A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

The Traditional Dress

by Dr. Viktor Pratscher
(Die Deutschen der Gemeinde Feketic-Feketitsch by Dr. Viktor Pratscher, 1936)
Translation by Brad Schwebler

     Depending on which part of the Empire the settlers came from, their customs and traditions, their language and the clothing were rather different.  From this confusion completely uniform characters developed in the newly established communities only gradually.  On the occasion of the migration of Germans to Feketitsch this process repeated itself all over again.  Until the '70's the Sekitsch element was predominant in this colorful picture.  From then on a generation grew up who modeled after their teacher - who came from Crvenka, Sivac, or Vrbas and learned the Pfalzer customs and dialect.  The last elders who still held on to the Sekitsch customs and dress and did not let go of the natural Sekitsch dialect first died out 15 to 20 years ago.

     The clothes came from Swabia (Württemberg and Baden).  The ancestors usually wore a long "Zwilchkittel" (overalls), a "Lederhose" (leather pants) with boots and a large hat.  From other regions of the Empire - usually from the Pfalz and from the Elsaß (Alsace) - came men wearing tri-cornered hat, short skirt, knee pants, white sockings, and flat shoes with a buckle.  The great grandmother has a white cap made of linen, with a wire framework; blue, black, or colorful little caps, a green or blue "Leibchen" (undershirt) or "Schürleibchen" (bodice), a "ziznes Vortuch?", a scarf, a blue skirt, and an apron.

     The settlers first had to learn how to make things from hemp so they could make their underwear and dresses.  The farm families had the hemp roasted, broken, rubbed, (geheckelt?), spun, spooled, and weaved themselves from it the hempen and the (wergene?) cloth.  The colors of the cloths were first added in about the middle of the past century.

     The men wore the (wergene?) dungarees to work, which had slits not in the middle but on the left and right sides.  The shirt had a small standard stand-up collar, strings were replaced by buttons.  Over the shirt the "Leiwel" was worn and over that was the "Wammes" (doublet jacket).  The "Kepernitz" and the "Bunde" served as coats.  First they were bought from the market, later they were manufactured from sheep pelts.  The head was covered with a felt cap which at first was white but later it was black.  Around the neck one wore a black scarf.  Slippers without high heels were generally worn for footwear and still are today.  In the winter one goes in clumps of earth. - For the past 100 years the work boots were bulky but always had a useful shape and for the past 25 to 50 years they were only more fitting for a great parade. Already before the World War the last of the upright elders descending from Sekitsch who still wore the beautiful "harmonie" boots disappeared.  The true Swabians are seen today in slippers and white woolen socks.  Their are still pieces of clothing from blue colored hemp in things today, but already little exists.  Usually the men's clothes are made of fabric and fit them in the fashion of a town-dweller.  They wore felt hats and their Sunday shoes.  In the field they used the "Patschkern" (little hand stones?).

     One hundred years ago clothes were also made almost exclusively of linen by the women.  The slit of the upper "Kittelrock" (button-through skirt), covered a white apron.  Under the apron there was a separate fleece - trouser pocket - which tied around the body.  On the chest one wore a small "Tusch" hinge with wide arms.  That with the belt provided the "Mitzchen" was already longer and reached to the hips.  In the '70's the maids of Philipp Häuser already always insisted on a "Bonschurl" as payment.  It reached up to under the hips, adjacent to the dress which was made of black fabric, or was made of atlas textile.  At this time the skirts are already dyed by the "Kelsch" (dyer) and the dark blue color is universal; the skirt had a white pattern on it, or it had a white wreath (Kranz) underneath and hence it was known as the Kranzrock (wreath or hoop skirt).  Already before the turn of the century there were clothes clothes that were pieced together - called Kutte (jacket) - which are worn more and more today.  The clothes were formerly al sewn by hand, then the sewing machine was first widely used in the '90's.  The starching and ironing is an achievement of the '70's.  From this time to the turn of the century girls and women wore 10 to 12 starched under"Kittel" (smocks), one on top of another, so that it rustled if they walked about on the street.  Besides that they still endeavored to design different kinds and ways to really express their hips.  Thirty to forty years ago girls and women had "Schmiesel" and "Kelle" on the neck, they had beautiful flowery neckerchiefs, white stockings, and black "Pätschkerche" with a white "Milchknepche" on it.  See the picture of the school children from the year 1896.  The knitted "Pätschkerche" are also in use today.  In the winter many had a "Tschurock" (skirt?) that was a fur coat without arms with a "Bräm" border.  Before the World War a large woolen hanging neckerchief was made (the Berliner-Tücher) and there are still many today.  In the last decade most girls and many women have urban coats.  On festive occasions the women are dressed from head to toe in black.  As head covering the black head scarf is universally customary.  The bonnet, also called an ear cap, is always worn by smaller people.  Also the three-cornered "Kniedl" or "Schnetz" scarfs and "Schnetz" caps were always smaller.  The traditional hairstyle of most women was the "Gretchen" hairstyle, but there were also many "schedl", "kutsch", "stellich", "kowel", "zwiewel", and "knedlgestrehlte" hairstyles.

     The men wore wigs at the time of settlement, or had plaits and combs.  But soon the tradesmen cut their plaits off, then the officials followed them.  At the longest, 80 to 100 years ago, the farmers firmly kept their plaits.  The girls frequently dress themselves after the newest urban fashions and imitate the foolish follies of the fashions without thinking of the suitability of it.  So one saw all too narrow habits in which it was impossible to take a decent step in.  Soon the fashions dictated short dresses more which did not cover the knee, then there again long dresses which were finally moved to under the hips.  We hope by "Evas?" daughters will realize that the coarse excesses of fashions do not fit in the village in anyway, which also hopefully the principle will not be lost which says: One does not resign oneself to everything.

A selection from Ludwig Hartmann's poem: 

"The Genuine Traditional Dress"

          "Im eichene Schank henge vegeß, veracht, verstabt, vermoddelt, verlosse de Urgroßeltre ehre herrliche Tracht  mit Mieder, mit Wammes un' Hoffe. O Hochzit, o Kinndaaf, o Kerwei! Herrsch, was ware des sellemohls Feschte!

          Was hann sich dort bei der Zehtrumbeet
          vor Glick die faltige Röck' als gedreht!
          Gebt's sowas noch heit?  Beim Trott un' beim Fox?
          Großvatter, do dheden'er spitze!
          Mer hängt an der Placke, wie 'n störrischer Ochs -
          aa net emool kammer recht schwitze!
          Drum 'raus aus de' Truhe un' raus aus'm Schank
          ihr Betze un' Wämsle un' Mieder.
          Die Musich bloost feirich - Willewickbumbumm!
          In eener Minut geht's siwwemool rum -
          Großvadder, mach' dich dehinner
          un' zeig's nochemool unserer Kinner!
          E Schoppeglas her un dreimool druff hoch -
          uff Heimat un' Trachte un' Mottersprooch!
          Dem Volk soll die Zukunft nor gheere,
            wu sowas halt ewich in Ehre!"

[Published at 19 Sep 2005 by Jody McKim Pharr]

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