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Traditional Zeeland costumes

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Traditionally, every island in Zeeland would have had its own way of dressing.

Zeeland is a province of the Netherlands, located in the south-western region. The capital of Zeeland is Middelburg. Zeeland is famous for the mussels and oysters from Yerseke, the dikes, dunes and the Delta Plan to prevent flooding (Zeeland lies below see-level) and also the traditional costumes. Ages ago, Zeeland consisted of a lot of islands.

Because the people were separated by water, each island developed its own typical costume. In the course of ages, dams and reclamation projects connected the islands. However the differences between the costumes didn’t disappear. Nowadays the costumes are mostly out of fashion. Only a few elderly people still wear them today.

The distinctive feature of Zeeland’s costume are the large white lace caps. It is striking to see that Protestant women in the former islands North and South Beveland wear shell-shaped caps, and Roman-Catholic women the square-shaped ones. To learn more about dress and tradition, the Zeeland Museum at Middelburg maintains a large collection of traditional costumes.

Middelburg
The colorful costume of this southern province features a black skirt and blouse with a bright striped floral, high-waisted apron and a small bright colored print dickey with a white collar. The fitted eyelet hat hugs the head and is adorned by “kissers,” a gold spring-like object worn at the side of the head. Traditionally, ornaments were attached to the kissers to indicate the wealth of the family and have nothing to do with attracting boys or stopping them from kissing the girls. Kissers were, simply put, pieces of jewelry.

Walcheren
Worn with a blue-and-white checked or striped apron, the dress includes a floral dickey. Lace from the close-fitting hat flows loosely over the shoulders. Spiral kissers are worn with the hat, a feature with all the costumes from the province of Zeeland. These costumes used to be worn every Thursday on market day.

Zuid-Beveland
Distinctive with its large, stiffly starched hat, this costume includes large gold square kissers worn at the temples. The “kissers” this time are large gold squares worn at the temples. The detail of the hat in olden days signified whether the person was of the Protestant or Catholic faith. The costume can either be black with a black apron and paisley print dickey and scarf, or a brighter costume with blue skirt and bodice, striped apron, checked dickey and orange plaid scarf. (Note about the “kissers” – stories about these ornaments attracting the boys to the girls – or keeping the away, which never works, of course – hence the name “kissers.” In reality, the Dutch wore these as jewelry, and if a family was of some means, they often wore bangles hanging down from the spirals.)

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