March 24, 2017

2997 AUSTRIA (Vorarlberg) - The traditional clothes in Bregenzerwald

Located in Western Austria, the Bregenzerwald (Bregenz Forest) overlaps, but is not conterminous with, the  Bregenz Forest Mountains which are a range of the Northern Limestone Alps. The people from the region are regarded as self-assured, almost headstrong, and this results from their history. The political structure of Vorarlberg - which was given extensive rights in 1380 by the Habsburg monarchy - provided the basis for a sovereign "farmers' republic" with its own constitution and an independent jurisdiction.

The dialects in the valleys of Vorarlberg have Alemmanic roots, reminding of the Swiss German and the Swabian dialect. Even people from Vorarlberg have difficulties understanding their compatriots who live in the Bregenzerwald region. Whereas today the valley’s prosperity is based on agriculture, trade and tourism, many people had to earn their living far away from home in earlier times. Since the 16th century, men were sought-after as specialist craftsmen and master builders on all the major construction sites of Europe.

As the men were often away from home, the women took the day-to-day concerns - including defence - into their own hands. Thus, it is said that in 1647, at the end of the Thirty Years' War, when Swedish soldiers put their homes in danger, the women marched bravely towards them. When the attackers saw them approaching in their white clothes, they turned and ran: they took the women to be angels. Since then, legend has it, the women wear dark skirts - to avoid being mistaken for otherworldly beings.

When the men then returned home, as proof of their affections they brought with them exotic and flattering delights from every country - furs, ribbons, gold-smithing work, and special fabrics. These were incorporated into Sunday best clothing: and so it is that the costume known as the juppe worn by Bregenzerwald women (comprising a tightly-pleated, high skirt, bodice, sleeves, apron and decorative belt) is one interlaced with elements of styles drawn from Madrid to Moscow.

The name itself derives from the French word jupe. It is made from the finest raw linen, which has gone through an elaborate refining process. The entire roll of fabric is dyed, then the fabric is glazed, stiffened, and polished. The first dye factory was built in Schwarzenberg in 1640. As a cooperative of the Wälder Republik, it produced black linen. Today, the juppe is still being manufactured in one workshop in Riefensberg; it is always custom-made to fit the individual wearer, and is a one-off piece.

Once the fabric for the juppe is finished, it needs to be pleated. The pleating machine used for this is a special model that was built according to plans by Johann Fischer at the turn of the century. Josef Anton Kohler from Schwarzenberg was the first to succeed in putting it into operation. Angelika Kauffmann, the famous artist and treasured friend of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, provided the model: she painted a portrait in 1781 of herself wearing the juppe and a seductive hat of her time, pitched at a rakish angle.

The black color and the wide-brimmed straw hat can be traced back to Spanish influences, while the fur-trimmed cap draws on Russian models. And the hats have it: when leaving the house, a head-covering was a mandatory requirement from 1560. After all, this majestically-shimmering, heavy costume (the seam of the skirt has a circumference of nearly five yards) with its lavish sleeves and broad, decorated chest covering demands a crowning glory to complement it.

Often in earlier times it was a lace cap, but that only looks truly superb with plaited hair worn up; and after women began wearing their hair in other styles, an artistic hat came into fashion which, even though its origins are found in the museum, can cause haute couture to look on with envy. The precious headdresses, the so called krönele or schapele, are handed down from one generation to the other but are still fabricated by skilled women’s hands.

About the stamps
The first stamp is part of the series Classical Traditional Costumes, designed by Anita Kern.
2013.08.23 - Gmundner (0.62 EUR)
2014.07.18 - Ausseer (0.70 EUR)
2015.05.02 - Tuxer (0.68 EUR)
2016.04.30 - Montafon (0.68 EUR) - It's on the postcard 2997

The second, depicting Vienna Ferris Wheel, is part of the series Impressions from Austria, about which I wrote here.

Bregenz Forest - Wikipedia
Bregenzerwald -
Costumes of the Bregenzerwald - The official travel guide of Austria
Bregenzerwald Folk Costumes -

Sender: Barbara Schatzmann (direct swap)
Sent from Dornbirn (Vorarlberg / Austria), on 17.03.2017

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