Thursday, September 18, 2014

Costume of Ochsenfurt, Unterfranken or Lower Franconia, Germany

Hello all, 
I have been rather neglecting Germany, because of a lack of comprehensive information. I will try to remedy that now that I have expanded my German library, and am now in the possesion of somewhat more information. Today I will talk a bit about the costume of Lower Franconia, with special focus on the costume of Ochsenfurter Gau, which is the most colorful and elaborate version of this costume. 
This costume is sometimes presented as being 'Bavarian', which is technically true, but rather misleading. The current State of Bavaria in Germany consists of the contiguous parts of the old Kingdom of Bavaria, which includes, besides Bavaria proper, Schwabia, Oberpfaltz, and Franconia. Bavaria is divided into two districts, Upper and Lower, and Franconia into three, Upper, Middle, and Lower.

The costume which usually comes to mind when we think about 'Bavaria' is that of Upper Bavaria, with Lederhosen. The other areas each have a distinct and separate costume tradition. Lower Franconia, or Unterfranken, is in the northwest corner of the State of Bavaria, far away from the land of Lederhosen, and rather close to the center of Germany.

This area is distinguished as being one of the areas in Germany in which the folk costume is still a living tradition, in that there are still some older women who never wear anything else. 
As in any living, or near living tradition, there are many forms of the costume, I will be focusing on the costume of the high feast days, as the most colorful and distinct. 

Here is the one image which I have been able to find which shows the constituent parts of the costume. This is a less dressy version, in that the outer pieces are made of solid color fabrics.

From left to right, linen chemise and underskirt with padded bands on the hem [Wattrock]. kerchief and second underskirt, this one worn under the first one, bodice with sleeves [Mutze], and top skirt, shawl and apron, fingerless gloves and bag, stockings and shoes.

Most of the various forms of the costume are basically the same, differing only in the materials used. The two exceptions are the everyday working costume, which consists of cotton top, skirt, and apron, and the dancing costume in which a sleeveless bodice replaces the bodice with sleeves.

Here are photos of the various forms of the costume. Note how they become progressively less ornamented.

1. Wedding costume.
     The high headdress is not often seen in Ochsenfurt these days, but is retained in other parts       Lower Franconia.

2. High feast day costume. Less ornamentation on the apron, which is made of a brocade with smaller patterns.

3. Sunday costume.

 4. Middle Feast day costume.

5. Mourning costume. As in many places, this is worn for a full year after the death of an immediate family member on all dress up occasions.

 6. Half Mourning costume. This is worn after the period of full mourning, or upon the death of people who are not immediate family. There are prescribed rules for this.

7. 'Traveling' costume. This is worn when traveling away from your home village. In the local dialect it is called the 'from us' costume.This has a dressy version of the everyday top instead of the Mutze.

8. Everyday work costume. This is all of cotton or linen, and is often blue. It can be in many other colors, however.

The dancing costume is less heavy and hot, and is often worn by younger women. The mutze is replaced by a sleeveless bodice and the sleeves of the chemise are visible..

It may seem odd that the ornamentation on the bodice is covered by the shawl. This is because the shawl is a relatively new part of the costume, being derived from city fashions of the late 1800's. The ornamented bodice is  older than that. It often happens that new items introduced into a Folk Costume take precedence over older items. Here is a closeup of the dance bodice from Unterelsbach.

This girl is wearing the Haube plopped on top of a modern hairstyle, with the curls spilling out the front. This clearly shows that the costume is no longer a living tradition in her area. This would never have been tolerated otherwise, the hair should be put up under the Haube.

In Ochsenfurt on dressy occasions, the hair is braided from 9 to 11 strands so that it forms a wide ribbon, the ends of which are then pinned to the top of the head. This is combined with a hairband across the front of the head [Samtband], and a comb and hairpins ornamenting the ends of the zoepfen where they are attached to the crown. This may be why the Haube has mostly been replaced by a kerchief in the Ochsenfurt area.

This last photo above was taken in 1956.

The bodice is cut low in front, and the front and lower sleeves are ornamented. In earlier times with gold or silver embroidery, today mostly with sequins and braid, and large costly metal buttons. Fingerless gloves with beads knitted in are worn on formal occasions.

The peaked tops of the sleeves, the Mutzen, are stiffened with cardboard inserts. 
The shawl is worn over the bodice, but the ends are tucked under the front. The shawl is pinned with a brooch, and an elaborate cross is worn over it. 

Note that the M on the apron formed by the application of ribbon is typical of the Ochsenfurt area. In other parts of Lower Franconia this is not found. The apron is made of brocade, damask or satin, except for everyday.

Ochsenfurt area. Note that the little girl does not wear the bodice with the Mutze. the Geldersheim costume area.

 The skirt is pleated, with two rows of blue ribbon appliqued above the hem. It is in various colors from black through red, depending on the occasion. The everyday work costume alone is gathered rather than pleated. The hem varies from ankle to mid or upper calf, depending on taste and age. the wadded hems of the cotton underskirt help the skirt to stand out. 

in the 1930's.

In 1957.

 In 1976.

White home knitted stockings in a variety of patterns are worn, along with low leather shoes. 
a basket completes the outfit, as in many parts of Germany and France. 
A prayer book and rosary are considered to be part of the jewelry which accompanies the costume. Rings, earrings, and other pieces are also worn. 

The men's costume consists of a linen shirt, white knee stockings, low black leather shoes, yellow chamois leather knickers, red vest with embroidery and/or braid on the left side with many buttons, a short jacket with many buttons or a long frock coat, depending on the formality of the occasion, and a tricorn hat or a round hat with fur around the edge. 

This photo is not from Ochsenfurt, as you can see, but the men's costume is similar over Lower Franconia.


 The everyday work outfit of both men and women was simple.

 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.

R. Kozak

 Brides often wear a crown of glass beads rather than the Haube.

A video showing the variations of the Ochsenfurter Gau costume, in German.


Source Material:
Reinhard Worschech, 'Trachten in Bayern 2 Unterfranken', Wuerzburg, Germany, 1982
Debionne/Meissner, 'Die Schoensten Deutschen Trachten, Munich, 1987
Josef Duenninger, 'Deutsche Trachten', Berlin, 1930's?
Erich Retzlaf-Duesseldorf, 'Deutsche Trachten', Leipzig, 1397
Oswald Erich, 'Deutsche Volkstrachten', Leipzig, 1934


  1. These are extraordinary and so beautiful. Thank you for posting.

  2. What a wonderful work you are doing!!! Thank you so much for sharing!