Thursday, April 22, 2021

A Closer Overview of Breton Costumes, part 1. Leon and Breger - Tregor


Hello all, 

A while ago I did a very general overview of Breton Costumes. Today I would like to revisit the subject in more detail. To that end I present this series of articles. Today, France is divided into départements. These are purely administrative divisions, and do not, for the most part, reflect the traditional culture of France. Because of that I will ignore them, and present the costumes according to the traditional Provinces and regions. Here are two maps of Brittany showing the nine traditional regions in Breton and in French. 


In this article I will present the costumes of the two northwest Bro, or Pays, of Leon and Breger or Tregor. 

The coifs and costumes do not only vary by region, but also by social class [peasant, townswoman], by village, by social occasion, whether regular or special dress, and by time period. One example, the cornet, a large cone shaped coif, was worn in many places for highest dress. Thus, the topic is quite complicated. 

I will be following R. Y. Creston's division of Breton Costumes, which he divided into 66 categories, according to the following map:

The Folk Costumes of Brittany are more numerous and elaborate in the west, in Lower Brittany, where the Celtic culture and language are more alive and active. In Brittany, as also in France, the main distinction between different costumes lies in the coif. All of these developed from the standard mob cap worn in so many places in western Europe. 

Bro Leon

Pays de Léon in French


This is an island off the west coast of Leon, called in French Ouessant, and in English, Ushant. 

Here is a schematic of the coif of Eusa.

Here we see some girls from Ouessant visiting Alsace. 

The more everyday coif consists of a black cap with a large black bow. 

As a symbol of Celtic Heritage, men from Ushant sometimes wear the kilt with their own tartan. 

Lower Leon

The costume of this area is rather simple, as is the coif. Often a very large shawl is worn, possibly to fight the chill of being on the coast, with the pinafore apron pinned over it. The shawl may be richly embroidered, usually in one color to match the shawl. The coif is simple in shape, but may also have embroidery on it. 

Brest & Landerneau

The cities of Brest and Landerneau, together with some locations in the countryside are home to a unique coif worn by townswomen. 

Other women in the villages wore the coif of Lower Leon in the west, 

Or Upper Leon in the east. 

Upper Leon

The costume of Upper Leon is also rather simple, and the coif is similar to that of Lower Leon, except that it has two lace bands that stand up from the coif on either side. 


In Pays Pagan, they often wear the 19th cent. version of the costume, which was very colorful. For some reason in the 20th cent. the colors changed to black and subdued hues.

Here is a view of the back of the coif. 

In some communities they use a more modern version of the costume. Also, in some communities the cornet style coif is used. In this first image, we can see the bonnet worn by young girls. This is a very common usage. The very large Leonese shawl is still in evidence.

Here we can see women from three different communities. 

Saint Pol de Leon

In Saint Pol, the costume is similar to that of Pays Pagan, but the coif is shorter, and of a different shape. 

The cornet is sometimes used in this region as well. Here is a photo of a triple wedding in the more sober colors of the 20th cent. 

Later in the 20th cent the coif became very simple. It sometimes had two peaks. 

Ile de Batz

Not to be confused with Bourg de Batz, which is on the southern coast. The coif of the island is distinguished by its double peak, similar to some on the mainland coast.


The coif of Taule started out very similar to that of St. Pol. 

The modern coif has become very small, and is little worn. 

In Henvic, the coif is a bit different. 


In Morlaix, the typical coif of the region had the back of the cap extended, forming a sort of bag that hangs off the rear of the coif. 

The formal coif is similar to that of Tregor, where two lappets are pinned to the top. 


Le Trégor in French

The costume region does not exactly correspond to the borders of the province. 

Tregor seems to have the same costume over all of its territory with minimal changes. The costume also extends into northwestern Goelo and part of Gernew or Cornouaille. The coif, toukenn, consists of a small bag with two pointed extensions. The exact angle and width varies with locality,. 

The formal coif, katiolle, has large wings pinned to the top. 

Ile de Brehat

The costume of the Isle of Brehat is practical and workaday. 

That is enough for the first part of this article. 
Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. 

Roman K. 


Source material:
Victor Lhuer, 'Les Costumes Bretons', 2001
Pierre Jakez Helias, 'Coiffes et Costumes de Bretagne', Chateaulin, 1983
Josepj Jigourel & Yanna Fournier, 'Costumes de Bretagne', Brest, 2000
Bruno Helias, 'Breton Costumes', Florence, 1997
Yann Guesdon, 'Costumes de Bretagne', Quimper, 2011