Friday, July 5, 2019

Folk Costume and Embroidery of the Schwalm, Hesse, Germany, part 2 men

Hello all,

Today I will continue my description of the Folk Costume and embroidery of the Schwalm by talking about the men.

You can find the location of the Schwalm within Hesse in my previous article.

In the above two images you can see some older men in Church going clothes, and some young men in summer festive attire, although somewhat casually worn.

Shirt  -  Hemd.

The shirt is always of white linen with collar, cuffs and long sleeves. For work days and for very old men it is devoid of embroidery, except, as is often the case in western Europe, for the initials of the owner or maker and year of making embroidered in.

Festive shirts for younger men, and especially wedding shirts are richly embroidered on the collar, cuffs and front opening with the typical Schwalm whitework, such as is also found on the women's costume. For older men, the embroidery is found only on the cuffs and collar.

In a couple of exceptional examples, the back is also embroidered.

Breeches are worn which are tied below the knee.  For winter workdays, they might be of dark blue wool, but for summer and for festive wear, they are of white linen or pale buckskin. The ties on the hem are either pale leather or dark blue.

In the past, dress breeches sometimes had a row of buttons on the outside.

Dress stockings for festive occasions are white and knit with fancy designs. Older men tend to wear dark blue stockings, and these were considered more appropriate for Church going.

Men wear shoes with laces, buckled shoes or boots. Laced shoes are appropriate for work, periods of mourning, and could even be worn to Church if covered with gaiters.

Bucked shoes are most commonly worn. For normal occasions the buckle is rectangular.

For more formal or festive occasions, if the man can afford it, boots are worn. Contrasting boot flaps are typical for this region.

Neck Kerchief  -  Halstuch

This is black and often of silk. For young men dressing up for a dance or some such, it would have colorful floral embroidery on two ends as you can see in this image above. 

For more regular occasions it was not worn. For older men and for going to Church, it was plain black and was tied in such a way as to make the two ends stick out to the sides. Take another look at the images above.

Vest  -  Weste

It is recorded that a plain black vest was worn by very young boys and also for working.

However today, one generally sees young men and boys wearing the red vest.

Today older men generally wear the blue vest, which looks like a short military jacket without sleeves. It has embroidery in somewhat lighter blue. This garment is called Leibchen.

Some paintings from the 1800's show both vests being worn at once.

This is no longer the case. There is a variant of the Leibchen called the Brokatweste, which is worn by young men for certain ceremonial occasions, such as leading the bridal wagon. This has similar embroidery, but in red.

There are a number of overgarments which may be worn over one of these vests.
The first is the Weisserkittel, or white linen jacket. This was once the dress jacket which was worn by young men, but is little used today except for some ceremonial occasions. See the two paintings above.

The second is a short, rococo cut jacket which is barely longer then the Leibchen, and ornamented in a very similar way, being dark blue with lighter blue embroidery. This is called Aermelding. It may be worn with either vest, or in the past, with both. Today it is more commonly worn by younger men.

the Kamisol is a longer jacket which bears much resemblance to the Aermelding. This was worn for more formal occasions. Some villages gave up this garment in the mid 20th cent.

For Churchgoing, weddings, and the most formal occasions today, one usually sees the black Kirchenrock. It is a long plain black frock coat that reaches the knees or somewhat lower. It is generally worn for the first time on a man's wedding day, and thereafter to Church and solemn occasions. It has replaced the Kamisol in some villages.




The Kamisol and Kirchenrock are always accompanied by the Dreimaster, or Kirchenhut, a large tricorn hat which is somewhat flattened front to back. These were, of course, removed when actually inside the Church.

For workdays, originally the outer garment was a black linen smock - Kittel. This was usually worn with the black or blue vest underneath.

In the 20th cent. this became elaborated and used as a more festive garment for Sundays and dancing by both young and older men. For older men, the garment has pleated epaulets and black ornamental stitching on the neck, as you can see here above.
Unmarried boys and young men have red embroidery on the collar, shoulders, cuffs and front opening, while young married men have green embroidery.


Four hats may be worn with the kittel. The first is the summertime everyday hat, the pelzmuetze. It is a round felt hat that is brown or gray.

The second is the everyday winter cap made from curly lamb fleece which has a tassel on top, called Bromkappe.

In the 20th century some younger men started wearing a peaked cap for everyday  and Sunday wear. This is an innovation.

The traditional dress cap for young men, both Married and Single, is the Otterfelzmuetze.
This is round, has an otter fur brim, taller on the right side, green satin with gallon on top in the shape of a cross, and an ornament in the center which sticks up. This is worn for Sundays, dances and Church by unmarred boys and young men. It may be also worn by young married men except to Church.


Thank You for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. It is a joy to see such traditions remembered and celebrated. I will close with just a few more images. 



Here are a couple more videos which feature this costume.

This short video shows how to put it on.

This video shows a couple in Schwalm costume visiting the nearby Catholic Marburg region and learning about the costumes of that region.

This video shows the village of Loshausen in the Schwalm. It shows stills of the village and people, and starting at about the 230 mark shows dances from this region.


Source Material:

These two websites are full of valuable material:

Brunhilde Miehe, 'Der Tracht Treu Geblieben' vol 1,  Bad Herschfeld, 1995
Gregor Hohenberg, 'Traditional Couture', Berlin, 2015
Erich Retzloff-Duesseldorf, 'Deutsche Trachten', Leipzig, 1937
Uwe Karsten, 'Deutsche Trachten', Vienna, 1980
Debionne/Meissner, 'Die Schoensten Deutschen Trachten', Munich, 1987
Ingo Gabor, 'Die Schwaelmer Tracht - Historische Entwicklung', Bad Endbach, 2008
Heinz Ruebeling et al, 'Die Schwaelmer Tracht', Ziegenhain, 1988