Saturday, May 22, 2021

A Closer View of Breton Costumes, Part 2. Northern Gernew or Cornouaille


Hello all, 

Today I continue my tour of the Costumes of Brittany with Bro Gernew, or the Pays Cornouaille, obviously named after Kernow, [Cornwall], whence many of the Breton People originated. They settled here after being driven from their homes by the marauding Anglo-Saxon invasion of their land. They kept alive the ancestral language of Britain, which has otherwise survived only in Wales and Cornwall. 

Bro Gernev

Pays Cornouailles in French


In French, Plougastel

The town of Plougastel has its own distinctive and very colorful costume, preserved from the 19th cent. with little change. This is often called the costume of Plougastel-Daoulas, as the distinctive costume of Daoulas seems to have been lost. This is the costume shown at the head of the article.

Loperc'hed and Daoulaz

In French, Loperhet and Daoulas

These two costumes lie to the west of Plougastel. I have been unable to find modern images of either; likely they have switched to the costume of Plougastel. Here is an old print of two men from around Dirinon. 

The characteristic coif of Loperhet [6 on the map above] is called Koeff Berr.

 The rest of the costume rather resembles that of Lower Leon, with the large shawl. Here are a few old photos.

A dressy older variant of this coif was worn in Dirinon.

The coif of Daoulas, [7 on the map above] was called kernevodez and was similar to that of Chateaulin. . The costume of Daoulas resembled that of Kernev [Cornouaille] rather than that of Lyon. Here are just a few images. 


In French, Châteaulin

In this region the two side lappets of the coif were worn pinned to the top. In time, these developed into two handle shaped extensions on the sides of the coif 

Here are a couple images of the old coif.

Here is the new form of the coif.

Little girls wear fancy bonnets in black or white.

Gouezec and St. Thois

In this region, there were originally two large wings over the undercap. 

Over time in Gouezec these wings changed into two loops that look quite different from those of Chateaulin. 

In St Thois, the wings became smaller without looping. 

A small simple coif was worn for everyday.


In French, Châteauneuf-du-Faou

In this region, as well as the next ones, the coif shrank until it covered only the bun of hair at the back of the head. In this area, the formal coif also had three loops of lace which extended in all directions 


In Gourin, the coif is basically the same, covering only the bun; but has only two loops, one on each side.The back of the coif is finely embroidered. The first two images show the older form followed by the more modern form. 


In French, Carhaix

Here the coif also covers just the bun, but with no loops or extensions. The back of the coif is finely embroidered, and there is a collar which is embroidered to match. 

The cornet is also used here for special occasions.

Gwareg - Rostrenenn

In French, Gouarec - Rostrenen

This is the northeasternmost part of Bro Gernev. I have been able to find little from this area. It appears that the coif is reduced to a bun cover in a simple netting. The cornet may be used for grand occasions, and the collar is smaller and simpler than in Carhaix. 

This will conclude this article. Cornouaille has so many costumes that I will cover it in two parts. 

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


  1. Once more you have presented such wonderful pictures. I especially liked the collar in Loperhet - not gathered but tucked into neckline and the tucked up and pinned in that lovely face-framing curve!
    Question: The old photographs of the Kastellin gentlemen seem to show threadworked or embroidered buttons on their coats. I cannot coerce my laptop onto a decent enlargement. Can you tell me if the old buttons are embroidered?
    Thank you again for the presentation. Charlotte in California

    1. Hello dehalley. I took another look at my sources, and saw that the old buttons were carved from Tagua nuts, also called vegetable ivory. They do indeed have designs on them, but they are not embroidered.

    2. Thank you for the answer. Tagua nut makes perfect sense in terms of practicality and ease of carving. I will have to start asking for Breton buttons when we can have button shows again. Charlotte in California