East Frisia or Eastern Friesland (German: Ostfriesland; East Frisian Low Saxon: Oostfreesland) is a coastal region in the northwest of the Germany. It belongs to the State of Lower Saxony. The East Frisians are the eastern branch of the Frisians, a Germanic people and are a recognised minority in Germany.
In the Middle Ages, Friesland (including Eastern Friesland) was one of the richest regions in Europe due to animal farming, shipping and overseas trading. These riches were seen not only in the churches of this region but also in the rich gold and silver jewellery of the farming population. Charlemagne [742(?)—814] gave the normal Friesian the right to wear gold from their heads to their feet as long as they could afford it (“Gold an ihren Fläuptern und bis zu ihren Füßen herab zu tragen, so viel ein jeder bezahlen könn”). Over the following centuries, the Friesians suffered from gold fever and the women of this region wore gold brooches, chains, ear-rings and bracelets even on normal days.
From the middle of the 16th century, a series of Frisian Trachten were pictured in a publication called the Manninga-Flausbuch – though these costumes were already beginning to disappear. The richer women’s costumes were covered with round or rectangular gold platelets (Schersson) making them look like armour and the dresses could stand up on their own. The women also wore a gold breastplate. A tiara-like brow band (Pael) made of gold and precious stones completed the outfit. Heavy gold chains were worn over the shoulders. Their shoes and socks were decorated with silver, pearls and precious stones. The women thereby wore their (or their husband’s) wealth on their bodies. This type of Trachten is no longer worn, though since the 1980s a couple of folklore groups (Krummhorn and Aurich) have used the Manninga-Flausbuch as the basis for their Trachten although the gold platelets have been replaced by braid embroidered with gold thread.
Another form of Eastern Friesian costume comes from Sandhorst. This consists of a hat (Käppgen), skirt (Rock), petticoat (Unterrock), shawl (Timptuch), jacket (Bostrock), bodice (Unnerpand), blouse (Hemd), apron (Schuud), wristers (Armhanschen) and cloak (Umslager).
The hat is made of two pieces of velvet (Hülle) joined in the middle and fitted to the back of the head by two darts sewn into the hat and by making three folds that are laced together using gold-coloured bands. The bands then hang down the back. The velvet is in dark green, dark red, dark blue or black.
The skirt and jacket are nowadays made of woollen material as the original material (Fiefschaftenstoff) is no longer produced. The skirt is made of 2—4 m of red flannel. The folds at the waist (Kellerfalten) are less deep at the front than at the back to prevent excessive baulk, which would be exacerbated by the apron. The skirt’s hem is finished off with a strip of velvet of variable width. The skirt reaches down to the ankles. The jacket is no longer closed at the front by hooks, buttons are used instead. The sleeves have a leg-of-mutton shape and they are narrow to the elbows, afterwards they open out in a cone shape. The button border and the cuffs of the sleeves are decorated with velvet.
The white shawl is large enough to go from the neck down to the waist and is hemmed using a traditional two-coloured cross-stitch pattern.
The apron is so wide that it covers 2/3 of the waist. It reaches down to about 3 cm above the hem of the skirt. The waist of the apron also has deep folds. The strings of the apron are held by hooks. A ca. 20-cm wide band of white linen or firm cotton with a width according to the size of the apron is attached to the apron like a bib: the Stückje. It is fixed in fine fold to the apron strings (Schürzenbänder) made of twill (Köperstoff) in the same colour as the apron. These bands are so long that they can be tied at the back in a bow with long ribbons hanging down the back. The Stückje is in two colours — red and the colour of the apron — and is embroidered in a fine cross-stitch in a traditional manner using old rural patterns.
The bodice is made of woollen material and is fitted to the form of the body using darts. Its size is adjusted that under the arms about 15 cm of lacing can be seen. The bodice fits to the waist. Its brass rings are sewn onto the cloth so that roughly half of the ring is covered with stitching. The lacing of the rings is done with a ca.1-m-long black cord (Kordeln).
The blouse is buttoned at the front and is made of lawn cotton (Baumwollbatist). The neck is roughly 2 cm larger than that of the jacket. A finely pleated strip of cambric is set in the neck. The sleeves are elbow length and have a strip of finely pleated cambric along the cuffs. The pleats are in a series of figure-of-eights.
The petticoat (Unterrock) is made of cambric and is formed from trapezoid pieces of material, which are separated by cotton lace inserts.
The cloak consists of a large back and two equally sized sides that are cut so they form a tippet. The neck has a small upright collar, on which the hooks to close the cape are sewn. The cape is just long enough to allow the hands to be seen when they hang straight down.
The wrist and the lower arm are enclosed by crocheted wristers made of fine cotton. They end in a point, which extends to the ring finger.
The women wear knee socks made of fine wool or cotton knitted in a fine pattern. Their low-heeled shoes are rounded at the front and do not have any decoration, bands or buckles.
A basket is not referred to in any of the historical descriptions of East Friesian Trachten, but as it is necessary for the members of the Sandhorst folklore group to carry their purses etc., a decision was made to include a basket in their costume. The group decided to use the hat basket shown in a Trachten collection (Ostfriesische Landschaft), which had been formally used to store hats decorated with gold tassels.
The men wore a hat, neckerchief, waistcoat, shirt, coat, knee breeches (Kniehose), socks and shoes.
The tricorn hat (Dreispitzhut) has an oval shape and a sweat band. The neckerchief is a cotton square folded to form a triangle. The tip of the triangle is rolled up to the long edge and the “roll” is tied as a small scarf around the neck.
The shirt is slightly tailored at the waist. It has a small upright collar. The shirt only has buttons at the top and the end of the button seam is closed with a triangular strap. The sleeves are very wide and set-in at the shoulder. The ends of the sleeves are finely gathered in a narrow cuff. The buttons are covered with fine white threads in the traditional manner.
The waistcoat has a straight cut and two rows of silver buttons. It is made of fine material in either dark blue or grey. The lapels are so made that they can be folded back and button to form revers. However, the waistcoat is usually worn completely buttoned up.
The coat is worn unbuttoned so that the silver buttons of the waistcoat can be seen. As was usual around 1800, a so-called curve (Bogenschnitt) is worked in the back of the coat. The waist is only slightly tailored (straight coat form) and the hem of the coat may not be longer than the top of the kneecap. To fit the wide sleeves of the shirt, the sleeves of the coat are also relatively wide. The buttons are covered with material. There is a narrow upright collar around the neck.
The knee breeches can be black, grey or dark blue. They have two pockets in the front and a small drop-front (Hosenklappe). Each leg of the breeches is closed with a small silver-coloured buckle. The large silver buttons on the drop-front are decorated with traditional rural patterns.
A watch is carried tucked into the waistband at the front, with its chatelaine (Petschaftsanhänger) hanging down so that the various chains, chain lock, signet and key can be seen.
The knitted socks are made of grey wool. They go over the knee and have a small intertwined pattern (Zopf) on the side. The slip-on shoes also have a rounded shape like that of the women’s, however, they have a silver buckle on the front.