Chintz in the Fries museum – color & pattern

Last weekend I finally got a chance to visit the current exhibition on chintz in the Fries museum, ‘Sits – Katoen in bloei’, or ‘Chintz – Cotton in bloom’. It was stunning! I had to force myself to look at one thing at a time, because as soon as I turned around I’d see so much more loveliness. We went on Friday and saw the exhibition, and then enjoyed a lovely day with talks on Saturday, organized by the Dutch costume society. This included a very interesting talk by the curator of the exhibition Gieneke Arnolli, and we took the opportunity to visit again after her talk and see some things we’d missed first time! (To all my Dutch readers: it’s definitely recommended, I’d go again for a 3rd if I lived closer by. It’s running until September 11th)

Purple chintz bed/wall hanging in the back (India, 1700-1725). Three jacket/skirt combinations in the front.

Seriously, I could look at this all day

Because I love chintz (see this post for a very extensive history and background), I’m going to split my blog about the exhibition into two parts. I’ve learned some more things, and because I now have loads of photos of the lovely chintz items I can illustrate this post with! Click the image for a larger version. I’ll also work on uploading all my images and link to those in the next post, as there’s way too much for even two blog posts.

For this first post: a little more about the use of color in chintz, and the various patterns.

The colors and patterns or chintz are made on bleached cotton, making white the first color you see in chintz. Lines are made in a black/dark brown color. Aside from this, the main colors are often made with meekrap (red) and indigo (blue), and you see shades of red and blue a lot. Additionally, purple sometimes occurs, as well as yellow and green.

Chintz coupon with flower and tree motifs. Collection page:

Beautiful wall-hanging with tree patterns and a wide array of colors.

Nowadays, we think of chintz mainly having a white ground, with colored flowers and leafs. But that’s quite a western view on chintz. Many chintzes for the Asian market were made with a read ground. In contrast, the English (and I believe also the American) market greatly favored white-ground chintz, and you barely see any colored grounds. Although the majority of Dutch chintz also has a white ground,  In the Netherlands, you see a relatively high amount of chintzes with colored ground. Mostly red, but also blue, green, purple, dark brown and even ‘spotted’ ground. I personally love these, and the museum had some lovely examples.

Girl's ensemble of red ground chintz jacket and chintz skirt. Fabric jacket: India, 1725-1775, jacket ca. 1760.

Young girl’s jacket in red ground chintz.

Girl's cotton dress (1700-1750), closing at the back. The petticoat is embroidered with silk on cotton in chintz-inspired flowers.

Dark brown ground on a girl’s dress

Pair of chintz sleeves with a blue ground. Cotton made in India 1700-1750, sleeves worn ca. 1760.

Blue ground sleeves

Chintz jacket, roses on a spotted ground (Fabric India, 1775-1790). Lovely pleats in the back, and a very low front. You can see the ground is made with tiny little dots instead of a full color. Collection page:

Spotted ground on a jacket. This shows the pleats in the back






Interesting to note is that the colored ground chintz is mostly used for blankets/spreads, sleeves, baby caps and jackets. Skirts of chintz are most commonly white. All the sunhat linings in this exhibition were also with a white ground. For the kraplappen (I’ll go into their use in the next post!), you see mostly white but also some red.

Close-up of chintz fabric of an 18th century skirt.

Detail of a skirt.

Detail of kraplap, or onderst in chintz.

Detail of a kraplap, Indian chintz with a white ground.




In contrast, the town of Hindeloopen uses a lot of red ground in their traditional costume.

Details of a red ground chintz (India, ca. 1750) wentke from Hindeloopen. Collection page:

Detail of a Wentke from Hindeloopen. This might’ve been the prettiest fabric in the exhibition.


Traditionally, chintz practically always included white (either as ground or detail color), black (mostly lines), and both red and blue as main colors. However, in the Netherlands we also have a number of two-colored chintz. White-black, white-blue and white-red. These were probably specifically made for the Dutch market, and especially in Hindeloopen worn for very specific occasions.

Hindeloopen had a very specific mourning tradition, with up to 7 stages of mourning. Although chintz wasn’t worn for the heaviest stage (all black), the black-white chintz comes into play for the ‘slightly-less heavy’ stages.

Details of Wentke from Hindeloopen for heavy mourning.

Back of a Wentke for heavier mourning.


In an even lighter mourning stage, blue would enter the scene, and you get gorgeous white-blue ensembles for light mourning. As ‘out-of-mourning’ dress was mostly red, this relatively light-colored combo of white-blue would still clearly signal mourning.

Wentke from Hindeloopen for light mourning. Cotton painted in India, 1750-1800.

Wentke for lighter mourning.


Finally, you see red-white chintz in Hindeloopen as well. This was called ‘milk & blood’ chintz, and was worn by the bride.

Jacket from Hindeloopen, kassakijntje (cassaquin). White-and red chintz was called 'melk & bloed', or 'milk & blood' chintz and in Hindeloopen was worn by the bride. Collection page:

Milk & blood chintz on a kassekijntje, or cassaquin from Hindeloopen



Something else I’d never seen before this exhibition was the use of gold. This was usually reserved for the Indian upper class instead of export, and therefore very rare in European chintz. Nevertheless, the museum had a couple of sleeves and a spread with leaf gold on display.

Sleeves form Hindeloopen, showing rare chintz with leaf gold (India, 1700-1750). Usually meant for the Indian royalty, this chintz was rare in Europe.

Detail of sleeves from Hindeloopen with leaf gold.



Although not really a color, something very specific about chintz is it’s glaze. I’ve seen a lot of reproduction patterns which feel like chintz, but don’t have this shine. It’s gorgeous though, and definitely best experienced in person. Although some chintz has lost some of it’s shine (it can wash off), the museum had a piece of a roll which is still in an amazing condition.

Piece of two-tone chintz still on the roll and in very good condition. The angle of the picture makes it catch the light.



Pattern wise, all chintz has flower inspired patterns. Originally, these were very stylized and oriental in appearance. However, the European marked also started to influence Indian makers. Although it’s exoticism was a big draw of chintz, you do see it becoming just a little more European in style as well. From very large, asymmetrical patterns and stylized flowers, you start to see more geometrical patterns and more natural flowers.

Detail of chintz kraplap or onderst.

Indian chintz, flat flowers and asymmetrical placing.

Two chintz jackets made of the same fabric (India, 1775-1800). The naturalness of the roses shows how the Indian fabric printers were influenced by European taste. Chintz made in India, but for the European market. Collection page:

Back of a jacket. Chintz made in India, but the rose motif is distinctly more European looking.




Additionally, you also get European cotton prints imitating Indian chintz. Some is of high quality, but most of the time the European prints are just a little less in quality.

Ensemble of informal jacket and skirt. Jackets like these were most likely worn as 'undress', informal wear. The sleeves are of higher quality Indian chintz, the main part of the jacket of european cotton. Jacket: 1740-1770. Collection page:

Detail of an informal jacket. The sleeves are made of higher quality Indian chintz, while the body is European cotton print, which would’ve been cheaper.



And despite the flower theme, you get other motifs as well! Little insects and birds show up in chintz, but every now and then you get other patterns. On blankets you see heraldry, but also more animals and people. There was a skirt with hunting scenes. And one of the skirts had a very unusual border of ships of the West-Indian Company.

Details of a chintz skirt with hunting scenes along the border. Fabric has the stamp of the United East Indian Company, 1750-1775.

Detail of a skirt border showing hunting scenes amid the flowers.

Chintz jacket, early 19th century. Remade from older fabric (India, 1700-1750). Fabric details

Exotic bird on a jacket (re-made from skirt fabric).

18th century skirt (Dutch cotton print, 1775-1800) with an unusual border with WIC (West-Indian Trading company) ships. The front is flat, the side and back are pleated to the waistband. Collection page:

Unusual skirt border, showing ships of the West-Indian Trading company.




That was it for today, in the next post I’ll go into the different items of clothing (jackets, skirts, etc), some particularities of the items and how they might’ve been worn. I’ll also include a link to all my pictures in that post, as I have way more than fit into a blog!

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.