South Africa: Boer woman

Front view
Front view

General description Woman wearing typical Boer or Voortrekker costume

Dimensions 20 x 15 x 6cm

Date when acquired 1970s

Original Date 1970s

Source South Africa. A present from my father.



Plastic body with moveable eyes and arms. The legs are rigid. She has very full curly auburn hair.


Back view
Back view


The woman is wearing a brocade dress made of black material embroidered in a flower pattern with gold thread. At the bottom of her leg-of-mutton sleeves is a narrow band of white lace. A band of gold braid is situated around the sleeves at the level of the elbows. Three vertical bands of ivory braid decorate the front of the dress’s long skirt. The skirt is stiffened with white lining material. She is wearing white cotton underpants.

She has a fine white lace shawl around her shoulders and tucked into her red felt apron, which is tied at the back. The front of the apron is decorated with appliques made from the same lace as her shawl. She is wearing a poke bonnet made of the same red felt as her apron.

Her low black shoes are painted on.


Side view of poke bonnet showing how it hides the face completely
Side view of poke bonnet showing how it hides the face completely




Background information

The ancestors of the white Afrikaner (Boer) community in South Africa originally came from the Netherlands in the 17th century. They settled in the area around Cape Town, which was then colonised by the British in the 18th century. In the 19th century, the Dutch emigrated from the Cape colony on the coast into the interior. These emigres, the Voortrekker (pioneers), settled in the future Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal regions.

Nowadays, this type of costume is worn by the descendants of the Boers for formal folk dancing called volkspele. The male folk dancing partners wear shirts with waistcoats and long trousers.

The poke bonnet worn by this doll became fashionable at the beginning of the 19th century. It was first mentioned in an 1807 fashion report in The Times (a British newspaper). The style can be quite plain like this one or be very extravagantly decorated with ribbons and bows, etc. Another name for this type of bonnet is a Neapolitan bonnet.


Source(s) of information



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