Monday, November 25, 2013

My National Dress

I own this one (picture from here)

It is one of the many national dresses Finnish designers created in the last hundred years.  It's not terribly far from the best ("Sunday") dress that Finnish peasant women might have worn in the eighteenth century, though the red would have been rare as it was an expensive dye.  Today its uses are limited to folk dancing etc.  and certain kinds of more dignified celebrations.

The history of the dress is fascinating, having to do with stuff like the powers-that--were in the 18th century using luxury laws which kept silks and so on from the filthy paws of the masses.  There's also a marital status to the dress, because the cap is for married women.  Unmarried women, at least young ones, would wear just ribbons in their hair.

But the reason I want to write about this dress is the way it is made.  The skirt is hand-loomed (ikat) and both it, the vest and the detachable pocket are wool.  The shirt is linen, and the pulled-work in it is hand-made.

Making clothes in the eighteenth century meant making them by hand, possibly even beginning with growing the flax for the linen and shearing the sheep.  The work was so immense that few people could afford several changes of clothing, and once you got your Sunday dress it had to last a very long time.

And this is where things get exciting:  Everything in the outfit is size-adjustable!  For instance, my skirt is sorta doubled over, to fit me, but if a pregnant woman wore it the skirt could be easily taken out, temporarily, and the skirt could also grow in circumference as its owner grew.  Likewise, the shirt is baggy, but because it is thin material it adjusts to even a slim upper body.  The vest is adjustable because of the lacing.

This means that if a woman's weight or circumference changed, the outfit could be changed, too.  I like that idea.  It reduces waste.  I also like the detachable pocket.  You could have something like that for a cell or mobile phone and just wrap it around a different outfit.

The back of the vest has a neat little bird's tail, too.  The apron, on the other hand, duh.  And I'm not terribly fond of skirts in the winter.  They are cold.