Archive for March, 2013

Swiss Ladies keep 18th Century Fashion alive

Today I’m writing about something I don’t actually know much about: national dresses. Or rather, cantonal dresses, as we’ll be talking about Switzerland. Each canton – even each district! – has its own historical dress. What has this to do with 18th century fashion, though? A lot! Many of these dresses have their origins in the 18th century, and anybody with even the smallest interest in women’s fashion of that era will immediately recognise familiarities.

I was sorting through the Little Box of Horrors today (means: my photo box), and came across one such historic dress. It’s probably the one that’s most well-known outside of Switzerland, and often erroneously thought to be the national dress. But it’s  actually the “Bernese Sunday Dress”, and it’s kindly modelled here by Miss Lilian Joyful, my oldest sister.

little_lily

The dress she’s wearing belonged to my great-great aunt’s mother in law, so I guess we can date it back to end of the 19th/early 20th century. Despite the notorius dislike for change in Switzerland, cantonal dresses have changed in style through the centuries, but not much. You have stays, shifts, stockings, sometimes pantaloons, shoebuckles… and breeches for the men, as demonstrated here.

Here’s a picture of an antique top/stays of one such dress. It’s made of velvet and linen, the buttons are heavy silver.

stays

Cantonal dresses are still worn on special events all across Switzerland, but far more in the country than in the city. I haven’t seen anybody in such a dress for ages in my city. It’s a bit of a shame, really; not only because it’s yet another tradition that’s slowly getting lost, but those dresses are also the only 18th century fashion which is still used “in real life” outside of historical re-enactment.

berne02

berne03

Is there a national/regional dress where you come from? Please share, I’m curious!

10 March, 2013 at 12:10 am Leave a comment


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