Traditional costume – Hindeloopen

I love traditional costumes, they’re fascinating. There is usually a very long tradition and history of how the clothing became a certain way. Also, a lot of the time, every piece of the costume tells a story. You can often tell from someones clothes their age, their faith, their martial status, their wealth and about family tragedies.

The Netherlands has a lot of different traditional costumes, a few of which are actually still worn every day by a small group of women. They are disappearing though, there are no new wearers, and those still there are usually over 60. It’s understandable, people used to live in small communities their entire lives. Go to school, get married, work and die in the same small village. That world is gone though, and there’s no place for the old traditions in modern society. Even though I could not blame anyone for not wearing the costumes all day every day, I can’t feel anything but sad at the thought that in 30 years, traditional costume will be completely gone from daily life the Netherlands.

Every now and then, I’ll try to dedicate a post in here to the traditional costumes of my country. This post will be about Hindeloopen. Hindeloopen is a small town in Friesland, in the north of the country. It used to be a very wealthy sea trading town, which strongly influenced the clothing worn. The costume from Hindeloopen is probably my favourite of all Dutch costumes, but it is also the one which has been gone from daily life the longest. The last woman who wore it daily past away in 1883. The town has always kept the tradition somewhat alive though, since 1883 there have always been women who wore it on special occasions, up to today.

Because of its location on the sea and the international perspective of the inhabitants, the costume worn in Hindeloopen was actually very different than any other in the province. Its main characteristic is the brightly colored chintz fabrics and the very characteristic hats.

Which type of hat was worn was decided by marital status. This print shows one married and one unmarried woman. The one of the left is of an unmarried woman. Once she married, she would start wearing the other, higher headdress.

As dress, the women would wear a black skirt, a black bodice (/vest) with colored strings, a checkered handcerchief above this, a checkered apron, and either a long or a short chintz jacket. This is excluding the underwear of several underskirts, and sometimes the jacket was left off, in which case either an under-jacket or separate sleeves could be worn. This short clip shows a modern woman getting dressed.

The jackets are typical for Hindeloopen dress, especially the long ‘wentke’. The short jackets were called ‘kassekein’.

Its these jackets which I particularly love. The chintz fabrics were imported from India and quite expensive. They were all different, as they mostly hand painted. The general colors were red, but when in mourning, blue fabrics were used. I particularly love how you can see the top-stitching on the inside of this piece.

Most of what we know today of the original costume, we know from one artist who painted a lot of women. The picture below shows several types of mourning. Which type was worn was decided by how close the person dying was to you and how long ago it was that they passed away. There were rules for when you could change one type for another. As people lived close to the sea and the life of a fisherman or trader was dangerous, it was not always uncommon to wear mourning for very long periods of time.

The descriptions say: D: A woman in mourning with black frock at the beginning of 1700. E: A woman in deepest mourning with skirt over her head. Clothing from the last of 1700 and 1800. F: A woman in black and blue in the sleeves with first lightening of the mourning. G: A woman in black and white, with a kassekeine in the second lightening of mourning. H: A girl in daily, with the wente and a striped cloth. Third lightening of mourning.

The same patterns and colors would also appear in the homes of people. Hindeloopen furniture is still known for the beautiful flowered paint work.

Although the costume is not worn anymore on a daily basis, the organization Aald Hielpen protecting the costume is over a hundred years old itself. Almost right after the disappearance, this organization started with protecting the tradition by practicing it for special occasions.

8 thoughts on “Traditional costume – Hindeloopen

  1. hi, I am a post graduate student, studying Design History at the Royal College of Art/Victoria & Albert. I am doing research on a Hindeloopen dress from the early 18th century and I was wondering if I can further speak with you regarding mourning dress.

    • Hi, sounds like very interesting research! You’re welcome to ask any questions you of course! I’m not an absolute expert, just interested, so it might also be worthwhile to contact Aald Hielpen, the costume group from Hindeloopen itself whose members still wear the costume. Another option would be Museum Hindeloopen, the museum displaying old interiors and costumes from the town. I’ve no experience contacting either with particular questions, but these two organisations are definitely where a lot of the knowledge is at! Aald Hielpen: Museum Hindeloopen:

  2. Any way to get a “wentke ” pattern ? Am in the US and cannot find one anywhere – My wife is of German – Dutch ancestry and is looking for one. Thank you for any and all help

  3. I am Billy’s wife. I contacted Aald Hielpen as well as the museum hindeloopen, both no pattern. I contacted the Orange County Dutch Society in the United States, No luck. I’ve contacted several other people in the United States, and abroad, that sew and have done
    various types of 18th century women’s clothing – no luck. This search for a wentke pattern has been going on now for several years.

    I can reproduce from images what I believe would be a wentke, which is what I may end up doing, as all searching leads to dead ends.

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