Community Dressing: Bunschoten – Spakenburg

Community Dressing is made possible through the
support of the Nederlandse Kostuumvereniging, the Zuiderzeemuseum of Enkhuizen, the VSB Fonds and (the) Museum Spakenburg, In addition, there have been 82 other donors supporting the crowdfunding campaign. Thank you so much for your support! On our journey along the different regional dresses of the Netherlands, I aim to uncover the similarities and differences in relation to today’s fashion industry. Now we’ve arrived at episode three, in which the regional dress of Bunschoten – Spakenburg plays a central role, I’d like to look back at where I started my preliminary research; i.e. “clothing as a symbol for the stages of life and identity”. New discoveries and findings, for which I have even travelled outside of the Netherlands, await us! The regional dress of Bunschoten – Spakenburg is one of the few Dutch traditional dresses that is still actively worn today. In other words, approximately 135 ladies
in Spakenburg still wear the dress on a daily basis. So, should you happen to visit Spakenburg, chances are considerable you’ll run into somebody in the streets wearing traditional garment. As a result of several construction projects, Bunschoten and Spakenburg have entirely merged together. Apart from their respective historical centres, no distinction is made between either Bunschoten or Spakenburg. The remarkable regional dress is being worn throughout the entire municipality, also in the neighbouring village of Eemdijk. These villages are situated nearby the former Zuiderzee and, like most places by the current Ijsselmeer, are historically tied to the fishing industries. The harbour is therefore the beating heart of this town, especially so on the annual fishings days, when the entire town goes about in her own traditional dress. By the harbour you’ll also find the Spakenburg Museum, permanently showcasing their collection of regional dress. Because the dress is still worn today, two of Spakenburg’s divas, Wimpje Blokhuis and Hendrikje Kuis, will show me how put on their traditional garment. Our model Wendy, Wimpje’s granddaughter, offered to show me the Sunday best. This is the bodice. The dress is put on by starting out with a bodice and an underskirt, an underskirt in a striped fabric which is pleated in the back. Here we have the pouch. This separate inside pocket falls together with the fastener of the woolen overskirt, so that one can always reach into the pouch although it’s almost completely invisible. This is the overskirt?
– this is the overskirt. Look at that, this is one of mine and it’s too short for her! You’re taller than your grandmother.
– the older one gets, the more one sinks, right? This is a kulder.
It’s executed in the same fabric as the overskirt. Both the kulder and the overskirt are barely visible once one is completely dressed. Two separate sleeves are attached to the kulder by means of pins. A small hem used to be around this, but we never do that anymore… The hair is held in position by placing a band around the head. Well, I’m going to flick the hair up a bit because otherwise it’s just not voluminous enough. You don’t have any aids for that? You’re not using a sponge of any sort underneath? No, there’s nothing underneath.
– Wow! Subsequently, the hair is folded back and held in place by pinning ribbons onto the hairband. Honestly, this is very beautiful! What follows is the so-called undercap, a convex bonnet that is delicately crocheted and starched, with black fabric on the inside through which the motif really stands out. Crocheting this cap would take its seamstress about a hundred hours of labour. And then you raise it a little… Waw. Pretty. [laughter] With everything in place, what follows is the kraplap, a piece of clothing that has come to be the most iconic showpiece of Spakenburgs regional dress. It consists of two rectangular, multi-layered segments of cotton fabric, that are treated with starch until they stand upright by themselves. The colourfully flowered kraplap is held together by a strand that is attached to middle of the kraplap, subsequently, this too is concealed by pinning the red cloth on top of it. [laughter]
Do you want to pull the strings? What’s that?
– that is the red cloth. This used to be a wrap. This is pinned down by sticking a needle through the peg right here, and here we have a spare peg for the pinafore. Then finally there’s the pinafore, also known as the “piece”, a dark blue cotton in which pleats are ironed and with and upper part that matches the sleeves. These pleats, are these also important, do they carry any significance? These folds? No.
These folds are just ironed into it, but they don’t have a special meaning. Wonderful! Do I still look like granny Reinieren?
– Yes. When the ladies are outdoors on cold days, they’ll always wear their boxy overcoats, usually made out dark cottons with colourful floral motifs. Because this overcoat is made to be worn on top of the ‘kraplappen’, It consists of extra spacious pattern pieces that follow the silhouette of the ‘kraplap’. And how does this feel to you? You’ve just said “familiar”, but would you… for example go to Amsterdam wearing this, or go shopping in Utrecht? Hmm.., well with grandma I’m not ashamed when she’s about in regional dress and I’m dressed ‘ordinarily’. Not a problem, wouldn’t even think about it. But, for myself, I would indeed think about it twice. Walking around town isn’t a problem for me. Well, I don’t know, it’s just… I really like my own clothes, so I’m not so sure about it. But, do you feel like yourself right now? Because you’ve just said how this feels familiar to you. The regional dress in itself, yes. The turf however, is something I’ll have to get used to because I always let my hair down. Because I have long hair and now it’s all done up all of a sudden. Plus, I think I have a fairly round face so it’s really something I have to get used to. But in terms the dress itself it doesn’t feel… it just feels normal or something. It’s not comfortable either.
– not comfortable? No, just normal.
– it’s just okay? Well. It’s actually just like a suit-jacket you see. When you’re in dressed in off-the-peg items you just blend in.
– yes, you’ll just blend in and nobody pays attention to you. To yourself you look like, say, an idiot, but nobody’s looking at you. Not at all. You would almost be afraid to run into a Spakenburger, because then you’ll think “oh help”… “I’m not looking the part!” Now I know how I ought to dress, but when I’ve unpacked on a holiday and I’m wearing conventional clothes, I’m thinking… yeah. Nah, well this… okay, this won’t do, I find it uncomfortable and… I’ll get used to it with time, but in the in the beginning I’m struggling with it, I just plain don’t like it. No, and on top of that there’s all this hair that I just don’t want to have cut… What does grandpa think about this actually? When does he find you to be… Of course, he thinks you’re prettiest when you’re wearing traditional garment, but does it strike him as odd when you’re wearing off-the-rack items? That’s not the case, but he would prefer having me wear regional dress when abroad. Well, hmm… In that case I would just like to have joined him in my underskirt!
[laughter] So as to make sure to have something familiar on me. I can imagine that when one has been wearing this one’s entire life it becomes like a second skin, almost akin to one’s own home. Yes, exactly. Without meaning to come across as disrespectful, the kraplappen from Spakenburg strongly remind me of… billboards or sandwich boards, something you would see people wearing for, well, promotional purposes. It’s essentially not at all odd that I’m drawing such a comparison right off the bat, while the purpose of a kraplap is more or less the same: it communicates something, it communicates something about its wearer. That is, the stage of grief in which the
wearer finds herself, varying from heavy mourning to not at all mourning. The regional dress from the Spakenburg area knows three stages of mourning with the following names: ‘jaren-rouw’ (completely in black), ‘maanden-rouw’, ‘weken-rouw’ and ‘in ‘t rood’ (dressed in red: not mourning). People used to observe a meticulous guideline on how long and when one ought to dress to express a particular degree of mourning. When one finds herself in the ‘jaren-rouw’ the kraplap is at its darkest purple, this is after all the heaviest stage of grief. One wears this kraplap up to ten years after the death of a beloved one: four years for a father or mother; then ten years for a deceased son or daughter; and up to two years for grandparents, brothers(-in-law) and sisters(-in-law). A widow used to remain in the ‘jaren-rouw’ for life, unless she would marry again. Subsequently, one enters the ‘maanden-rouw’. ‘Maanden-rouw’ is worn in honour of a deceased uncle or aunt or as a transition leading into ‘weken-rouw’. The ‘weken-rouw’ is the lightest form of mourning and is respectively worn in honour of one’s cousins, or as a final stage until a lady goes out of mourning. Not only the lady of the house would go into mourning when a death in the household would occur: the rest of her family, including the children, would also go about dressed in mourning hues. Up to what extent you’re grieving, and the respective colour of the kraplap shows the extent of grief you find yourself in, but moreover how closely connected you were to this person in life. One consequently pays a respectful tribute to that
individual in the eyes of the community. Although the guidelines surrounding mourning attire come across as a dress code, most women these days go about them quite loosely, very much … in their own fashion. So some are more strict than others. I was wondering how Hendrikje and Wimpje handle this. When anybody can see how you feel, i.e. if you’re grieving and the respective state of mourning you are in… what is that like? Is that sometimes scary or is that actually nice and familiar? I for one find it nice and familiar. In that case someone else knows exactly how to approach you. They’ll ask you “who exactly has passed away?” or… they’ll say “my condolences”. You’ll simply want some sort of attention one way or another. Yes.
– Yeah, especially so in the beginning. Well, I can imagine that the neighbours in that case already know something along the lines of: “that person has just died and now she’s in heavy mourning”… So that you are left alone for a bit. Well, not exactly. I think that people then indeed take some time to chat with you. There will also be people who will just
see you walk by and somewhat ignore you, but, most of them will have a moment to spare. Does one wear mourning attire as part in a ritual of someone’s passing, or is it literally done to function as a communicative device, something along the lines of… “This is the way I feel today, so I’ll wear this
particular colour”. I think it’s surely more of a ritual.
– it’s a custom, a habit. It’s inextricably linked, it’s a tradition. For example, it would be deemed a disgrace when Hendrikje wouldn’t mourn the death of her sister. So you’ll just do it out of respect. So it’s a sort of tribute, like “my sister is no longer here but I want to honour her, she remains in my thoughts”. But it’s not like, look, I for example don’t have a father anymore… It’s already been ten years, so in principle I’m not ought to dress in mourning attire anymore. I could however think “I truly miss my father today, I’ll dress in mourning attire”, that’s not something you would do? No, we don’t do that.
– Absolutely not, once one is ‘dressed in red’, one simply can’t dress in mourning attire for a change. Not even like “I find the colour more beautiful” or “this suits me better” …it is just; this is the way it is supposed to be. Does it at times strike you as inconvenient? Does it limit you in your possibilities? Not to me.
– No, me neither. Sure, there’s people who utterly detest mourning… However, I don’t get that. No, because we actually have beautiful options when it comes mourning dress. Even in mourning it’s not like you have one item that you should wear day in, day out or that you’re fully dressed in black, it’s not like that. But how come then that some people find it bothersome? [both] They simply dislike dark clothing. These dark colours do indeed carry a meaning. Exactly. That’s why I don’t get why they dislike that so much. As a matter of fact, I married in mourning attire because my father-in-law had passed away at the time. And I’ll never forget that we, as newlyweds, left my family home and that I heard somebody say, “Oh God! She is in mourning.” [corrected] “She’s in black”, that’s the way she said it. She must have thought it was unsightly. But it actually was outright chic. Because it was in black and white, with a shiny skirt and a beautiful pinafore on top of that. Do people sometimes make assumptions based on the way you dress, or on what you are wearing? What do you mean by assumptions, that they’re criticizing me? No, not critique but more something along the lines of: “Oh, she’s from Spakenburg so she must be very religious”? Or terribly old-fashioned?
– I’m convinced they think so, yes. They even believe it’s mandatory.
– yeah. But it… it is not mandatory?
– No, nothing of the sort. It is your own choice?
– Indeed, one’s own choice. Because otherwise everybody would walk around in traditional dress.
– Yeah. There’s no set rule for it, just like as we’ve seen with mourning; Hendrikje does it for a year, but there are people who’ll say “well, I think half a year suffices” Then there are also people who’ll say “I’m doing it for two, because it was my sister”. There are no rules for that either. So that’s more by the seat of one’s pants?
– a matter of one’s own feelings, yes. Not two people are alike in that respect. There are also people who, upon mourning, don’t leave the house for a while. Especially so back in the day, these days it’s somewhat different. Back in the day they took offence over the most menial things.
– Yeah. Then the community would keep an eye one you. I in turn then think… everybody should decide that for themselves.
– Yeah. It also came from a place of shame I think… yeah shame. What do you mean by shame, do you mean that it would be considered premature to no longer be in mourning? Yes, and that they would say something like “you see, she didn’t even care for him” – or I don’t know – “because she’s already out of mourning”. Things like that.
– but, that’s no longer the case or…. No, that’s no longer the case because, for starters, we’re all in old age and there are no more young people around
who would call us out on that. They don’t even know whether or not you’re dressed in mourning attire. I think that Wendy wouldn’t even know. Because had I already had collected kraplappen,
it seemed like a nice idea to me to start experimenting myself, in accordance with the rest of the documentaries… To start experimenting with my very own kraplap. Back in the old days, these kraplappen, or at least the fabrics for the kraplappen, would be imported from the Far East. Sometimes they would even be hand-painted by the women themselves. My fellow documentary filmmaker Sabine Bolk and I got to work on our very own kraplappen. For years Sabine has specialised herself in painting techniques and batik and so we envisage painting onto a modern-day kraplap, based on our own degree of mourning. With a little help from an instructional video clip on YouTube we had gotten to work. What will be the meaning of your kraplap? Initially I have let myself be inspired by the horn of plenty, but at the same time I also wanted to address mourning and perhaps the act of missing people… and so it seemed like a good idea to me to work with the horn of plenty, but then to in fact have memories coming from it…. that are linked to certain people. Very melancholy, quite the romantic little kraplap. Making sure it isn’t too morose, as to not have people immediately think: [gasp] but rather to be able to keep it to myself in a way… So that you don’t have to communicate about it per se, nice!
– Exactly. Given my own sewing experience, cooking up a kraplap turned out not to be too hard, the pattern was after all easily copied. The starching of the kraplap is done by rubbing starch into the fabric, leaving that out to dry and subsequently to iron it into shape. This is done in a meticulous fashion by which the two layers of damask and the upper layer of printed cotton become so rigid that they are made to stay upright. What we more or less ended up with, I’ll say, is that making a kraplap from scratch
is not at easy as it seems. The extent of craftsmanship going into this item alone, that’s… actually something you can’t peer with as a rookie… It’s quite bizarre and it’s actually a shame to draw that conclusion for this documentary, but that makes the respect for these kraplappen only greater right? Undoubtedly! Should you want to buy a ready-made kraplap, I’d advise you to visit Spakenburg’s regional costume bazaar on the second Wednesday of March or on the first Wednesday of November, where great quantities of klaplappen are just waiting for you to be bought. where great quantities of klaplappen are just waiting for you to be bought. then the dimensions or the pattern can be found on our website aside from an instruction video. In comparison with the regional garment from Spakenburg, fashion’s street scene is remarkably more sombre and a great deal more superficial. Apart from the clothes we wear during our wedding ceremony or while attending a funeral, clothes are hardly used anymore to signify a particular stage in life. We’re easily seduced by marketing and logos, while fashion brands tell us nothing about who we really are. Fashion reflects the times we live in, but the off-the-rack items we buy in stores are conspicuously monotonous and meaningless. Are the clothes we wear in fact in unison with the way we feel or has marketing claimed the meaning of fashion? Someone who deals a lot with these questions is Lidewij Edelkoort, the undisputed legend in the world design, textiles and fashion. Ever since the early eighties her leading ideas across a multitude of disciplines in design have determined the signs of the times. She is an internationally renowned trend-forecaster and a curator of controversial exhibitions. In 2014 she received worldwide publicity for the manifesto in which she proclaimed that the fashion system is dead. So that’s why I spoke to her in her Paris office. What I have written in the ANTI-FASHION manifesto is that the systems underlying fashion are dead, not that fashion itself is dead. We couldn’t even kill fashion if we tried, it will always be.
– Like an organism that… That’s something that… from early mankind onwards one can find items by which… we want to distinguish ourselves, on which we suddenly find a woven border. These have been here since the beginning of humanity and will therefore never disappear. However, the systems in place behind our clothing nowadays – because we can hardly call it fashion anymore these days. The production of clothing these days is an outright dysfunctional phenomenon. The systems driving investments have simply created an insatiable desire for material gain, in fact killing off the entire affair. [shocked]
– No fun! Indeed, no fun, but at the same time a lot of fun exactly because it’s over. But why should that qualify as fun then?
– Well, then we can start doing something else. If we now know it’s entirely…
– It’s indeed easier to start from a point of nothingness. So, now we know that it’s entirely obsolete we can just say “well, then we’re completely starting from scratch again”. How do we get our hands on yarns, how do we accumulate fibers and how do we produce fabrics? How do we actually produce fabrics? You know, let’s break our heads over that some some. The veritable thing, that which characterizes Fashion with a capital ‘F’, is that which completely transforms you as a human being. Meaning to say that it altogether changes the way you walk, act and feel, and that’s actually something we haven’t witnessed after the late Azzedine Alaïa – God bless his soul. It is something we’re missing out on now, but that’s okay. One could also say, that’s what this time period is like, it is something of a bygone era. We’re currently so much in our heads about our communication and our diets, and we’re so focused on ourselves that we don’t need these clothes anymore, that’s well possible. It could be over once and for all. What are the ensuing consequences for our identity as humans? It shows that we derive it from other sources…
– yes. Perhaps man have less identity and need less identity because we prefer to be together. This indeed goes hand in hand with that new outlook in the fashion industry… that we undertake things as a team, a club, a collective. It’s something very desirable and very
substantial, so that’s only a good thing. Because the fun thing in fact is, that especially now, we can be an individual as well as a group. So that as an individual one can give one’s individuality to the community, yet remaining true to oneself, but also forming a collective. One no longer has to gybe so to speak. And ultimately I think that we’re progressing towards
an entirely different form of society. One that desires a different rhythm, a different lifestyle,
a different mode of production, one that… is willing to produce way less! A society that is more adept at choosing, and consequently has more pleasure in the process itself, because the issue now is that we don’t find joy in purchasing goods. There’s no fun in it.
– It’s stupid! You won’t even open your shopping bags when you get home so to speak. What role does marketing have to play in this?
– A big and moreover dangerous role. Of course, marketing has made sure that we’re constantly producing something that has proven to be a success. and consequently one has to create everything that
fits the fashion house and fits the label. On top of that designers are expected to create those few forms which are
supposedly in vogue right now; i.e. the ‘shaping of trends’, which I’m
allegedly responsible for. As a result there’s nothing left to do and you end up not needing a designer in the first place. Yeah, very boring. I’m picking up on this because I read that when you buy a magazine you first rip out all the advertisements. Well, it is way too heavy! Especially because of that!
– For I’ll always buy them while travelling… So when in airports you’re just ripping away!
– Yes, then everything gets torn to shreds! [laughter] And then Vogue only becomes this thin!
– Yes, that’s what is left then… And then that remains to be about the same clothing
that was already in the advertisement. Because the fashion houses won’t give you a choice what to put in your magazine anymore… but instead mandate; “this is what you’ll have photographed”. How would fashion look like without marketing? We’re not even close to that point for the time being.
– True, but… say we could press the reset button and marketing is no longer a thing. Human intuition is particularly strong in respect to what it wants and what it aims for. In fact, we’re underestimating it, and It’s eclipsed by the industry saying “you want this!” You know, “this is just the thing for you!” [laughter]
We’re actually not asking that person: what do you think? What do you really want? In the future there’ll be production processes, that incorporate complete inquiry and
only afterwards create items after someone’s taste. That no longer qualifies as high fashion because it’s entirely made possible
by new modes of production. There are always people that say; “I would have
liked a red sweater, but I simply couldn’t find it”. Only to find it in abundance a year later.
– All of a sudden nothing but… [red sweaters]. There are essentially a great many people that have
a knack for style, trends and colour. However, it’s not being nurtured, it’s not… … being taught in schools. Because even fashion students nowadays, they’ll only wear off-the-rack items. They are no longer wearing their own clothes. So that’s somewhat odd, they’re making clothes to benefit some arcane end, but they’re not participating. And when asked to make their own clothing, well then… – They completely shut off? [laughs]
Well in time they’ll get more comfortable with it of course. Because I think that ultimately man, the human spirit, triumphs. But that will irrevocably be a major battle…
– Yes. Thank you kindly!
– You’re welcome. The conversations in this episode have prompted me to think a great deal about my own fashion choices. Especially so when regarding the choices I made after the death of my father. During these ten years without him, my wardrobe has witnessed a significant transformation, and step by step I have learned to give in and how to make my own clothes…. … as a reflection of the way I feel. So actually I, like the women from Spakenburg… ….have gone from “in ‘t zwart” [wearing black] to “in het rood” [wearing red]. How can we harness fashion as a reflection of the lives we lead? And what would fashion look like without marketing? Would we still be seduced by logos and campaigns, or do we become challenged to make our own choices? I for one feel most comfortable making my own clothes and I seek authenticity that comes from the heart. Maybe that’s what makes the difference between myself and the wearers of the regional dresses so small. It has to be finished accordingly…
– Yes That’s exactly what I think when I’m not wearing earrings, then I’m just like a christmas tree without baubles. [gasps] A what now?
– A christmas tree without ornament! [laughter] In the next episode we’ll visit the former
island of Urk. Here, special attention will be paid to the
concept of gender in fashion. Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel
FRAGMENTS on YouTube, if you’d like. and I’ll gladly see you in the next episode… bye! Subtitles by Rick van Os


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