A lot of us own some of the jewelry of our mothers, grandmothers, and maybe great-grandmother. The lucky ones inherited a head adornment. Probably you are not wearing all of these gorgeous pieces and they are in your jewelry box for ages. In the Netherlands especially in the countryside and near the sea some older ladies still wear head adornment that originated from the 19th century and older.
In this blog post, I would like to introduce you to the beautiful head adornment in the Netherlands including necklaces and earrings.
Wearing the traditional head adornment today?
Ladies like to dress up, there is nothing new about that. And there is fashion, a style in clothing that is popular at a certain time. Besides that, you have clothes to go to work and for going out. Don’t you?
It is not more than logical that the Dutch ladies that still wear the old traditional clothes have dresses and accessories, like jewelry, for work, and for festivities. The difference between then and now is that dressing up in those days was much more work than now. It was nearly impossible to dress (for festivities with the adornment) and you needed help.
Nowadays there are only a few older ladies who still own their traditional head adornment and clothes and wear them on a daily basis. Most of the time when you go into an elder home you have to stop wearing it because there is no help for dressing you every day. A shame, but that is life. Nevertheless, you still can see ladies in full traditional dress in the countryside, in the old village near the sea and on festival days.
Development of the head adornment and clothing
In general, you can say that the traditional clothing and head adornment are based on the ‘normal clothing style’ worn by the ‘city folks’. The people in the cities followed the fashion of the time and after a while, the clothes worn by ladies in the countryside were influenced by the new fashion.
The countryside was more conservative and a certain style of clothing finally adopted lasted much longer than in the cities. Some variations maybe, but that was it. Understandable since the standard of living in the countryside was lower than in the cities.
Another reason for sticking to the older or old-fashioned clothing was that the costs of the adornment were huge. Even when your income was not high you needed -besides the clothes- an ‘ear iron’, ‘forehead needles’, pins, and a necklace with earrings. The size of your wallet and savings determined whether all the pieces of the adornment were made of gold, silver, or metal.
And when you inherited pieces of adornment from your mother or grandmother, that was very expensive, you used those pieces of adornment. Certainly when you don’t have the means of buying your own ones.
Your first impression might be that all the traditional clothes and head adornment look the same in every part of the Netherlands. You need to look closer to see the differences. Not strange when you know that once it was in fashion to wear these styles of clothes, in time little things changed, due to religion, profession, and wealth.
You see the most changes in head adornment and jewelry. The ladies wore tight caps on their heads and to keep their hair together they used the so-called ‘oorijzer’ or ‘ear iron’. On that ‘ear iron’ were ‘forehead needles’ (voorhoofd naalden) that made the face more beautiful. The light fell on the needles and from there on the face.
Those needles were also called ‘books’ or mirrors’. In case you walked around with a golden ‘ear iron’ your husband owned at least 40 cows. A silver ‘ear iron’ lady had only 25 cows in her stables. In the South of the Netherlands, they decorated their forehead needle with a decorative swan. Making one was very expensive, so the more swans on the forehead needle, the wealthier the lady.
The same happened with the pins, used to tighten the cap. The more precious the metal of the needles or the pins (gold, silver, pewter, iron) and the richer the decoration with gemstones, coral, or pearls, the wealthier the lady who wears this adornment. The decoration is sometimes so delicate that it looks like filigree work and children with small fingers were hired to make that type of adornment.
Talking with your forehead needle
The way the forehead needle was attached to the cap expressed whether the lady was married or not. Or whether she was looking for a husband, or not.
More differences in adornment
The head and the head adornment were different when your husband was a fisherman or a farmer. And even there were changes in adornment when you were a Catholic or a protestant. Or when you lived in the North or the South of the Netherlands, although the distance is less than 200 kilometers (average).
There were huge differences between the clothing and adornment used while working in the house or on the field and the clothes and adornment worn going shopping, to the church or party, mostly on a Sunday. The Sunday dresses and adornments were expensive, very expensive in those days. And you should or could not wash the Sunday dress, because then you ‘lose the Sunday’, as they call it in my country. If there was no way out other than washing your Sunday clothes, you only could use them on the other days of the week. But not on a Sunday!
The most important pieces of adornment
The most important pieces of clothing and the adornment going to church, visiting the neighbors, or a formal festivity were the caps and the jewelry adornment.
Every lady had to wear a cap or hat. Period. Maybe this has something to do with the instruction stated by Apostle Paul in the Bible that everyone going to church has to cover the head? And then the personality of the ladies come forward (and also the wealth) because they ‘invented’ or designed very many types of caps or hats to distinguish themselves from others. Every region and every religion had its own type of cap and matching adornment.
And of course, the ear irons, the forehead needles, and the pins were different too.
Earrings as adornment on the cap
Wearing a cap, ear irons, forehead needles, pins, and a necklace was heavy. But ladies do not change in time and they still want to make themselves more beautiful. And they wanted to wear earrings.
There was a problem. The cap and the ear iron hide your ears and your earlobes. No way that you can find space to wear earrings and even that you can see them. No worries!
The earrings were attached to the forehead needles. There were little holes for the earrings in them. Everything to look more beautiful. Nothing changes in time.
The instructions on what to wear when a dear family member died or someone a bit further away from you was very strict. Not only the period you had to mourn, but also the instructions about the clothing and the adornment were tight. No way, to get away from that.
In mourning your clothing was black and when time passes sometimes a bit of gray, blue, purple, or green was added to your outfit. The lace of your cap or hat was removed and the adornment had to be changed.
You were not supposed to wear coral or gold. Your garnet or coral necklace changed for a black jet adornment and jewelry with a silver clasp. When you were lucky you could wear your golden ear iron, since it was too expensive to change that to silver.
In some regions when your husband died, you had to wear black clothing until your death or until you remarried. Most ladies with daughters passed their garnet and coral necklaces, and earrings to their daughters after their husband died. The widow was not allowed to wear them anyway.
And there is more adornment to look at.
Until now I talked about the adornment or the jewelry for the official going to church and shopping use. But there was also an adornment for daily and practical use.
You needed buttons, belts, male earrings, shoe buckles and shawl buckles, pins to adjust your clothing, and much more. It depended on your wealth from what material it was made of and how decorated those daily use adornments were.
The fishermen had very expensive earrings, which they especially wore when they went out to sea. In case there was an accident and they died on the sea, their body was thrown overboard. And when the body washed up ashore the finder could take the earrings, sell them and arrange a decent burial.
In this blog post, I talk about adornment that has a huge value at the moment and you can admire them in museums too. If you own some parts of these pieces of adornment you can make a piece of jewelry out of it, that you can wear. You will look awesome with it and you respect the memory of your female ancestors.
This culture with its special clothing and adornment is special and precious. But – to be honest- the ladies then looked a bit like Christmas trees. They did not need any jewelry box, because nearly every piece of jewelry or adornment they owned was on them. Great if you want to prevent stealing, but otherwise a bit too much according to my view.
But what can you wear best without looking like a Christmas tree and taking into account your best features? Florencejewelshop wrote an e-book about how to accentuate your best features. It is free and you just have to let me know where to send it to.
Hug, Florence from FlorenceJewelshop