France: Bressane

Front view

General description: This doll is a married Bressane, a woman from the region of Bresse in France wearing the typical Brelot hat.

Dimensions 20 x 14 x 9 cm

Date when acquired 2000s

Original Date Unknown

Source Flea market in the Bochum area; present from Fritz W.


Back view


Plastic doll with painted features and movable arms. Her brown hair is pulled back from a central parting to a bun at the back of her head.



She is not wearing the standard base garment, a chemise, but just a long black silk-like dress with a very wide skirt. The three-quarter sleeves have white lace cuffs. The same white lace has been used to edge the V-neck of the dress. The material at the back of the dress has become bronzed with age and exposure to light.

She is wearing no underclothes apart from a small pair of blue panties.

Over the dress she is wearing a shawl around her shoulders tucked into an apron. The shawl (fichu) is made of dark pink silk printed with red and blue flowers. It reaches down to her waist both front and back, and is tucked into the apron at the front. The apron is not the typical long pinafore with a bib but is short and tied at the waist with a pink silk ribbon with a bow at the front. The apron is made of silk embroidered with very large flowers in light pink, light blue, yellow and green. The sides and lower edge of the apron are hemmed with a wide band of white lace.

Side view

She is a very impressive Brelot hat made of a circle of black felt (now browned by exposure to the sun). The small high conical crown, finial, is decorated with gold thread. A gold string is attached to it (though this may have been used to hang the doll up). A band of black lace hanging down to the woman’s waist covers the back three-quarters of the brim, with a panel of short black lace at the front which hangs down to her chin at the front. The back of the lace is bronzed, again due to exposure to light. The doll is not wearing the usual coif under the Brelot.


View of the top of the hat showing the relationship of the finial to the brim


A gold cross with rounded points is affixed to just below her throat.


Background information

Bresse (Brêsse) is a former French province. It is now located in the modern regions of Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne, and Franche-Comté of eastern France.

Except for its headdress, the female costume of Bresse is much like that of the other areas of central France. The base garment is a chemise (missing in this doll), with lace at the neckline and full sleeves gathered into a cuff, or with short sleeves. A petticoat (or more than one) is worn, along with bloomers and knitted stockings (the doll has only knickers and no petticoats, bloomers or stockings). Over this is worn a dress, with attached bodice and sleeves. This can be in various colours, wool in the winter and silk in the summer. It may have 3/4 sleeves which widen towards the cuff so as to show the chemise’s sleeves. The dress’s sleeves may also be full length or elbow length. The bodice laces or buttons up the front. There are two or three bands of black velvet ribbon sewn above the hem (these are not present on this doll).

A shoulder shawl (fichu) is worn. It may be a single colour with ribbon near the edge, or it may be cotton or silk print with a border design. The point hangs to the waist in back, it is pinned to the shoulders and is fastened in front. It is of a colour which contrasts with the dress. It may have a fringe.

Over all of this, a large pinafore apron is worn. The skirt of the apron is full, covering the front and sides of the dress, and is a few inches shorter than the hem of the dress. There is a large bib which is pinned in place, ‘pin-afore’. The top of the bib may be curved or in a V-shape. The top of the bib may have trim, tucks, or sometimes even metallic embroidery. The apron should be of a colour which contrasts with both the dress and the shoulder shawl. The bib may be pinned with straight pins, or with small brooches. There may be silver or gold chains attached to these.

Either black leather shoes or wooden shoes (sabot) may be worn (the doll is shoeless).

1) Coiffed ladies from Bresse

As in all French costumes, a coif (a woman’s close-fitting cap) is mandatory. The Bressan coif is relatively simple in construction. It consists of one piece with a border. Two to five rows of goffered (crimped or pleated with a hot iron) lace are attached to the edge. It is made of tulle or fine cotton or linen. A Bressane woman would never leave the house uncoiffed. The back of the coif is embroidered with various motifs, usually floral. A band of matching cotton or linen, also edged with goffered lace, buttons under the chin to secure the coif for married women. Single girls wear a coif with a red silk ribbon. In times of mourning, single girls would replace the red ribbon with black. For work, and in case of mourning, the coif is made of simple white muslin.

For dress occasions, a very unusual hat is worn over the coif. This is called the Brelot. It is only worn by married women. The Brelot consists of a rigid disk of felt topped by a hollow sort of finial on a brass framework. The top of the finial often has a small tuft of lace and artificial flowers. The disk is also covered with black lace, and there are lace panels which hang off the sides and back down past the shoulders. The front has a short lace panel. The Brelot is held in place with a black velvet ribbon secured under the chin (this is lacking in this doll). The Brelot may be ornamented with gold chains and pins. The shape is apparently like the Saracen chimneys found in the Bresse region.


Source(s) of information



1) Coiffed ladies from Bresse –



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