Station: [16] Traditional Costume

M: In many regions, traditional costumes have vanished and been forgotten. But not on Föhr!

F: Traditional costumes have always been worn on the island and still are. The current style of dress evolved in the late 18th century from an older, completely different style. We only know about the latter from pictures that have come down to us.
The local men have never worn traditional costume. Historically, they would go to sea, and unlike their wives, always followed the fashions of the day as seen in the major port cities on the mainland.

M: Since the 1970s, traditional dress has no longer been worn in day-to-day life. But in the middle of the display case, you can see the two traditional costumes that are still common today: the festive costume with a white apron and elaborate pectoral jewellery, and the Sunday costume with a shawl crossed over the chest. They’re worn on special occasions. Even now, for instance, almost all the young girls on Föhr wear traditional costume in church for their Confirmation.

F: On the left, you can see the festive costume worn by a woman from Wyk for her engagement in 1824. This two-hundred-year-old dress differs from today’s style in cut, choice of fabrics and colours. Take the headscarf: it’s not supported by a cardboard insert as in later times, and the silver buttons are all arranged on one side. So traditional costumes don’t represent a single style that remained consistent over centuries; they also change in line with fashion. By tweaking the design of their costume, women were able to indicate whether they followed fashion, or were attached to the old style of dress.

M: Now take a look at the two figures on the right.
The woman in the simple skirt and blue blouse is shown wearing everyday dress. In the 19th century, that’s what you wore to work in the fields. The headscarf was tied in a way that left only the area around the eyes exposed -- as protection from the sun. Tourism had already arrived on the island by then. Fine ladies from the city strolled along the Sandwall with their parasols, maintaining their pale, upper class complexions. Having a tan meant you were a peasant. The women of Föhr embraced the new ideal of beauty and covered their faces.

F: On the far right, we have a mourning costume from the parish of St. Johannis in Nieblum. Women who were close to the deceased wore what’s known as a surregkap at the funeral – a black pleated cloak. They hid their faces under the cloak and walked behind the coffin. After the funeral, the cloak was wrapped around a stick and put away until the next time it was needed. The pleats of the surregkap were folded by hand and “set” in a hot oven. The practice of wearing a surregkap fell out of favour in the late 19th century.

Fotos: © Dr.-Carl-Häberlin-Friesen-Museum