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The traditional dress from Harmersbach, my traditional dress

In my young age, I was member of the Song and Traditional Dress Club Fußbach, where I first got in contact with my regional traditional dress. Many years after that time I again developed an interest in these garments, and from an aunt in Oberharmersbach I got some traditional dress items as a gift, some belonging to the daily dress and other from the Sunday and the festive dress.

Both dresses are very different from each other. If you don't know them, you could think they don't belong together. They are from a catholic-dominated region. This traditional dress is worn in Oberharmersbach, Nordrach, but also in the 3 valleys Fußbach, Strohbach and Bermersbach.

Subsequently I will describe these traditional dresses. Not all information is complete, as the research has proved to be difficult.

The everyday and the Sunday dress

Women:

The everyday and the Sunday dress consist of a sleeveless dress, similar to a Dirndl, and a usually white blouse or simple shirt underneath. The dress has a "broom lacing" sewn into the seam. An apron is worn on the dress, which is mostly striped blue and white, and then a jacket is added, which is called "Peter". The characteristic attribute of this jacket is a velvet ribbon on the sleeves and the whole seam, except for the neckline, and also a pointy tip at the back. On Sundays a little scarf tied to a bow was worn around the neck.

The hair was worn in two braids, which were crossed in the neck and pinned up like a wreath. Around this arrangement a black velvet ribbon is worn. At work women usually wore a headscarf, either tied under the chin or in the back of the neck (Examples are shown here).


Sunday dress


Sunday dress from the back



My grandmother in her traditional dress
(notice the black bow, eventually
a sign that she was a widow)


My Sunday dress without the
jacket called "Peter"

On Sundays white stockings and black shoes were worn. Eventually straw shoes were worn everyday and around the house. These days they are only worn for carnival or as house shoes.


Everyday dress


Everyday dress without jacket
and with straw shoes


Assortment of little scarfs with embroidery

Men:

I don't know anything about the everyday or Sunday traditional dress of the men.

The main distinction of the Sunday dress is that it is made from more valuable materials. A nicer jacket (sometimes made of brocade and/or silk) and a nicer apron, in black or black/blue and very often made of silk, was worn. This traditional dress was worn on Sundays for church or on other not-so-important festivities.

The festive traditional dress

Women:

The festive dress is much more elaborate. It consists of a black (women) or blue (mostly girls, but in some villages also the women) long-sleeve dress with the outer fabric made of silk and a lining in the top made mostly of cotton (nowadays it could also be artificial fibers). The dress has a "broom lacing" sewn into the seam. An apron is worn on top. It can be hand- or machine-embroidered, or consist of a blue-black woven pattern (mostly flowers, this is the historically older version).

Around the neck laced collar cloths are worn, they must contain 6 different kinds of lace. I have two cloths with 3 kinds of lace each, to make fastening easier. On top of this a long fringed scarf is worn, it is crossed on the chest and tied in the back. The girls wear white shawls with white fringes to her first communion and a bit into adolescence. As young women (I don't know the exact timing of this, maybe when one grows out of the girl shawl) a coloured shawl with black fringes is worn. The shawl exists in different colours, very often it is light pink or light blue, but green and beige shawls are also worn. They can be made of one colour cloth with hand- or machine-made embroidery or also be made of a cloth with a woven pattern (again mostly flowers and the historically older version). The shawls are normally made of silk (artificial silk is also possible).

From the time of their first communion until marriage, the girls and young women wear a crown made of glass beads. After marriage women wear the golden cap or the bow cap with a black veil on the rim (the latter is also called the "rabbit ears"). The golden cap exists with a black bottom or with a bottom embroidered with glass beads and gold thread. Nowadays it could also happen that unmarried not-so-young women wear the cap (eventually this is due to marriage happening much later than it used to be, but the girls crown is not deemed appropriate any more for the reached age). I have heard this story concerning the different caps: It depends on one's wealth which kind of cap she wears. If a woman doesn't have so much money, she wears the bow cap, if she can afford a bit more, she wears the golden cap with the black bottom, and if she is wealthy, she wears the golden cap with the embroidery.

A picture of a woman with the bow cap can be seen here, also one of girls with white shawls and crowns as worn for first communion are depicted.


My festive dress with hand-
embroidered shawl and apron


My festive dress from the back,
here you can also see the cap


By the way I made the embroidery of the apron, because it was not possible to get a ready-made one. The ones depicted farther down are not in my posession.


Festive dress with
woven-pattern shawl


Pink shawls with woven pattern and
also apron with woven pattern


Embroidered version of gold cap


Examples of festive aprons

The jewellery consists of a long garnet necklace, which is wrapped around the neck several times. The more wraps, the wealthier the wearer. This necklace is called Halsnister, it has a cross as a pendant. If possible, fitting (garnet) earrings were worn. The pin is a must, because it holds the shawl in the middle (on the photo I wear a garnet pin, but compatible fashion jewellery is also common). Also in the back a pin is worn to secure the tie of the shawl.

To this dress white knitted stockings and black flat shoes are worn.

Men:

The men wear black knee-lenght pants with red tie-ribbons, a white shirt with a black bow and a red vest. The jacket has hip length (for festive occasions also knee-length versions could be worn) and is black with a red fold in the front and a short band collar. The jacket is open in the front. A black felt hat with rounded headpiece, black hatband and a brim with a stand-up edge is worn to this dress.

As jewellery very often a golden watch with a chain was fastened to the vest, with the watch tucked into the vest pocket. This kind of watches were frequently in use at a time when wrist watches did not exist yet.

The stockings are white or beige, black flat shoes are worn.


A former picture from the traditional
dress club, my parents and me


Example for a machine-embroidered shawl


Different shawls with woven patterns

Mourning dress

Women:

The mourning dress differs from the festive dress in that the apron and shawl worn are completely black, maybe with woven flower patterns, but without any embroidery. This dress was worn for the funeral and for some period of time to the big bank holidays. The lenght of the mourning period is not known to me, but very often it was something around one year.

Men:

I have no information if a mourning dress for men existed and how it could have looked.


Mourning dress

Other accessories

I got these headscarves made from a kind of velvet material also from my aunt, according to her information they were worn during the winter (most likely to the Sunday dress, as it is impossible to put something over the cap from the festive dress). One of the scarves was very damaged, I had to painstakingly repair it.

The shawl eventually also was worn on Sundays during colder days, on top of the jacket, but maybe also on the festive dress. These are my own assumptions, I have no further information.

The shawl made of red wool cloth and named winter shawl by my aunt is more known as a headscarf for the Gengenbach Witches, which are a figure of the Gengenbacher Fasent (carnival), see Narrenzunft Gengenbach (sorry the site is in german only). According to the information from my aunt in winter it was used as a shawl for the festive dress instead of the silk shawl.


Winter headscarf, most likely for Sundays


Winter headscarf without embroidery


Shawl as shoulder covering


Shawl detail


Winter shawl made of red wool cloth

Finally:

I have gathered here what I know about my traditional dress or what I got to know from others, but I cannot guarantee for the correctness of the information. If anyone reads this and has something to add, please let me know, then I will update this page: ).


Volkskunde Trachten (german)