Sunday, May 30, 2021

A Closer view of Breton Costume, Part 4: Breton speaking Bro Gwened or Vannetais


Hello all, 
Today I would like to continue my series on Breton Costumes by looking at the province of Gwened, or Vannes in French. As Gernew or Cornouailles was named after Cornwall, so Gwened is named after the Welsh province of Gwynedd, which was once a Kingdom in its own right, again emphasizing the British origin of the Breton People. The French name Vannes is also derived from Gwynedd, via the Latin form Venedotia. Here is a map showing the location of Gwened.


Pays Vannetais in French

Most of Bro Gwened is traditionally Breton speaking, but the eastern part lies within the Gallo linguistic area. Nonetheless, this was always considered to form one region. 

Bro Pourlet 

Pays Pourlet in French 

Note that this is a Breton word, not French, so the final T is pronounced. Earlier it was called Bro or Pays Gwenedour. It is also often called by the name of its main city, Ar Gemene, or in French, Guémené-sur-Scorff. The costume is distinguished by rows of many buttons on the bodice, vest and jackets of both men and women. Thus this costume is sometimes called 'the thousand buttons'. Here is a pair of drawings of the costume as worn in 1844. In this region, as in so many others many colors were used in this era.

In the later versions of the costume, black becomes predominant, with bands of velvet sewn onto the dress outfits. You will notice the headgear of the woman consists of two parts, a bonnet which ties under the chin, and a coif which sits on top with backwards pointing lappets, [in the older version the ends of the lappets are folded forwards]. Later the coif developed a distinctive form with these same two parts. Here are images of the costume around 1900. Note the rows of buttons on both the man and the woman. 

Here are just a few images of the more modern version of the coif. 

Some later examples of the coif became very small. Note that the tips are still folded. 

Just to the west, around Ar Faoued, [Le Faouet in French], a version of this costume was worn, even though it is technically in Cornouailles and the Rosparden region. 

Another type of headgear was worn for more everyday occasions. This is called the capot, and basically consists of a closed cylinder with a kerchief attached to the back. It is worn over a plain version of the underbonnet. 

The Gavotte of Pourlet is renowned for the high leaps of the men. Here is a group from Pontivy [in Pontivy costume] performing it. 

Patches of velvet were applied to the outerwear, the composition depending on locality. Men's jackets were made of either black or white wool under these patches. 

A few more images of this costume. 

Here are a couple of little girls wearing the underbonnet by itself.

If you look at this photo of a wedding, you will see no fewer than 4 wine bottles being poured.

Bro Pondi

Pays Pontivy in French

The old coif in this region looked much like that of their neighbors. 

The modern coif developed simply by shortening the old coif and adding lace. Here is an intermediate example. No extra loops were added. 

Finally the coif covered only the top part of the head. 

From the front, only two small wings are visible. 

The capot was also worn in this area. 

The men's costume is typified by the 'white sheep', dañvad gwenn, mouton blanc in French. This refers to the white wool vest and jacket which is ornamented with black cloth applique and embroidery in patterns specific to each locality. The silver buttons, while numerous, do not approach the numbers found in Pourlet. 

Around the town of Noyal-Pontivy the jacket is black or dark blue. 

The apron often has rich embroidery like that found in Vannes. Here are some more images of this costume. 

Here a dance group from Pontivy is performing the Gavotte from Pourlet. 

Here is a group from Pondi doing the dance Kost er C'hoed, a dance from northern Gwened, in a rather modern version of the costume. 

Baud in French

In this region, the old coif hung straight down in either two or three wings. 

Instead of changing the shape of the coif, as was done in so many other regions. they simply replaced the plain linen with lace. Shortening the coif somewhat, but otherwise retaining the same shape. 

Many later versions of the coif became made completely of lace. 

Later the aprons became elaborately embroidered, Richelieu embroidery being especially popular. 

Bro an Oriant

Pays de Lorient in French

This region lies in the southwest of Vannetais, and includes Enez Groe, Ile de Groix in French, and also the southeast corner of Cornouaille, Kloars Karnoed, Clohars Carnoët in French. The coif was originally as large as in the other parts of Bro Gwened. 

In this last image we see the old woman in the old coif, and the young woman in the new coif, which developed a short of shield which sticks up from the front. Note the very large bib on the aprons. This continued to be a hallmark of this costume. The apron was often elaborately embroidered as well. 

The coifs from Groe or Groix often had small extensions on the sides that are remnants of the ties of the coif. 

The capot is also worn here. 

A few more images. 

An Alre

Auray in French

This region is sometimes called Upper Vannetais, as Lorient is called Lower Vannetais. It is named after the city of Alre, Auray in French, even though it also contains the city of Gwened or Vannes. It includes the peninsula of Kiberen or Quiberon which lies west of Ar Mor Bihan, or the Gulf of Morbihan, but does not include the peninsula to its east, or the islands within it. 
The coif is somewhat similar to both those of Pontivy and Lorient, covering only the top of the head, but it has a rather different shape from either. 

The bib of the apron is not quite as large as in Lorient, there being no cutout for the neck, and there is often a lace collarette behind. The aprons are often embroidered, and in the City of Vannes and the area around the Gulf of Morbihan, shawls may be worn, as in Rhuys. 

Here we see a bridal couple, the bride wearing a crown on top of her coif, as well as garlands hanging from her shoulders. 

Here we see a closeup of a bridal crown and garland. 

The image at the head of this article is from this region. Here are just a couple more images from the same performance. Note that the woman in the capot is in Pourlet costume, which one assumes is why there is trouble. 

Gourenez Rewiz & Enizenac'h

Presqu'uile de Rhuys & Ile aux Moines in French

This region includes the tip of the Rewiz or Rhuys peninsula and the islands which lie within the Gulf of Morbihan. The women wear a round coif, and on formal occasions a lace shawl. 

Here we have a bride with crown and garland added to the regular costume. 

Ar Gerveur

Belle-Île-en-Mer in French

I have found little information about this costume. 

And I will conclude this article here. This is the end of Breton speaking Brittany. The eastern part traditionally spoke a Romance dialect called Gallo, and I will continue to cover the rest of the territory in more article. 

Thank You for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. I see many embroidery ideas in the text. 

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