Villingen, in conjunction with Schwenningen, is a town in the Schwarzwald-Baar district in southern Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The traditional women’s costume was developed in the late Rococo period around 1770. The most characteristic part of the costume is the gold halo hat (Radhaube). This type of headdress is worn nowadays in the area around Lake Constance, Upper Swabia, the Allgäu and Vorarlberg (i.e. Southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland), indicating the previous affiliation of these areas to the Habsburg Empire (1438 to 1740).
The day-to-day usage of the traditional costume died out around 1850, with the clothing disappearing into people’s clothes chests. About 50 years later, the memory of the beautiful costumes with their black and gold halo hats was rekindled when the recently set up carnival club was looking for suitable costumes for its women members. The style of the dress itself comes from the Biedermeier epoch (1815—1848). In addition, the young tourist industry at that time also found the costume advantageous for advertising the town of Villingen. From then on, the women who wore this costume were called “Altvillingerin” [Old Villingen ladies].
During the rejuvenation of the traditional dress in Villingen at the beginning of the 20th century, new halo hats and decently coloured costumes with silk shawls were bought and the number of people wearing these costumes increased. In 1926, a traditional dress club was founded and the members wore their costumes to many different types of festivities in the region. The male companions of these ladies wore the clothing of a guild master from 1760, the design of which were taken from the guild panels kept in a local museum.
The “dress” (Kleid) consists of a skirt and jacket with a tail (Schößle) and is usually made of silk brocade or fine woollen material in various muted colours. The wide skirt has a special edging sewn on the hem (Besenlitze) and extends down to the ankles. A cotton or taffeta petticoat with frills at various levels is worn under the skirt to give it a nice form. White lace is sewn on the edges of the sleeves and the neck of the jacket.
A silk shawl is worn over the jacket with (when possible) a handmade fringe. The shawl has either a rose pattern, is made from Milanese cloth (Flammenschal) or is embroidered with various flower patterns. On cold days, a woven fine woollen Viennese shawl (paisley patterned) either replaces or is put on over the silk shawl. The silk apron is smocked at the top and its colour is chosen to complement the rest of the costume. The apron covers the hips of the wearer.
White gloves and socks are worn as well as black buckled shoes with flat heels. The ladies wear jewellery made of garnets [brooch, ear-rings and a necklace or choker (Kropfkette)]. They also carry a bag made of the same material as the dress, which is ornamented with braid and beads, and has a cord handle. During carnival time, the women carry a wicker basket (Krättle). The ladies may have a dark silk or lace umbrella with them to protect them from either the sun or the rain.
On their heads the Altvillinger wear the typical beautiful halo hat, usually made of gold lace. The fine lace pattern is made either in hollow lace technique (Hohlspitzentechnik), crocheted, hand tatted, machine tatted or consists of braid. A pure white silk bow with two hip-length ribbons is attached to the back of the hat. Some (few) women wear the less extravagant black halo hat made of chenille. The hat sits on the wearer’s head so that the halo has an upwards slant. In contrast to the Lake Constance halo hat, the Villingen version has a flatter angle. The women’s hair is formed into a bun (Dutt) which enables the headdress to sit firmly on the wearer’s head.
At carnival times, the women wear a half-mask called a Scheme. These are hand carved and made of lime tree wood.
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