Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Folk Costume of Olland, Lower Saxony and Hamburg, Germany

Hello all,

Today I will talk about the costume of a region known in Plattdüütsch as Olland. This region lies on the south/west bank of the Elbe between Hamburg and Stade, downstream of the city. The name was given because of the large number of Dutch [Hollander] settlers in the area, to which they were invited to build dikes and reclaim wetlands along the river, beginning in 1113. This is routinely mistranslated into High German as Das Alte Land, or "The Old Land", and that is how you will find it labelled on maps in Hochdeutsch. You can read more about the area here: The first link is in English, the second in the local language. 

This area lies mostly in the state of Lower Saxony, but also partly in Hamburg. Today most of this area is given over to the growing of fruit trees, mainly apple and cherry. The rich land lends itself to this. And, as is so often the case, this enabled the locals to develop a rich folk costume.

The women wore as a foundation garment a sleeveless chemise, nerrhemd, of linen which was quite long and also functioned as a nightshirt. Over this was worn a short shirt, hemd, which was waist length and had wide, usually three quarter length sleeves. It might have a small standing collar with a bit of lace. Under the chemise a pair of bloomers was worn, fastened with linen straps and usually two petticoats of linen, wool, or silk over it. Knee length stockings were worn, dark blue for everyday, and white for festive occasions. These were held up by 3cm wide garters of linen which could be embroidered or decorated with ribbons and were held in place with a leather lace.

Everyday work outfit. 

Women wore a plain skirt, often blue, with a double breasted bodice that fastened on the right. The indigo print apron had the typical shape with the waistband being wide and coming to a point in the center, and narrowing towards the sides. The apron covered most of the skirt. Plain black shoes were worn, or wooden clogs in wet or muddy weather. A hairband is worn around the upper forehead, and over that a cap with ribbons that are always tied at the left temple. A straw hat may be worn as protection against the sun. As in most traditional costumes, the hair is not visible. In this area, girls covered their hair from the time of their confirmation.

A kerchief is worn around the neck, the wussdock. Originally this was a full kerchief which was rolled up almost completely, and then tied around the neck so that the three points were at the nape. This later became a wadded roll which had the knot permanently tied, and fastened with a hook. This is called Wuss. This was worn with the knot in back.

Men and boys wore plain black leather pants with suspenders, and a shirt made of striped indigo cloth.

These two ladies are wearing the wuss backwards, and they are allowing their hair to show. Both are incorrect. You can, however, see the variety of aprons.

The jacket is a feature of the dress costume, but may be worn at need with the everyday costume. In this case, it hooks closed in front.

Festive dress for unmarried girls

Many traditional outfits feature fancier and more colorful costumes for unmarried girls compared to married women. The opposite is often true for German costumes. 
The festive dress for girls from the time of their confirmation to their wedding in this area is almost completely black.

The festive costume is made of rich materials, silk, velvet, etc. and features lace on the shirt sleeves which show under the bell shaped three quarter sleeves of the jacket. Both the apron and the skirts are fuller. The leather shoes have very large silver buckles, and other silver jewelry is also worn. The dress jacket is laced closed, which allows the silver embroidered plastron, brustlatz or brusttuch, to be seen behind the lacing. 

I have found no explanation of how the brustlatz is held in place, but here is an example of a fancy one meant to be worn to church.

On each sleeve are hung six large silver buttons. These are threaded through small buttonholes on the sleeve and are attached by a thong on the inside, so that they may be removed for cleaning. Originally these were hollow silver balls, as seen here above, these were later replaced by buttons of silver filligree.

A pin is worn on the front of the wuss. This is called hemdspange or Bruthart. This was often a gift from a boyfriend or fiancee. This may be plain silver or gilded, often decorated with garnets and/or turquoise.

A multi-stranded silver necklace is also worn. This may be either of small hollow silver beads, or somewhat larger silver filligree beads.

The necklace is pinned to the wuss in back with two silver pins. Note that the wuss here is trimmed in lace.,

Married women may continue to wear the black festive outfit, as you can see in the photo of the baptism above, and here below, but they also have the option of wearing the 'bunte', or colorful, festtracht, or festive costume.


As you can see, this outfit features a red skirt with blacl velvet and lace trim, a white apron with lace or cutwork, and a jacket which may be other than black. Here you can see that the front of the jacket has long points in front, which may be worn either over or under the apron.

The cap, mutze, is close fitting, and has long ties. It may be of various rich fabrics, and may be embroidered. The edge is usually trimmed. The festive caps for married women can be quite colorful.

A hairband is worn over the forehead, the cap is placed over that, and then a kerchief is folded and wrapped around the edge of the cap When worn properly, the hair is not visible. The exact way of tying the kerchief and ribbon varies from parish to parish.

I always felt that this looked rather Art Deco, but apparently this headdress goes back to the 1860's. Before that, and still occasionally today, you will see women wearing the Scheiddock, or Flöbben, which is a piece of lace edged, embroidered piece of starched white linen wrapped around the cap instead of the folded kerchief.

There is one more type of cap with rich silver embroidery which was worn to Communion services. This had the hair band underneath, but was not worn with the kerchief wrapped around it. Notice the amber necklaces. These were considered to be less flashy and more appropriate for wearing to Church and for periods of mourning.

These were sometimes worn with the scheiddock. 

Kretschmer records that the apron was sometimes made to match or complement the jacket.

This woman is wearing an older form of the jacket and a loose pocket.

These women at first glance look rather nice, but they are wearing the caps incorrectly, with a lot of their hair showing. Shameless!

Appropriate outerwear is part of the traditional attire.

For men the festive costume includes knickers, a brocade vest, linen shirt with stand up collar, a silk neckcloth, a jacket with lots of buttons that closes with two buttons and a chain, and a top hat. White knee socks are only worn by married men.

The Bride

The bridal costume is very distinct, with a cap covered with flowers that also includes two brocade wings. This outfit is also worn by the 'Queen' of the local flower festival.

The wuss is white, and a vest is worn over the jacket. It has a row of silver plates all along the opening, that are threaded with a silver chain. A ribbon or length of lace is worn around the hips.

For the church service, the bride wears the black skirt and apron of an unmarried girl, along with a white fichu.


For the reception that evening, she changes into the red skirt and white apron of a married woman. The white fichu is replaced by a colorful embroidered one.

Thank you for reading. I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative.
I will close with some more images of this costume. Pay attention to which ones are being worn correctly.






Roman K.

Here is the website of a dance group that keeps this costume alive.

A video of the Flower fest in this region. The parade starts around the 400 minute mark.

Souce Material:
Hinrich Behr et al, 'Die Altlaender Tracht', Jork, 1985

Uwe Karsten, 'Deutsche Trachten', Vienna, 1980
Christian Nieske, 'Trachten in Mecklenburg', Husum, 1991
Debionne/Meissner, 'Die Schoensten Deutschen Trachten', Munich, 1987
Maria Reiners, 'Unsere Tracht', Potsdam, 1930's?
Albert Kretschmer, 'Das Grosse Buch der Volkstrachten', Eltville am Rhein, reprinted 1977
Haus Neuerburg, 'Deutsche Volkstrachten -Eine Sammlung Deutscher Trachtenbilder', Koeln am Rhein, 1938
Friederike Kaesting et al, 'Rote Roeke', Hannover, 2000
Brunhilde Miehe, 'Der Tracht Treu Geblieben bd 4', Bad Hersfeld, 2005
Josef Dunninger, 'Deutsche Volkstrachten', Berlin, 1911