Schwalm 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There are aprons with withdrawn thread work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.

Schwalm Costume – Narrow Apron Ribbons

Adornments gave the festive Schwalm costume a blaze of colour. And the narrow apron ribbons, in the Schwalm called Schürztuchschnürchen or Forzbengelchen, were no exception. Richly ornate, the colourful narrow ribbons lay on the back of the skirts.
Small silk ribbons were decorated with sequins, bullion, and small flowers or stars made of metal.
The ribbons were usually unlined, only sometimes a paper strip on the back gave stiffness.
The silk ribbons were mostly monochromatic, and their edges did not have plain selvages. The weft threads were laid at different sized loops so that an additional effect was established.
Sometimes a somewhat wider ribbon was added to the ends of a narrower main silk ribbon.
From the front the edges of the wider ribbon were visible thus creating one more effect.
The embellishments on the narrow silk ribbons were very different. Some older ribbons have Tritzer in different colours (these shown here are unfortunately faded a little bit) which were studded with sequins.
Other ribbons were decorated with sequins and bullion only.
Sometimes templates were fastened onto the ribbons
and embroidered with colourful silk threads.
On other ribbons the bullion was expertly applied in the shapes of the common Schwalm motifs:
heart, tulip, and star.
Very elaborate examples also had the initials of the owner.
Often the ends of the ribbons were additionally decorated with needlelace
or bullion applied to look like needlelace.
Tied into a small bow or hung onto the apron’s waistband with a simple cow hitch, the colourful and richly decorated narrow ribbons, falling onto the back of the skirts, brightly contrasted against the black or dark blue linen.

Schwalm Costume – Apron Waistbands

In addition to the coloured woven silk bands, some Schwalm women owned special apron waistbands. Reflecting their owner’s prosperity or dexterity, these special waistbands were accordingly very different from one another.

So, there were narrow monochromatic silk ribbons that were sewn upon the dark aprons waistbands
and then decorated with initials and small ornaments in Cross stitch and different coloured stitches.
But there were much more elaborate bands worked to simulate a girdle. The unlined back side of such a band shows how it was made. A strong linen strip (ecru) was covered with a wider linen strip (blue), which was folded to the back over the edges. Small green silk ribbons were fastened at the edges.
On the front different paper board shapes were fastened. The templates were embroidered with silk threads (lilac) and woolen yarn (green) with densely worked Satin stitches.
Spaces between the template sections were painstakingly filled with Coral Knot stitches, Blanket stitches, Chain stitches, and Satin stitches.
The main motifs in this example are heart, tulip, star, and cross.
At the edges small borders were embroidered in a zigzag line.
In the back, the waistbands were fastened with a gold-plated clasp – the small chains enabled the waistband to be adjusted to fit different girths.
A band embroidered with silk threads only is very colourful. A green silk ribbon was laid onto a wider red silk ribbon. The templates were fastened onto the green ribbon
and embroidered with different colours.
The spaces between the heart, tulip, star, and other motifs were only partially embroidered so that the silk ribbon can be seen.
This apron waistband was lined with a colourful cotton fabric.
This apron waistband was also closed with a gold-plated clasp.
These special apron waistbands were fanciful and established a special splendor, but only wealthy women were able to afford such elaborate bands. The majority had to be content with the coloured woven silk bands.

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