Schwalm Costume

Schwalm Costume – The Neckerchiefs

Schwalm women wore neckerchiefs with their festive costumes. These square cloths were made of pure silk.

The neckerchiefs of young women were often very colourful reflecting the basic colour of the costume.

Fringe made from silk threads knotted at the edges was common.

The bundled threads of the fringe were knotted at least once again,

but usually more often.

The square cloths were folded diagonally. The established triangle was laid in the back.
Depending on how the cap bands (subject of a future article) were worn – in the back or in the front – the ends were either inserted in the front at the waist between skirts and apron

or wound around the neck, crossed over in the front, and knotted underneath the triangle in the back.

Schwalm Costume – The Jackets

When the weather got colder, Schwalm women wore a short long-sleeved jacket over the bodice and waistcoat of their festive costumes.

The outside fabric was silk, cashmere or wool.

The jackets were completely lined –

either with a plain linen-weave fabric made of linen threads in the warp and hand-spun lambswool in the woof

or with the same fabric felted.

The front pieces were cut with large curves like the cut of the waistcoats. The arrangement of the buttons formed a heart.

Similar to the waistcoats, most of the jackets had black velvet bands under the button sections.

There were jackets in green, lilac (matching the blue costume), and black.

Often the green silk fabric

was hand embroidered with small red patterns.

The sleeves were long and snug fitting

and closed with two buttons.

The edges of the sleeves were trimmed with black velvet, cut zigzag and decorated with simple ornamental stitches.

The jackets reached from the collarbone to the waist and were close fitting.

A 5 cm high strip of inverted pleats was added at the bottom edge. When the jacket was worn, the pleats lay upon the waistband of the skirts. This pleated section gave the jacket the name of “Troll” jacket.

The fabric strip for the inverted pleats was edged with black velvet.

In patterned fabric the pleats were arranged to match the pattern.

So that the pleats would keep their shape, they were secured on the back with two rows of stitches

in different techniques.

Girls also wore such green jackets with their red costume.

Schwalm Costume – The White Aprons

In addition to the dark aprons, white aprons were also a part of the Schwalm festive costume.
However, these were reserved for young girls up to marriage. They were worn on bright warm days in addition to the white bodices and the red costume.
In the year 1941, Heinrich Metz (1897–1973), a pastor with a profound appreciation of Schwalm habits and costumes, made a survey of an average Schwalm bride’s trousseau. [Source: Schwälmer Jahrbuch 2000]

Regarding the aprons he found:
Although the basic construction of the white aprons was similar to the dark aprons, there were more elaborate details. For example, the two strips needed for the width of the apron were sewn together with a fancy seam.
The aprons´ waistbands were embroidered with the finest whitework and additionally decorated with needlelace.
The hook-and-eye closure was covered with gold-plated clasps.
Often the initials of the owner and small ornaments were embroidered with Cross stitches on the flat middle sections at the waistlines of the aprons.
Sometimes the year was also added.
Especially magnificent examples had additional small whitework borders on the flat sections on both sides at the waistline
or on the flat middle section at the waistline.
Between the flat sections, the apron was gathered with tiny pleats.
There are aprons with withdrawn thread work
and some with patterns lying on top of the fabric, as seen below in the heart motif
and in the circle motif.
However, the most common were small borders embroidered with Satin stitches
in many different patterns,
and border patterns worked with Coral Knot stitches and Satin stitches.
A large number of small border designs can be found in my publication Schwalm Curved Lines, Narrow Borders, and Ornamental Stitches.
The needlelace was also worked differently and elaborately.
Besides very simple examples,
multirow needlelace with pyramids and different picots were worked. One can find detailed instructions for working needlelace scallops, needlelace pyramids, and picots in my publication Schwalm Needlelace edge decorations – easily embroidered.
And finally, the costume consisting of the neat white apron, the black skirts, the black waistcoat, the white bodice, the red bottom edges of the skirts, and the red caps became very wellknown in the world as Little Red Riding Hood’s costume.

Schwalm Costume – Apron Squares (2)

There are even more stunning apron squares from the late nineteenth century. During this time, the measurements of the squares grew (up to 19 cm X 19 cm) and the adornment became more and more splendid. They were made in red and green to match the Schwalm costumes.
The red apron squares had fine silk embroidery consisting mainly of red sections – but included some green areas, too. They were additionally adorned with gold – gold sequins and gold bullion.
In the beginning, the gold bullion was applied as lines outlining the edges of pattern sections. Later, gold bullion and gold wire were used to fill first small
and then larger
and larger pattern sections.
In addition, the edge decoration became more and more elaborate and magnificent.
Often the initials of the owner were added at the bottom edge.
In the end, apron squares were only recognized as red apron squares by the red edging.
Still visible are the Schwalm-typical motifs (star, tulip, and heart) and the important carnation motif.
The green apron squares were embellished with silver wire and silver bullion. Additional red embellishments can be found on the costumes for younger women.
And lilac embellishments are found on the costumes for older women.
The most stunning examples had both silver and gold with green at the edges and a little bit of red on the inside.
These apron squares are one more accessory that brings magnificence to the Schwalm costume.
They are really superb, aren’t they?

Schwalm Costume – Apron Squares (1)

Apron squares were originally apron pockets. However, because the fine fabric around the thick pocket area wore too quickly, the utilitarian pocket evolved into the colourful and finely embroidered squares found on Schwalm aprons. The squares, resembling pockets, were pinned onthe dark aprons near the side edges a little below the waistband. And because they were worn to dances, they became known as Tanzecken – dance squares.
Over time the apron squares got more and more beautiful. Here I show examples from about 1850.
They are significantly less adorned than the apron squares from about 1900. They were embroidered with different colours and in many different patterns. The Schwalm typical motifs (heart, tulip, and star) are found on these accessories. The apron square below measures 16 cm X 16 cm. In general, the early apron squares are smaller with sizes measuring between 11 cm and 14 cm square.
Also the carnation plays a role in the apron square designs.

Not all apron squares were true squares.
Over time, the colour often faded. One can get an idea of the original brilliant colours by viewing the light-protected back of the above apron square.
Around the edges silk ribbons were sewn and decorated with Herringbone stitches.
Most patterns were symmetric around the center.
But there are also examples symmetric along the axis.
Green and red were the most dominant colours, but blue or lilac is also found.

The backs of these older apron squares are unlined making it easy to examine the stitches.
Unfortunately, my collection is limited, and I can only show a few of these early apron squares. But these few give us a glimpse into the aesthetic sense and extreme creativity of our forebears when they created such wonderful patterns and designs.


Luzine Happel
Am Schindeleich 43
37269 Eschwege
Telefon: 05651-32233


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