Community Dressing: Staphorst


Community Dressing is made possible by Nederlandse Kostuumvereniging, Zuiderzeemuseum and the VSB Fund My name is Theodorus Johannes and you are watching Community Dressing. In our series we have reached a visit to Staphorst. Staphorst might be the community which everyone in the Netherlands can tell something about. Whether it is about the regional dress or how people live here, Staphorst is famous. We immediately dive into something that characterises Staphorst’s regional dress. Look at this… – wow. In deep silence… Every person wants to distinguish themselves from the herd, apparently. And would you say that this is busy enough for the women in Staphorst? Yes, this is. This is light mourning… And this is fine, it is a very fine motif, there is an enormous amount of work in here… But that is what makes it unique and how one differentiates themselves from the other. Sometimes it gets so bad that I have come up with a beautiful print, and a Staphorster woman will come up and say “Yes, I want that!” …and then after I’m done, she says: “But you will not make this for anyone else, will you?” [laughing] I should actually be truthful then and say “I might do!”. It’s funny. [laughing] Staphorster dotting is the characterising hand work technique with which fabrics for regional dress have been decorated for nearly a hundred years. Using small stamps and a special paint, one puts patterns on fabric for clothing. Gerard van Oosten is paint specialist and has been dotting his own fabrics since his childhood. He is, with others, responsible for getting Staphorster dotting on the Unesco intangible cultural heritage list. Via good contacts with the Dutch Crafts Council Gerard has been dotting, amongst others, for big fashion houses like Walter van Beirendonck and Maison Margiela. I wanted him to tell me why the women from Staphorst initially started dotting. People want to differentiate from the rest, that is of course also regional dress. [laughing] So by doing this, they have a unique clothing item. And yes, this takes a few hours. – Yes, it is according to your taste. Do you know from when it originated, or how it originated? Staphorster dotting began in 1930. Specifically 1930? – Yes 1930, very specific. Before then there was a block printing in Staphorst, where one could print oil paint onto fabrics. But only one person had this. Staphorst is very much a community of doing it yourself, it is very artisanal… And then there was a widow, and when you were a widow in the old days you had no financial means, because the man generated the income. And she started decorating fabrics with pins, clamps, very pure and fine things found on and around the farm. More and more people started to practise this technique and that is how Staphorster dotting developed. The women were actually copying one another? Disrespectfully said, but yes. – Yes Eventually it is a fashion symptom in a community. Has is been responsible for a feeling of community, that it became stronger through the dotting? I’m not sure whether dotting has a specific role in that. The dress in itself definitely does and within that dress, one wants for differentiate. With dotting one wants to distinguish themselves but mainly in the print. Not in rank, which was very prominent back in those days. See, dotting is just very suitable to be made a little differently from what the neighbour has. Yes, because they’re already a community, the dotting does not have a connecting force I think. – No, I see. Gerard’s specialism has seen to the original paint to be thoroughly examined and secured for the future. After drying the paint can be washed in the washing machine and moreover, Gerard continuously adds more and more colours which are not part of the tradition. The recipe for the paint used for dotting is still a big secret. It’s a mystery! Well, dotting used to be a mystery anyway. People did not want to share how they did it, because it provided an income. So when they taught people how they did it, or they gave a workshop – because that would also provide financially – they did everything with one single nail, one single clamp, etcetera etcetera. Even though dotting was always done with wooden blocks with nails in it, a complete stamp, a whole motif. That is how it was done. But, if you go and tell everyone… Bye income! – bye income, yes. Every house painter used to mix his own paint. Especially before the war, if you had a painting business, you mixed your own paint. With some adjustments you can make printing paint from it. By bulking it out with things that prevent it from sinking into the fabric. – Yes. People used to print fabric more often with oil paint. House painters are generally creative people. They look into it and in general – because they have the recipes, and know what the ingredients do – make it themselves. What is it then that makes people so strongly… I mean, I know Staphorst to be a very tight-knit community. People are very much – as we say in Brabant – us knows us Staphorst is very much like that. But what is it that connects, if it is not the dotting? Well, from the old days, this was a village, which leads to a sense of community. Later on developments come up such a religion and other things… And then religion becomes In itself regional dress is independant from religion, but in Staphorst religion definitely plays and important part. And that creates community. I think that that is the reason there is still so much regional dress today. That religion plays a part in that. What sort of part? Can you define it? Conservative. Hm. Tradition, wanting to keep things the same. Yes Yes Conservative or not, when we look at Staphorst’s regional dress, we see a dress which for mysterious reasons is still alive. Approximately six hundred women still wear the regional dress daily. Despite that it was difficult to find a wearer or expert who wanted to respond in front of the camera. From the old days, this is a closed community, Staphorst and Rouveen still very much keep to themselves. Therefore we keep a bit more distance in this film – out of respect. It’s time for a bit of theory on this regional dress. Staphorst and Rouveen are two towns in the Staphorst municipality in which the regional dress is still being worn. the municipality lies on the border between the provinces Overijssel and Drenthe. Meppel is the nearest city. The regional dress has known many developments and has changed a bit over the past one hundred years. The dress is rich in details. If you find a lady in her regional dress today, she will be wearing the following: A black undershirt with a floral motif in the fabric and sleeves which reach the elbows. On top of this undershirt goes a cotton ‘kraplap’ with a colourful floral motif, or a kraplap of black satin decorated with Staphorster dotting. The colours of the motif or the colours of the dotting communicate the degree of mourning for departed relatives. She closes the kraplap on her left shoulder with hooks and eyes, and on the side by taking two bands through two loops and tying it center front. She wears a skirt of thick black or dark blue wool, which is set off at the waist and the bottom with a black or blue band. Mainly in the back the fabric of the skirt is pleated, the skirt is stored with the pressed pleats gathered to keep the skirt nice for wearing. On top of the skirt a pinafore is worn with a coloured top on the band. This top corresponds with the level of mourning on the kraplap. Then the woman wears a shawl of chequered fabric. Red when she is out of mourning, back and blue when she is in mourning. This shawl is folded diagonally, gathered in approximately six pleats and pinned with saftety pins to the undershirt. She wears black stockings and black shoes. On cold days the woman wears a blue knitted cardigan and when it rains she wears a black cape and a head scarf. During the week she wears the daily bonnet, which is again decorated with dotting which corresponds to her degree of mourning. When the woman is dressed for a spacial occasion, she swaps the bonnet for a black bonnet and her silver head brooch which has two gold curls and the ends. on Sundays she takes it one step further, when she wears a lace tuft over her head brooch, and she wears not one but two skirts. Plus extra large buckles on her shoes. When going to church, a Bible with silverworks worn on her right hand is part of the outfit as well. It will not come a s a surprise to anyone that I chose Staphorster dotting as craft for this episode. Staphorster dotting is so incredibly rich in folkloristic value, is radiates so much joy, that I was very curious to what it would be like to decorate a whole suit with it. And voilá! You make Staphorster dotting is nothing more than stamps made from nails or pins pushed into a block of wood. In order to work neatly I made a grid with holes. The stamps can go in the holes ensuring tidy work. From there you can build on it as much as you like. Because I started to get the hang of dotting I wanted to take it a bit further by making a universal piece of clothing. In my conversation with Gerard, we drew the following conclusion: Dotting does not know of class or rank. Dotting is for everyone? – Dotting is for everyone, yes. It does not know of class or rank, so everyone wore dotting. “Staphorster dotting is for everyone”. What does Staphorster dotting look like when we open the boundaries of regional dress? Seeing something of regional dress on people of mixed or non-Dutch ethnic backgrounds? A while ago I found a photo on Instagram of artist Margi Geerlinks. It is a photo of a girl wearing a hijaab with dotting. However, upon looking closely you see that the photo has been dotted, not the hijaab itself. That inspired me to start dotting a head scarf and film it a photograph it on someone with roots in a non-Dutch culture. I met entrepeneur and jewelery designer Fatima Essahsah in the Modemuze exhibition ‘Fashion Statements’ in the Amsterdam Museum. Even though she does not wear a head scarf daily, it is an important fashion item for her. What is your relationship to the hijaab, what is your relationship to a head scarf? Well, when I look at myself in the mirror with a hijaab, I’m immediately reminded of my prayers, which I do five times a day. The fun thing is, I now have a little one of nearly three and he always asks “mom, can I pray with you?”. Awww And then he participates! And he occasionally looks at me as though he is asking am I doing it right? – Yes? And then when I’m done he says “mommy, done praying?”, and then I say “yes, take off your head scarf”. And then I do like this, whoop, there is my Summer dress again, you know? But it is also nice that he now grows up with a mom who doesn’t really wear a head scarf… but does for prayers five times a day. – Yes Yes, and the most typical sentence, nearly cliché is “I’m not ready for it”… but then I wonder, when will I be ready? When can I say, “it’s time, I want to wear a head scarf”? That feeling of wanting to wear a head scarf on a daily basis, I don’t have it yet. But I can’t deny that the moment I put it on for prayers, it does something to me. It is a kind of blanket of protection. Is that… is that God what you feel or your community or what is it? No, to me it is not community… For me it is a blanket of love. – Hm? Yes and I immediately connect love to God, in my case Allah. So yes, do I feel God, do I feel the protection from God? Yes. But the community… no, not at all. I also do not feel any pressure from the community to wear a head scarf. Or at least, maybe I have turned it off. But, it is a very clear feeling which I probably receive from Him. Hm. – Yes. See, we are now in the exhibition ‘Fashion Statements’. I you would wear this now, you are wearing Staphorst on your head, you are both Dutch – from Amsterdam – but also Moroccan. How does this feel for you? What is this? The combination of all things coming together? That feels like Fatima. That really feels like Fatima, like who I want to be. So the connection with mainly the city of Amsterdam – I feel more Amsterdammer than Dutch – and then the roots from Morocco, from North Africa, and indeed Staphorst around me feels so genuine and pure… that the borders don’t matter at all. They don’t matter! – Wow! Because in the end we are all flesh and blood and we all want the same things? During the opening os the Fashion Statements exhibition I also met Amina Yaa Asantewa, or Miss Yaa. Miss Yaa is a stylist and specialised in tying headwraps. Yes it is a very firm fabric, the paint immediatly makes it very firm. – Yes Wow! – It’s big, but allright… You can also turn it into something crazy. You know, it just grows at that moment. Because sometimes you wrap and you’re not supposed to wrap that… And then you go, “hey, this is nice too”, or something. It needs to be tighter. For me this doesn’t really have a traditional meaning. It enhances my femininity. My beauty. It gives me a certain regal appearance. Is it a statement? – Yes, it is! That I’m allowed to be here, I’m not sure. It gives me a certain feeling, it makes a very strong feeling that “I’m allowed to be here!”. Yes yes yes yes! Yes, that is what it is to me. Is it also the case that when you wear a headwrap it gives you the feeling this way I establish my identity as a Surinam woman? Well, not as a Surinam woman but just as a woman. Because like I said, it enhances your femininity. You get a total – when I take it off, you can see the difference at the moment I start wrapping. Yes – You immediatly change your attitude. And that is not acted, it arises at that moment. And also when I do it to someone else, I see the change. It goes very deep, but it comes down to how you want to regard it, how you present yourself. But also in terms of mourning – if someone has passed away – you can show respect to [the diseased] – because it also has – that is also part of it. When you wrap your head it also has a way of showing respect to the one who has passed. The festiveness, makes you stand dapper – you are present. But when it comes to mourning, I tie it differently, which makes it… you know? – Yes, gives it a different meaning. Yes, yes. Definitely! It is a big thing, really? – Yes! In the extent of my experiment to try out the culture of Staphortster dress in different ways, there is a twice yearly event in which regional dress is challenged. From the community itself the fashion show ‘Staphorst on the Runway’ began, In which local designers show their take on the dress and use the textiles in unexpected ways. Anything to excite the imagination of the audience with new possibilities for the slowly declining dress. Statement: “Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued, when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Brené Brown, Research Professor of Social Work at Houston University in the US. Because I wanted to understand more about creating a community or the feeling of connection I dove into the books. The statement which Brené Brown talks about is fundamental to being human. Despite where we live, we are always part of a certain group, that is our nature. Whether this group is big or small, based on political or religious preferences, sexuality, gender, sport clubs or perhaps the place where you live – in our society we are never alone. And still research shows that people have never felt more alone than they do today. During my conversation with Fatima I was moved by the reasons for which women in the Islam choose to wear a head scarf. What is one thing Dutch people need to know about a head scarf, which they often do not? Well, don’t be alarmed, but that it is really about freedom. See, a woman who chooses herself to wear a head scarf, is for me the definition of freedom. Because this is how she says, “the body that I have is mine and I am going to protect it by wearing a head scarf”. So it is a symbol of love – wearing a head scarf – a symbol of love for God. And in that process there is really no space for anyone else. And what politics do, is interfering in this very special connection that a woman has to Allah, to her God. No man can stand between that. See, I’m not talking about men who obligate their wives to wear a head scarf. But a woman who one days decides ”I’m going to cover myself, I want to wear a head scarf for God, and I want to protect myself as well”… against anything. It is really a symbol of freedom and love. And yes, embrace that! Yes Oh! May I hug you? -Yes sorry, this makes me cry a little. Do you see it this way? That is what I see, I think… um.. She is very much… -huh, I’ve lost it… Yes, but that’s okay. She is very much protected by something and I think it’s her, this is her own power. Yes! – This is her literally standing in her own force. It is such a clear sign of “I’m standing up for myself”. – Yes, exactly! Here we go again. Well no, I think it’s beautiful that you say that because… Maybe that’s why I find it so special, maybe I don’t have that force yet. That’s what makes that power so special, that makes me think “wow, what a lion!”. That you despite everything – all that prejudice and all those comments on the streets – think, “I’m wearing it and this is me!”. Yes! And I definitely want to reach that point one day. That I… That I reach a level where, “I don’t care about anything!”. – Really amazing! Yes, and I also find it beautiful that it touches you. – Yes, well… I started this journey – I think – because I’m looking “where is my community?” or “where do I belong?” Yes, and I keep discovering that it is me! – Yes! Beautiful! Oh, now I’m getting a little emotional too. Yes, but that is what makes me think, if you keep going in circles and keep ending up with self love, which is incredibly hard… You know, okay, well… [sigh] “Let down your guard”… Throw it all out, throw out the entire search, it is you yourself, Thijs. Yes! Oh, that is so beautiful! That is exactly how I feel. So I believe in a book, but my connection with God is here. It is me, with him and there is no space for anyone else. No space for anyone, the door is closed. I find that so beautiful because it is you. I don’t find it important at all to belong to a community. I think that that is also the cause for a lot of noise, and what muddles vision. And that you can’t remember what your direction is. But at the moment you turn to yourself and you start looking for yourself and for the deepest core of your being… the you meet your Self. And that is exactly what life is about. Whether you believe in God or not; whether you are part of a community or not. To me that’s life. Beautiful, huh? [laughing] Thank you for this crying session. – Well, thank you, Thijs, I certainly didn’t expect this. “Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval… which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging but often barriers to it. Because true belonging happens when we present our authentic selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance.” So beloning demands a certain measure of self-knowlegde, self-reflection and self-acceptance. In my research I have found that the foundation of regional dress consists of three components: isolation, followers and recognisability. When one or more of these components breaks down, the regional dress will disappear, either way. The isolation which the Staphorster community used to know is slowly yet increasingly disappearing; the followers of the Staphorster identity are of age and a majority is no longer around; so the recognisability of the Staphorster people is also automatically disappearing. From the books of Bell Hooks, an American author, professor, social activist and feminist, I gained the following insight: “To ensure human survival everywhere in the world, females and males organize themselves into communities. Communities sustain life – not nuclear families or the couple, and certainly not the rugged individualist. There is no better place to learn the art of loving than in community.” If we can really love ourselves unconditionally, we can also be part of a community unconditionally. And being part of it, unconditionally, requires a certain participation. Actively contributing to the community. That kind of love is not really captured in any other way than in the word “Agapé”. The Greek word “Agapé” This is a word which doesn’t translate easily. It means ‘love’, but also a kind of love of one’s neighbour, love which is ‘us’. It is a love which requires contribution, active participation. That you help your neighbour – despite whoever this neighbour is- without expecting anything in return. Life is something incredible. Honouring life with our clothes – in a sense of “life in beautiful, so I dress beautifully” – makes self-expression one of the most personal ways of adoration. A community like in Staphorst, but also other regional dress communities, know the feeling of togetherness; of taking care of each other with each other, despite who your neighbour is. I have the feeling that people within these communities have a stronger sense of trust when everyone wears the same clothes, because all participants of the group exercise the same values together. Dress makes these values recognisable, it makes it so you can very clearly see that you understand one another. That you both show ‘willingness for community’. During the making of this film I often wondered why I keep being drawn to the dotting instead of focussing on everything that Staphorster dress encompasses. That’s because the dotting has been unlocked, is has been made public… “Staphorster dotting belongs to everyone”. I’ve used Staphorster dotting to make a means of communicating, to give a mild introduction of myself, like: “I understand you, I’m prepared to listen to you, will you show me your world?” That is the question I want to give to you to go out and investigate yourself. Are we, in the beginning of the 21st century, still willing to listen to each other, or do we keep the door shut? The choice is yours.




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