Germany: Marburg Protestant costume, Hesse

Front view
Front view

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 Originally made to be sold at one of the Hessian Days (there is a broken loop of white paper attached to the doll saying Hessentag but the date has been torn off).


Back view
Back view


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).


Side view
Side view


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.





Teh bun (Schnatz) and the headdress (Stülpchen) from the back.
The bun (Schnatz) and the headdress (Stülpchen) from the back.

Background information

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 modernised. 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 are 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 skirt  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.

Source(s) of information


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