fortune. Before the wedding, a mother made a Motanka for her daughter to act as an amulet for the house of the newly married couple. When a child was ill, it was given a Motanka to play with. The Motanka was then destroyed and it was believe it would take the disease away with it. When a child was grown, a Motanka was placed in his/her cradle to protect it from evil until the birth of a new child.
An important feature of these dolls is that they do not have a face as it was considered that a face inspired a soul in the doll, which could be either good or evil. However, people also believed that ancestral spirits were contained in such dolls and that they could pass on secrets from generation to generation.
Motankas were made of various plant materials (e.g. hay, straw, wood, herbs, dry leaves, grains or seeds). They were decorated with national ornaments and embroidery. The secrets of making the dolls were passed on from mother to daughter.
In contrast to other rag or yarn dolls, Motankas have important symbols. No needles are used in making them as this would sew up good and evil thoughts in the dolls. Spiral rolling in the process of making the Motanka is associated with eternity and the cycle of birth — growth — death — rebirth. In addition, each doll has three crosses. The image of the doll itself is a cross: a symbol of life and fertility and the succession and protection of the generations. The face has the second cross (usually in two colours) lying in a circle — an ancient solar sign. This is supposed to keep positive energy in the doll. The third cross is on the chest and represents life and the unity of man and woman. All vertical lines are considered to be masculine and all horizontal lines are feminine.
When I was given this doll, it brought back my early childhood when my mother taught me how to make yarn dolls. I had not realised that these easily made dolls were a global phenomenon. I remember having a family made of father, mother, son and daughter. The male dolls with legs and the females with skirts. Each was of a different coloured wool (leftovers from my mother’s knitting) and I played with them for many, many hours.
General description: Man and woman wearing the traditional costume worn by the Groß-Gerau (Hessen, Germany) traditional costume society.
Dimensions Man: 8 x 3.5 x 3 cm; Woman: 8.5 x 4.5 x 3 cm
Date when acquired 21st August, 2016
Original Date 1994
Source Flea market in Zeigenhain, Schwalmstadt in Hesse. The dolls appear to have been worn as brooches for the Hessentag (Hessian Day) 1994. The Hessian Day is an annual event organized by the German state of Hesse (started in 1961), comprising both fair and festival which connects Hessian culture, tradition and modern lifestyle. Usually many traditional costume societies are represented there.
Plastic dolls with movable eyes, legs and arms. The woman has straight dark brown hair. The man’s reddish brown hair is painted on. Both have a loop of material with “Hessentag 1994 Groß Gerau” printed on it attached to the back of their necks and a small safety pin so that the doll can be worn as a brooch.
She is wearing a simplified version of the Lauterbach hat (Radhaube), apron and shawl: all are made of plain cotton material (hat & apron in white; shawl in light grey). A band of gold and green braid is sewn around the front of the hat and a narrow black braid in an upside-down U at the back.
Her skirt is of a red velvety material and her bodice is of the same material but in green. Just above the hem of the skirt is a black silky braid. A sequin is on the bodice on the right and a spot of glue is on the left indicating a second sequin, which is now missing. Under her bodice is a white short-sleeved blouse. The apron is long and tied at the back. Her white stockings are painted on, as are her black half shoes.
He is wearing red velvet knee trousers, a yellow velvet high-necked (normally red in colour) waistcoat and a three-quarter-length bottle green velvet coat. The high white collar of his shirt can be seen around his neck. He has sequins acting as buttons on his waistcoat (two) and coat (originally three but one is missing). Unfortunately, his coat seems to have some glue residues stuck to right sleeve and back. On his head is the traditional hat with a green velvet crown with a fur band around it. His long white socks and black low shoes are painted on.
The Lauterbach costume was developed ca. 1800 to 1820 and was worn by the more wealthy farmers, the so-called Ackerbürger (arable farmer citizens).
The most characteristic part of the women’s costume is their hat, the Radhaube, with its sun-ray pleating. The basis of the costume is a knee-length linen shirt, over which, they have a pleated petticoat with a white bodice. On top of this is a pleated skirt made of heavy material. The colour of which depends on the age of the woman, with older women wearing darker colours. To protect the skirt, a white or natural coloured apron is worn that is richly decorated with embroidery. Normally they also wear a black velvet bodice, which is embroidered with small roses. Around their shoulders they wear a shawl made of fine woollen muslin, which has fringes on all four sides. The scarf is usually printed with a rose pattern and held in place by a brooch. In winter or bad weather, the women wear a tailored material jacket with a divided peplum. Self-knitted stockings are worn with embroidered garters (made of embroidery canvas). The main motives are roses and the Tree of Life. Usually the embroiderer puts her initials on the garters.
The ladies normally wear low black buckled shoes.
The men traditionally wear a flat-crowned hat with a band of either otter or beaver fur around it.
A white tailored linen shirt is worn with a black necktie. Over this is a high-necked red waistcoat. The blue woollen trousers are held up with braces made of embroidered tapestry canvas. The motives are like those used for the women’s clothing: roses and the Tree of Life. The initials of the wearer are sewn at the beginning of the braces and the year of when they joined the society for traditional costumes at the end. The jacket is usually of the same material as the trousers and is richly decorated with silver buttons. The back of the jacket has two slits. Knitted natural coloured socks and black buckled shoes are worn to complete the outfit.
General description: A doll in traditional dress worn by Protestant women from Marburg, a university town in the State of Hesse
Dimensions 7 x 5 x 3 cm
Date when acquired 21st August, 2016
Original Date Unknown
Source Flea market in Zeigenhain, Schwalmstadt in Hesse. Originally made to be sold at one of the Hessian Days (there is a broken loop of white paper attached to the doll saying Hessentag but the date has been torn off).
Plastic doll with movable arms and legs. The hair is formed in the plastic and is virtually the same colour as the face. It is not, however, in the traditional bun (Schnatz) typical of this area (see below). The features are painted on.
Unfortunately, the doll like so many at the stall was missing both her legs. I was so pleased to find a right and left leg in the box that I did not notice that one has a white sock and low shoe painted on, the other a white stocking and a boot (maybe I should have worn my glasses).
Her clothing is certainly not as complex as the real version, but then she is only a very small doll. She is wearing a wide, black, calf-length flannel skirt hemmed with red silk braid. Over this is a white, short-sleeved jacket with a black inset at the front. The edges are trimmed with red braid with loops of yellow and green silk along the edges, making it look like a tatted Friseur (see below). Over her skirt is a plain white cotton apron, tied with a white silk ribbon. On her head is a form of the traditional headwear — the Stülpchen — made like a red pompom at the top of the head and held in place by a black ribbon tied at the back.
The Marburg Protestant costume for women was most probably developed in the 17th century in Ebsdorfergrund and Amöneburger Becken in West Hessen. It then disseminated further north, replacing the old-style black costume in the Upper Lahn Valley and then later the traditional costumes of the more rural areas. Over time, the costume’s style changed as it was modernized. In the 19th century, thick linsey-woolsey (Beiderwand) and flanelette (Biberröcke) skirts with linen aprons were considered modern, whereas in the 20th century, they were replaced by fine fabrics, silks and cottons. The whole of the costume became more uniform with time.
In the last 130 years, the Marburg Protestant costume changed over two epochs; i.e. before and after the First World War (1914—1918). The following description is that of the costume worn in the 1920s and 1930s as this is used by many present-day folk dancing groups.
Women’s costume details
The headwear (Stülpchen, Betzel or Kappe) worn by ‘true’ wearers of this type of costume is still used to go to church or funerals in. These small headdresses are embroidered and decorated with beads and have a black satin ribbon around them; though children and unmarried girls wear a red or green ribbon. Black ribbons of fine patterned silk or moiré are attached to the Stülpchen. The tops part of the ribbons are decorated with small pieces of lace. The bottom parts have a piece of wide lace on them and above that a monogram sewn in beads. The Stülpchen is worn with a slight forwards slant and held in place on the plaited and woven topknot (Schnatz) with a long hatpin with a big glass bead as decoration. For festive occasions (church, weddings, funerals, christenings, etc.), the hat ribbons are tied in a bow or a knot. After leaving the church, the ribbons are then set free to dangle loosely down the back, though fixed to the neckerchief.
A white bonnet was worn (Ziehhaube, Stirnkappe, Abendmahlshaube) with the Communion costume or to christenings or by the bride and bridesmaids at a wedding. It was made out of fine lawn cotton and highly starched. The white bonnet was worn over the Stülpchen and tied at the back.
The hairstyle (Schnatz) worn by the Marburger ladies was very characteristic of this region. The hair was combed to the top of the head and then woven into two plaits. The first thinner plait is coiled forming the base of the Schnatz (bun) and pinned in place. The second thicker plait was then wound around this in the other direction. The start of the thick plait is raised at the front and formed a point upwards. This ‘bun’ is then used to hold the Stülpchen in place.
The blouse is made of white handwoven (old-fashioned) linen cotton or a mixed material. The edges of the sleeves on the Sunday-best blouse is embroidered or decorated with white lace.
The bodice (Leibchen) has a simple form and a single row of buttons at the front. It is tailored and ends about 6—7 cm above the waist. Sewn to the bottom of the bodice is a padded tube-like structure (Wurscht) which helps hold the skirt in place. The bodice is made of cotton in a single colour or many colours and usually is coordinated with the suit (Anzug). The armholes may be decorated with button-hole stitching in complementary colours to the material or they may be decorated with picot stitching.
A good costume usually consisted of two starched petticoats. The under one was usually made of white linen or cotton, though in winter it may have been made of knitted wool. The upper petticoat was red or sometimes green. The petticoats were made of flannelette. The red petticoat always had a yellow border and yellow hem on the lower edge. It was tied with colourful ribbons and trimmings (Guimpen). In some villages it was fashionable to just wear the red petticoat for the dance on the Monday of the local church festival (Kirmesmontag).
The skirts were calf length and for half their length pleated. They were ca. 4—5 wide. Many different colours were used for the skirts (dark brown, beige, dark green bottle green, grey, blue tones, wine red, or lilac) which were coupled with light-coloured trimmings and borders. Normally, no bright colours were used for the Marburg Protestant costume. Light colours were only used for summer clothes. The dance is nowadays made of good-quality wool or a wool-polyester mix. Previously, flannelette, poplin and other materials were used. The various types of trimmings are sewn on ca. 10—12 cm above the hem. Depending on the wealth of the wearer, the skirt is tied by one to five ties. The waistband is of a complementary colour to the rest of the skirt.
The jackets are short and have a round neck at the back but a squared one at the front. They are made of coloured silk, satin, or cotton, though plush or velvet are used for Sunday best. Around the neckline is usually a hem (Frisur) made of the same material as the jacket or a complementary material or it may be tatted. This hem is decorated with various trimmings, beads or lacy crochet (Blätterborten). The edges of the sleeves have lace running down them and ca. 3 cm from the end of the sleeve is the same trimming as on the Frisur.
In a uniform costume (geschlossenen Anzug), the jacket and apron are made of the same material and have the same trimmings whose colours fit to the main colour of the skirt.
The apron is ca. 1 m wide and is either gathered or pleated at the top. The upper edge is trimmed with a picot edging. Roughly, 10—15 cm above the lower hem either the material is sewn into fine pleats (Biesen) or a band of picot trimming or lace is sewn onto the apron. The apron usually reaches down to the middle band of trimming. Light-coloured aprons were worn for Sunday walks or for dances or with the summer costume where the skirt was tied with colourful ribbons. A dark apron (matching the jacket) was worn to go to church, weddings, church festival (Kirmes) and to other festivities.
Generally, the women carried a scarf tucked into the jacket (Motzen) of their Sunday best. The scarf was made of light or cream-coloured material (silk, brocade, fine cotton lawn or nowadays synthetic fibres) and often had lace decorating it. The scarf was folded into a triangle and was laid over the shoulder with three folds. The tips of the scarf were laid over each other at the front and held in place with a brooch. For the church costume, another scarf was worn, the Knepptuch, which matched the colours of the costume. This is a narrow fringed scarf with pointed ends. The ends normally had roses embroidered on them. The ends were allowed to hang over the shawl and the jacket to give a nice pattern.
For jewellery, the women wore either amber necklaces or necklace made of many rows of white and yellow beads.
Light-coloured woollen socks edged with lacy crochet and decorated with a pattern knitted into them that fitted the colour of the skirt (green with brown socks, blue with grey socks). Sometimes the women wore white socks in the summer. Black socks were only worn when in mourning. The socks were held up with garters made of leather, embroidered tapestry canvas or colourful cotton braid. The idea was to make the ladies’ legs look nice when the skirts flew up whilst dancing.
Leather shoes were worn, usually black with a buckle and block heels. However, studded low shoes were worn for working in.
General description: A man in traditional dress from Geinhausen in the Oldenwald region of the State of Hesse
Dimensions 8 x 3.5 x 4 cm
Date when acquired 21st August, 2016
Original Date 1996
Source Flea market in Zeigenhain, Schwalmstadt in Hesse. Originally used as a form of brooch for the Hessian Day in 1996 (there is a loop of white material attached to the doll with a small golden safety pin stating this: Hessentag 1996).
Plastic doll with movable eyes, arms and legs. The reddish hair is painted on.
The little man has on the three-cornered black felt hat typical of this region. He is wearing a long dark blue velvet coat over beige knee-trousers (mimicking the deer leather used to make them), what appears to be a high-necked red waistcoat and white shirt, whose pointed collar is standing up under his chin. The trousers have red tassels attached to the side of each leg. His long white socks and black half-shoes are painted on.
Reading about the Oldenwald costume (see below), this doll appears to have a number of variants in its costume not described but I have found no other information as yet.
The traditional Odenwald costume consists of the clothing worn in the area bordered by the Rheine, Main and Neckar rivers between ca. 1780 and ca. 1900. Unlike in other areas within the State of Hesse, the costume did not differ between the Protestants and the Catholics. The individual variants of the costumes within this area can be best determined by the caps worn by the women. The costumes worn by the men did not immediately show that they came from this area as they were/are similar to those of other Hesse traditional costumes.
The zenith of the Odenwald costume lies between 1800 and 1850. After this time, the colourful clothing of the women became darker and closer to the clothes worn in the towns. The wearing of such traditional costumes first disappeared in the Vorderen Odenwald and Bergstraße areas, later in the Hintere Odenwald, due to their closeness to the trade routes and early industrialisation. The costumes were no longer worn on a day-to-day basis after 1900.
Men’s costume details
The white cotton/linen shirt had a sewn-on collar and long sleeves with 2—3 cm cuffs.
Normally, older men wore a dark-coloured neckerchief around their necks over the shirt, while younger men had light or brightly coloured neckerchiefs. The scarves were oblong, but folded to double thumb-thickness and knotted so that two points of the neckerchief hung downwards. Later, these neckerchiefs became black and much narrower. They also were starched so that the ends did not hang downwards but to the right and left. This form is known as Stäischderewägg (Hesse has its own form of German and I have no idea what this means and I have not found a translation).
The men wore either knee or long trousers. One type of knee trousers were made out of deer leather and could be worn without braces. They were embroidered and had a rectangular buttoned codpiece. The trousers were worn with knee socks in either white or blue cotton in summer or wool in winter. For festive occasions mostly white socks were worn, though blue has also been reported. The other type of knee trousers were made out of black woollen material. These were worn with embroidered braces (sometimes decorated with beads). The socks worn with this type of trousers were held up by embroidered garters, made of embroidery canvas closed by a buckle or a lace. Often the embroidery on the braces and garters were the same. What is rather interesting is that the name of the wearer (at the bottom of the front) and the year of the production (at the bottom of the back) were embroidered on the braces.
Long black woollen trousers were worn from ca. 1840 onwards; at first, with a buttoned rectangular codpiece. Linen knee or long trousers were worn to work in.
On top of the shirt, the men wore a sleeveless material waistcoat with a double row of buttons made of silver or mother-of-pearl and two side pockets (so-called Uhrentaschen: watch pockets). The waistcoats were mainly light blue, though vermilion or black were more common towards the end of the time when such costumes were worn on a daily basis. The working waistcoat was made of linen like the work trousers.
Originally, the dark blue coat went just to the knee, though later it became calf-length. It originally did not have a collar, though later it had a standing collar. Two types of flaps were sewn on the sleeves (Brandenburg or Swedish). The coat was lined with striped fustian. Characteristically, the coat’s button holes were sewn with colourful threads (black, red or rust), but they were not all for actually buttoning up the coat but for decoration. The coat had a single row of buttons consisting of poor quality silver buttons, old coins or covered metal buttons. Buttons were also sewn on the back, waist and side pockets. The coat later on was black. The coat worn on working days was made out of linen and was lined with flannel.
There was a development of the coat into a jacket (Wams, Mutzen, Kamisol, Joppe) worn by young men. This was made of material and had shortened coattails, a turned-down collar and a double row of buttons. It was originally dark blue but later became black. For work days, the jacket was made of naturally coloured linen.
The footwear consisted of low shoes made of black leather with a rectangular brass or silver buckle. Otherwise high boots preferably made of calf leather were worn with both the long and knee trousers. Nailed clogs were worn to work in.
The State of Hesse has the largest number of different traditional costumes (24) of all 16 German federal states. Although I live only 50 km from Hesse, I only managed to get dolls showing the traditional costumes last weekend (August 2016) at a flea market in Ziegenhain, Schwalmstadt in Hessen. A wonderful internet site run by the Hessian Traditional Costume Society (Hessischer Trachtenverband) is a goldmine of information, which I have translated to provide the overview and pictures below.
Originally, these costumes were just thought of as clothing by their wearers and were only considered as ‘traditional costumes’ in more recent times. The oldest forms such as the Bergwinkeltracht came into fashion after the German Peasants’ War (1524 to 1525), while others developed in the following centuries. The heyday of traditional costumes was at the beginning of the last century (1990—1930). The effects of industrialisation and modernisation on traditional clothing meant that these styles of dress started to go out of fashion in the 19th century, though wearers of such clothing were still around in the 20th century or even more recently (the last true wearer of the Hüttenberg costume died in August 2011). Usually the men stopped wearing traditional clothes first, followed by the women; their clothing taking on the modern styles worn in the towns. The various forms of traditional costume reflected the wealth of the region, the occupation (farmer or townsperson) or even the religion of the wearer (Protestant or Catholic). In some areas due to intermarriage between people from neighbouring villages, the traditional costumes became more uniform due to adaptions made so that a person marrying into a particular village did not stand out too much.
General description: The doll is dressed in traditional Vietnamese costume of the majority Kinh (Viet) ethnicity with a typical nón lá conical hat.
Dimensions 17.5 x 10 x 5 cm
Date when acquired 2000s
Original Date 2000s
Source Bought in Vietnam, present from Barbara v. K.
Handmade cloth doll with painted features. Long hair made of woollen threads tied in two side plaits with orange wool, with a long fringe.
The doll is wearing a long-sleeved, high-collared blue silk tunic called an áo dài, which is the national costume of Vietnam. It is typical of the Kinh (Viet) ethnic group predominant in the country. The silk has a pattern of bamboo and letters woven into it in a paler blue. Originally, Viet women wore sarong type skirts but in the 18th century these were replaced by Chinese-style loose trousers like the white ones worn by this lady. The dark blue of the áo dài indicates that she is married; it has gone pale in the sunlight.
She has a typical plain conical palm hat (nón lá) on her head, held in place by a red ribbon. On her feet are sandals with a black base and a red tie over the instep, the traditional guoc.
Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, lies in Southeast Asia. It has an estimated 90.5 million inhabitants (2014), with the dominant Viet or Kinh ethnic group constituting nearly 85.8% of the population (2009). The Kinh population is concentrated mainly in the alluvial deltas and coastal plains of the country. However, Vietnam is also home to 54 ethnic minority groups, including the Dao, Degar, Hmong (see Thailand: Blue Hmong woman), Hoa (ethnic Chinese), Khmer Krom, Lahu (see Thailand: Lahu woman), Muong, Nùng, Tay, and Thai (see Thailand). Each of these groups have their own traditions and traditional costumes, which differ from those of the Kinh (Viet).
Humans have been living in the region now known as Vietnam from as early as the Palaeolithic age (from 2.6 million years ago). Homo erectus fossils dating to around 500,000 BC have been found in caves in northern Vietnam. By about 1000 BCE, the development of wet-rice cultivation and bronze casting in the Ma River and Red River floodplains — the homeland of the ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh people) led to the flourishing of the Đông Sơn and the Phung Nguyen cultures. At this time, the early Vietnamese kingdoms of Văn Lang and Âu Lạc appeared, and the Vietnamese influence spread to other parts of Southeast Asia throughout the first millennium BCE in a process known as ‘Advancing South’ (Nam Tiến).
In contrast, Central Vietnam was home to the Cham people, a Malayo-Polynesian ethnic group who founded their distinct Indianised Kingdom over the Central Coast before being subdued by the Vietnamese during the 14th century CE. Their predecessors, people who are now known as the Sa Huynh culture, dated back from 1000 BCE. Furthermore, the Mekong Delta in southernmost Vietnam was part of Funan, Chenla, and then the Angkor Empire. Chinese and Vietnamese started migrating en masse to this region during the 16th to 17th century.
The first Vietnamese state, Văn Lang, was defeated by in 257 BCE by Thục Phán, who consolidated the Lạc Việt and Âu Việt tribes to form the Âu Lạc. In 207 BCE, a Chinese general named Zhao Tuo defeated the Âu Lạc and consolidated it into Nanyue. However, Nanyue was itself incorporated into the empire of the Chinese Han dynasty in 111 BCE after the Han–Nanyue War. Vietnam was then part of Imperial China for over a millennium, from 111 BC to AD 939.
An independent Vietnamese state was formed in 939, following a Vietnamese victory in the Battle of Bạch Đằng River. Successive Vietnamese royal dynasties flourished as the nation expanded geographically and politically into Southeast Asia. In the 16th century, when the country was separated into Dang Trong (the South) and Dang Ngoai (the North), the Lords of Dang Trong instituted a cultural reform, including a costume reform to differentiate local people’s costumes from those in Dang Ngoai.
In the mid-19th century, the Indochina Peninsula (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) was colonized by the French. Following a Japanese occupation in the 1940s, the Vietnamese fought French rule in the First Indochina War, eventually expelling the French in 1954. Thereafter, Vietnam was divided politically into two rival states, North and South Vietnam as it had been in the 16th century. The conflict between the two sides intensified in what is known as the Vietnam War. The war ended with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975. Vietnam was then unified under a communist government.
In 1986, the government initiated a series of economic and political reforms which began Vietnam’s path towards integration into the world economy. By 2000, it had established diplomatic relations with all the world’s nations. Since 2000, Vietnam’s economic growth rate has been among the highest in the world and it joined the World Trade Organization in 2007. Vietnam remains one of the world’s five remaining one-party socialist states officially espousing communism.
Non-Kinh traditional clothing
Apart from the Kinh (Viet) ethnicity, about 54 different native groups live in Vietnam. Every ethnic group in Vietnam has its own style of clothing, which are radically different in some cases.
For example, the citizens of communities that live in the mountainous areas or on the plateaux have very colourful costumes with design motifs imitating wild flowers and beasts. A mix of contrasting colours is used frequently: black and red, blue and red, or blue and white. The clothing styles tend to be convenient for farm work in terraced fields and for travelling in the hilly or mountainous regions. In contrast, the plains peoples (Mekong basin) wear simple, modest outfits.
In Vietnam, the various ethnicities wear their favourite traditional clothes for the different festivals celebrated in the country. However, for a very long time now, the clothing of Vietnamese ethnic groups has been influenced by foreign dress. Some traditional clothes have been lost, having been substituted by more modern interpretations.
Kinh (Viet) women’s wear
Colour is very important for the Vietnamese people. Traditionally, men used to wear clothes of a particular colour according to their status; for example, yellow for kings, brown and black for civilian men, red for high-grade mandarins, green and blue for low-grade mandarins. Nowadays, such colour standards are no longer in place for men any more.
Nevertheless, women still use standard colour schemes, especially in big cities. White is for young girls, pastel colours are for young unmarried women, while married women wear brightly-coloured tunics over white or black trousers.
As there was a class division in feudal Vietnamese society, common women wore long black shirts made from coarse materials, whereas upper class women wore shirts made from fine materials and cloths with brighter colours such as yellow, blue, red and purple. However, dark hues were considered more suitable for women living in wet areas. Upper-class women usually wore long shirts in blue or violet, curved shoes and flat palm hats with fringes (nón quai thao) with their hair in a bun.
Áo tứ thân
Initially, the women’s costume in the North of Vietnam was the áo tứ thân (four-piece blouse) with a bodice, a skirt and a headscarf of the ancient Vietnamese women. The áo tứ thân is open at the front, like a jacket, and at the waist the tunic is split into three flaps: a full flap in the back (made up of two flaps sewn together) and the two flaps in the front which are not sewn together but can be tied together or left dangling. The áo tứ thân comes in many fabrics and colours. A long skirt was worn under the tunic and an yếm, which is an ancient piece of clothing worn as an undergarment by women to cover the chest area (see below). A silk sash is tied round at the waist as a belt. The áo tứ thân is nowadays no longer used as day-to-day clothing but it has become the official costume for traditional occasions such as festivals and events, especially in northern Vietnam.
An yếm is a traditional Vietnamese bodice (looks a little like a halter neck) used primarily as an undergarment that was once worn by Vietnamese women of all classes. There exists a modern variant called the áo yếm, but the historical garment was simply called an yếm. It was usually worn underneath a blouse or overcoat. It is a simple garment with many variations from its basic form, which is a simple, usually diamond or square-cut piece of cloth draped over a woman’s chest with strings to tie at the neck and back. In the 19th century, the yếm was a square piece of cloth with one corner cut away to fit under the woman’s throat. This scrap of fabric was secured across the chest and stomach with thin strings. The yếm used by the poor whilst working was brown or beige and made of coarsely woven material. Urban women favoured white, pink or red yếm. On special occasions, like the Lunar New Year or other festivals, rural women would also wear brightly coloured yếm. The skirt which is worn with the yếm is called váy đụp.
There is one kind of yếm which was often wore by ancient ladies called yếm deo bua, because it had a small pocket containing musk. In the olden days, when a girl had a date with her beloved, she usually put a piece of betel inside her yếm as this was supposed to have special powers.
The yếm originated from the Chinese dudou, a variant of similar undergarments used in China since antiquity. It became popular in northern Vietnam. Unlike other Vietnamese clothing that helped to segregate the classes, the unseen yếm were worn as an undergarment by Vietnamese women of all walks of life, from peasant women toiling in the fields to imperial consorts. It is an integral part of the áo tứ thân costume as it is often worn underneath it.
In the 18th century, Chinese style clothing was forced on Vietnamese people by the Nguyen dynasty, so that the typical tunic and trousers of the Han Chinese replaced the yếm and skirt (váy đụp).
In addition, the ao ba (loose-fitting blouse) entered Vietnam from China with Chinese traders. This type of blouse has been redesigned several times and is now the distinctive costume of southern women. Initially, the ao ba was black and tailored with pockets and split flaps at the hip. It was worn along with a bandana, suitable to the life of women in watery areas. Later, designers made it tighter with a Raglan shoulder, and in light and bright hues that make the modern ao ba more feminine and beautiful.
In the 18th century, southern Vietnamese women wore long five-flap shirts (ao mo ba mo bay, shirt of several flaps) with black loose trousers. This five-piece shirt was considered as the forerunner to the current áo dài of southern women. Áo classifies the item as a piece of clothing on the upper part of the body, while dài means “long”. The word áo dài was originally applied to the outfit worn at the court of the Nguyễn Lords at Huế in the 18th century. This outfit evolved into the áo ngũ thân, a five-panelled aristocratic gown worn in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
In the 19th century and early 20th century, due to the influence of the French culture, the áo dài was made tighter, clinging to the body and more colourful, from thin materials and worn with loose white trousers. Madame Nhu, first lady of South Vietnam, popularized a collarless version beginning in 1958. The dress was extremely popular in South Vietnam in the 1960s and early 1970s. In the 1970s, Southern designers renovated the costume making it cling to the body with narrowed flaps. They especially made use of the Raglan shoulder to avoid creases and give the dress a softer, more flowing appearance. The communists, who gained power in the North in 1954 and in the South in the 1975, had conflicting feelings about the áo dài and it was apparently banned. The áo dài experienced a revival beginning in late 1980s, when state enterprises and schools began adopting the dress as a uniform again. It is the required uniform for female teacher (mostly from primary to secondary school, with no constraints on colour etc.) and female students (white with only small patterns e.g. flowers). Companies often require their female staff to wear uniforms that include the áo dài, so flight attendants, receptionists, bank female staff, restaurant staff, and hotel workers in Vietnam may be seen wearing it. The áo dài is now also standard for weddings and for celebrating Tết (Lunar New Year) and for other formal occasions.
The traditional costumes of the lower class Vietnamese men tended to be very simple and modest. It included brown tunics/shirts with long sleeves and wide white trousers. Their headgear was simply a piece of cloth wrapped around the head or a conical hat and their footwear consisted of a pair of plain wooden shoes or sandals. Formal dress consisted of a white and black combination with two additional items: a long gown with slits on either side, and a turban, usually in black or brown made of cotton or silk. These colours were regulated as in feudal times ordinary people were not allowed to wear clothes with dyes other than black, brown or white.
Men’s dress has gradually changed along with social development and time. The traditional set of a long gown and turban has given way to more modern looking suits, while business shirts and trousers have replaced the traditional long-sleeved shirts and wide trousers. Traditional costumes still exist and efforts are increasingly being made to restore traditional festivals and entertainment which incorporate traditional costumes.
Nowadays one of the traditional men’s costumes still used in Vietnam is the áo dài, but it differs from women’s áo dài as it tends to be much shorter and fuller. Men wear the áo dài with trousers. The everyday version of áo dài for men is usually brown, but a festive one can be of any colour and is usually ornate.
On Tết (Lunar New Year) and other occasions, Vietnamese men may wear a version of the áo dài made of thicker fabric, the áo gấm (gấm means brocade, so brocade robe).
Vietnamese conical hats
People in Vietnam wear conical hats (nón lá) which protect them from the elements and help them in ordinary life. Both men and women use them, but the design and look of such hats vary a lot as there are more than 50 different types of conical hats in Vietnam: made for men, women, children, Buddhists, army, rich people and so on. The style is very old: images of nón lá hats were embossed on Ngoc Lu drums about 2500 to 3000 years ago.
Among Asian conical hats, the nón lá of the Vietnamese people forms a perfect right circular cone which tapers smoothly from the base to the apex. The men’s conical hat has a higher cone and smaller rims. Women’s is low, broad-rimmed and often beautifully decorated and have pretty ribbons to tie the hat on. Women often use their conical hat not only as a piece of clothing but also to carry things such as fruit and vegetables. Also they can scoop up water from a well with their hat and drink.
Special conical hats in Vietnam contain colourful hand-stitch depictions or words (Hán tự) while the Huế varieties are famous for their nón bài thơ (literally: poem conical hats). These contain random poetic verses and hán tự which can be revealed when the hat is directed above one’s head in the sunlight. Today, it has become part of Vietnam’s national costume.
Vietnamese conical hats are always handmade. Materials such as bamboo, young palm leaves and reed are used. Palm leaves and a special kind of bamboo are used to weave a hat and the threads for sewing are made from the leaves of a special kind of reed. The hats are rather hard to make to ensure everything is perfect.
Due to Vietnam’s hot and humid climate and wading days in wet rice paddies or fishing, Vietnamese people usually went barefoot. Indeed, up until the Tran Dynasty (1225—1400 CE), most Vietnamese people went barefoot though clogs guoc were not unknown. Those people who had such shoes used them only for holidays or visiting friends, not in everyday life. The clogs were made from bamboo roots, ivory, coconut shells or other natural materials. At home people wore wooden clogs with vertical straps to protect the toes.
In south-central Vietnam, people generally made their own clogs. They favoured thick soles with slightly turned-up tips. The straps, which attached through a hole in the front and a pair of holes on the sides, were braided from soft cloth. Because the sole was curved at the front, the knot of the front strap did not rub on the ground. The soles of women’s clogs were shaped like hour-glasses, while men’s clogs — known as ‘sampan clogs’ — had straight soles. Made of white wood, Phu Yen clogs were left unpainted, while those from the central city of Hue were often painted in black and brown with a pale coloured triangle on the side of the sole. Only well-to-do men wore painted clogs. Some areas called clogs don, hence the Vietnamese saying “a foot with a shoe, a foot with a don” to indicate rich people who put on airs.
Guoc have a symbolic meaning for Vietnamese people. There are even different legends about the appearance of wooden clogs. Ancient Chinese books record that in the third century, the leader of a Vietnamese resistance movement, Ba Trieu, wore a pair of ivory clogs. Another popular legend tells of a pair of stone clogs passed down for generations by a family in Cao Bang, high in Vietnam’s northern mountains. Although modern Vietnamese clogs are usually made of plastic and rubber, but traditional clogs are still used on festivals and ceremonies to honour the past.