Sunday, July 25, 2021

A Closer view of Breton costume, part 6; the Northeast Coast, St. Malo and Dol

Hello all, 

Today I will tackle the costumes of northeastern Brittany, the coastal portions of the Provinces of St. Malo and Dol. The inland portion of St Malo belongs to other costume regions. Here is a map showing the provinces. 

The costume regions do not follow the traditional provinces in this area; in particular the Rennes costume is worn over most of inland St. Malo. The western part of Dol province extends into the costume region of the banks of the Rance. In fact, I believe that Dol was only a separate province because of the political power of the Archbishop of Dol. Here is Creston's original map, showing the province borders superimposed on the costume regions. 

Much of this area is in the Province of Saint Malo, some parts are in Dol Province. This is the flag of Saint Malo Province.

Banks of the Renk, or Rance in French

The Renk, or Rance, is a wide river and estuary; almost a fjord, in northwest Brittany. The mouth is in the province of St. Malo, but part of the upstream portion of the estuary is in Dol. The costume regions are, from west to east, west littoral/Dinard, left bank, Dinan, right bank, and Clos Poulet / Cancale. 

1; West Littoral

Here is a rough map of the region, the lines are mine. 

The first region includes the coastal areas from Saint-Jacut-de-la-Mer to Dinard. The ancestral coif of this region was called Loq, which later was changed to Coq, because of the resemblance to a cock's crest. 

The distinguishing characteristic of this coif is that the rear was enlarged and extended upwards, originally in the shape of a sugar loaf, or blunted cone. Here is an early example in linen. As you can see, the lappets or wings were folded back and pinned to the rear. It was worn pinned to a simple bonnet which had ribbons that tied under the chin. A ribbon was wrapped around the raised back of the coif and tied in a bow in the rear, the ends were allowed to dangle. 

Here is a painting from 1861 showing a young country woman wearing this coif. You can see the under bonnet, and that the wings were folded back and then wrapped to the rear. 

Later the rear portion was highly pleated and flattened from side to side, each community having its own interpretation. Here we see a somewhat later print. In the center is an older woman wearing this style of coif, bracketed by two younger women in the newer version, on the left from Dinard, with fine pleats, and on the right from St. Malo, with fine pleats formed into waves. 

I will not go into every variant, as almost every parish had its own interpretation. 

Saint-Jacut-de-la-Mer in French

Sant-Yagu-an-Enez in Breton

This community lies on a peninsula at the western edge of this costume region. The coif worn is the loq. Here is the layout. The ribbons, which form an important part of the coif are wrapped over the top and then tied in the rear below the crest. 

This photo shows guests at an abby in St Jacut. Notice that the servers are wearing an urban type coif similar to that of Brest or Quintin.

The coif on the left is from St Briac, the one on the right from St Jacut. They have been washed, but not ironed, and so have lost the pleats. 

Sant-Briag in Breton

Saint-Briac-sur-Mer in French

Saint-Lunaire in French

Sant-Luner in Breton

Dinard in French

Dinarzh in Breton

Here are a couple of old drawings of the Dinard costume and coif. 

This artist seems to have misinterpreted how the coif was folded, but shows the rest of the outfit well. 

There is one old drawing of a woman from the quarter of St Enogat showing the front of the coif made of very wide lace and tilted up in front when the wings are pinned back. 

Here are some modern interpretations of the coif, perhaps descended from this variant. [Or perhaps the artist did not quite get it right.]

2; Left Bank of the Rance

This region includes the banks of the Renk or Rance estuary between Dinard and Dinan, as far inland as Ploubalay [now called Beaussais-sur-Mer] and Plessix-Balisson

Since the later coifs of this region are rather small, one might think that they are simpler; this is not the case. The ribbons of the original coif did not shrink, and here become a significant part of the coif. 

The loq, or coq, was originally worn here as well, as is evidenced by this example from Plouhern, or Plouër in French, from 1830. 

By 1860, it had become replaced by the coif carène, [boat hull coif], which would become typical of this region. This example is also from Plouër.

The pleated crest had developed into two curved triangles that were quilted/stitched with many parallel lines, so that when sewn onto the coif, they resembled the lower hull of the bow of a boat. The lower, unpleated part of the back of the coif became a separate piece that the 'hull' was sewn onto. 

The ribbon that was once wrapped around the base of the crest to tie in back now had to be pinned on. 

Then the wings of the coif were still wrapped to the rear and pinned in place. 

In Plouër, the reduction in size continued until the resulting coif was called 'swallowtail', and looked like this.

Here are a few more images from Plouër. 

In the rest of the west bank, the coif was not taken to such extremes. The underbonnet was retained, although reduced. Here is an example of bonnet and coif from Taden. The coif is on the left, and the bonnet on the right. 

During the week, when going out, the underbonnet would be tied on with a ribbon, and a kerchief worn over it. Notice that both the ribbon and kerchief are tied on the side. 

For dress occasions, the hair would be put up, and then the ribbon tied around the head. The bonnet would be pinned to the ribbon, and to the hair bun in the back. The coif is then pinned to the bonnet, leaving the front of it visible, and then the wings are folded back and pinned. Another ribbon is tied into a bow, and pinned to the rear. 

I have found no actual photos from Taden. 

Most other parts of this region had similar ways of putting on the bonnet and coif, mostly pinning the ribbon onto the coif before folding the wings back. In this example, the ribbon is replaced by a length of lace. 

Here are a couple of photos of a bonnet, ribbons and coif from Plouvalae,  Ploubalay in French. If you look closely, you will see all the pieces we talked about above, the ribbons attached to the bonnet, the ribbons pinned to the front of the coif, which form a bow and tails behind, and the wings of the coif folded back and pinned. 

Here is a photo of a woman from Ploubalay in costume. 

 Some more photos of this costume:

Pleurestud, Pleurtuit in French

Langenan, or Languenan in French


Pleslin - Trigavou in French


Langrolay in French

Exact origin not specified

3; Dinan City

This city is spelled the same in both Breton and French. The full loq or coq was worn here, often somewhat diminished in size compared to those of the coastal communities. 

An urban style bonnet also developed here, similar to those of Brest, Quintin, St Brieuc and Rennes. The Dinan version had ruched lace around the edge, a ribbon folded into a rosette attached at the rear, and multiple rows of ruched lace added to the front portion of the top. This puffed up when properly ironed and 'piped', so that it was commonly known as 'the snowball'. 

Here is a photo of one of these bonnets. This one has been washed, but not starched or ironed, so the lace is just a limp mass, and is not standing up in the proper manner. 

4; Right Bank of the Rance

This costume region extends south to include Evrann, Évran in French, east as far as Minieg-Morvan, Miniac-Morvan in French. It may be considered to include St Malo in the north, but the area just south of St Malo belongs to the Cancale costume region. Thus the northern border is more difficult to establish.

One distinguishing characteristic of both the right bank and Cancale regions is the undercoif, which stands tall, and is starched with several gadroons across the top, aligned forward and back. 

Some areas have more gadroons and others fewer, some are taller and more triangular in cross section, whereas others have more semicircular cross sections like this one. 

On regular days this coif was worn by itself or with a kerchief over it. 

This undercoif was worn all through the right bank, and along the coast in St Malo, Cancale,  all the way to the border with Normandy, and has made inroads into inland Dol as well. 

The coif itself is the coq, the crest varying by location and time period. Here we see it mounted onto a gadrooned coif made of patterned lace. The wide lace wings are folded back and pinned at the rear. This one is from 1860. From the ridges on the crest I would guess that this is from around Evran. 

Notice the ribbon. This is usually affixed to the lower rear part of the coif. It is wrapped around the crest and tied in a bow at the nape of the neck. As in the west bank, when the coif became smaller, the ribbon did not, and became a more prominent part of the coif. 

This coif, from the end of the 19th cent., is known to be from the Evran region. Note the similarity of the crest, even though the size has diminished. The wings have narrowed, and are pinned to the tip of the crest. The ribbons are attached to the sides of the wings and are tied in a bow behind. The under coif has it own ribbons which are tied at the side of the face. 

This woman is also from the area around Evran. 

This woman is wearing an outfit from the area of Maez-Geraod, Les Champs-Géraux in French, somewhat north of Evran. The gadrooned  undercoif is clearly visible, with the coif itself pinned on the rear, with the wings out to the sides. 

This woman may be from the same area.

Lanvalae, Langvallay in French, lies just across the Rance from Dinan. This first image shows a coif from this area. The wide ribbons are attached to the base of the crest, are wrapped around the front, and then tied at the nape. The tips of the wings are also pinned behind, and stand out. 

Here are a couple of sketches of the Langvallay costume, showing how the coif was arranged. 

Moving north again, we come to Pleudehen,  Pleudihen in French. The coif here is another variant on the theme. Note the fine cords sewn into the crest and wings to provide some rigidity.

Inland and slightly to the north lies Miniac-Morvan.

In later years this coif also grew smaller, but with all the pieces intact. 

The northernmost part of this area may be Sant-Suliav, Saint-Suliac in French. This first sketch shows how to mount the coif. 

Just a couple of images from the right bank, location not specified. 

City of Sant-Maloù, Saint-Malo in French

The city of St Malo wears the coq, originally with the gadrooned undercoif. It could be considered part of the right bank. The outlying metropolitan areas to the east and south wear the Cancale type coif, although it appears that Saint Servan, at least, used to wear the coq as well.

Here are a couple of images of the coq of St Malo.

This photo shows the old coif from Saint Servan.

St Malo coif from 1840.

In the last two photos you can clearly see the gadrooned undercoif. As in all parts of the right bank and Cancale, this was worn by itself as an indoor or an everyday coif. 

Modern folkloric groups from both Saint Malo and St Servan wear a version of the grand coq for performances, although they often seem to omit the undercoif, or wear an older non gadrooned version, like this one.

Here are images of modern coif wearers. 

In this image, the girl on the left is wearing a St Malo coif, with a girl from Kemper in the center, and one from Pont Aven on the right. 

This image is meant to show the old coif from Saint Servan. 

5; Kankaven and Poualed

 Cancale and Clos Poulet in French

This region consists of the peninsula between the Rance estuary, the English Channel and the bay of mont Saint-Michel. The coif also made inroads into the right bank, and the coast of Dol, at least to Cherrueix, and likely to the border with Normandy.

The original coif of this region resembled the catiole of Rennes, but with the back reduced and the wings wide and full. The wings were folded back on themselves to lie flat, and were pinned to the back of a simple bonnet, which tied under the chin with ribbons. 

These images show that Parame, Paramé in French, which lies on the Atlantic coast just east of Saint Malo, also wore this coif. 

Later the coif diminished in size, and the undercoif developed gadroons. As in neighboring regions, the undercoif was worn by itself on more ordinary occasions. The coifs with patterned lace were worn by young women. 

During weather or for periods of mourning, a kerchief was sometimes worn over it. 

The form varied by location. In Cancale itself, the back of the coif was triangular, and so stood tall, as in this photo just above, and the coif, of reduced size, was pinned to the back of it. 

The edges of the coif had ruched lace, which was ironed into 'pipes', like an Elizabethan ruff. The wings were folded back on each other and pinned into place. 

These photos are of a coif from Cancale, it is shown on the form without the undercoif, and so is in the wrong orientation. It is also not properly starched and ironed, so the lace is just hanging limply. 

Some images of the great coif of Cancale in later years. 

In Parame, the bonnet had a horseshoe shaped back, and did not stand as tall. 

The result is that the coif, of a similar shape, was pinned to the top of the bonnet, not the back, and so lay flat on top. Often a ribbon tied into a bow was pinned to the back of the coif, with the ends hanging down. Here are some images of the Parame version of the coif. 

In Sant-Servan, Saint-Servan in French, which lies just to the south of St Malo on the Rance Estuary, this coif replaced the coq at some point. 

The coif was the same as in Cancale and Parame, with starched wings. The wings were folded over each other, and then one end was pinned in such a manner as to stand out at 90 degrees. This form of the coif was also sometimes found further south, and was called the 'windmill'.

Here is an image of the coif and undercoif of Gouenaer, La Gouesnière in French. It apparently was mounted in the same way as in Cancale. 

Kerruer in Breton, Chaéruér in Gallo, Cherrueix in French

This city lies on the central coast of Dol Province, but uses a version of the Cancale coif. 

The following photos show the undercoifs and coifs separately, the coifs would only have been worn mounted on the undercoifs as shown above. 

A few miscellaneous images of this costume. 

6; Bro Zol, Paeï de Dol in Gallo, Pays Dol in French

This province lies in the extreme northeast of Brittany. The history of the area goes back at least to 549 when Sts Teilo and Samson came from Britain to found a settlement there. It is the site of one of the largest standing stones in the world, in Champs Dolent, which stands over 9 meters above the ground. The reigning House of Stewart of Scotland had its origin here; the Stewart monarchs descend from Alan the Seneschal of the Bishop of Dol. The Archbishop of Dol was very influential in the history of Brittany. 

Historical drawings show a linen coif with a large peak in front and wings pinned to the top that narrowed toward the ends. This was pinned to an undercap that was tied under the chin. 

In this drawing we see a woman from Cancale on the left, and a woman from Dol on the right.

In later years, the coif lost the large peak or bill in front, but did not otherwise much alter or shrink. Unlike most Breton coifs this one was never made of lace or tulle. You can see just the narrowest of lace edgings on one of the coifs above. 

The ribbons were wrapped around the peak of the coif and tied at the nape of the neck. Not only did the coif not diminish, the wings became longer until they just about reached the shoulders. Here is a photo of a woman with her granddaughters, and you can see that their wings are longer than hers. 

The coif kept its peak and creased crest as long as it was worn. Here is an example of an undercoif. Some sources claim that the sketches above show a gadrooned undercoif, but I dont see it, and it does not look like it in any of the photos. 

One unique garment worn by these woman was a particular cape with velvet trim. 

Around the turn of the 20th cent this coif was hardly worn, being replaced by the Cancale coif in the north and the catiole and polka of Rennes in the south, all of which were smaller, lighter, and easier to put on. 

A few more images of this costume. 

And that concludes this portion of my look at the costumes of Brittany. 

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
Yann Guesdon, 'Coiffes de Bretagne', Spezet, 2014
R. Y. Creston, 'Le Costume Breton', Paris, 1974
Charles Freger, 'Portraits in Lace - Breton Women', London, 2015
Jean-Pierre Gonidec, 'Coiffes et Costumes des Bretons', Spezet,  2021
Pierre Rochereau, ' Coiffes et Costumes des Bords de Rance', Dinan, 1989
Simone Morand, 'Coiffes et Costumes de l'Ancien Comte de Rennes', Quimper, 1979