Hijab in Holland part 1

23 05 2008

Hello! Everybody who tuned in on the title: Bad Luck! I just put the word hijab into the title to ”up” my disappointing blogstats a bit.

This post is really about the weird regional traditional Dutch dresses! Which also include covering the head.
Oh, well, let’s throw some fuel on the fire: In my mind there is a clear correlation, looking back over the past 3000 years, between women being regarded as second rate human beings, and dress-restrictions. Especially covering. Or, as is the fashion in the west now; uncovering.

I don’t care how much some individuals are convinced they cover themselves with restricting fabric because they are liberated, and doing it of their own free will. I’m sure they do truly believe so, and I do respect that. But I’m also convinced the concept of covering is not invented by women, but by men who are always looking for ways to control women. By any means possible.
And a favorite means is, to declare: ”It’s for your own good” coupled with: ”God wants you to” . That one makes all resistance virtually futile.

Historically, and to date, covering of women can be seen in societies where women have had their powers and economical independence taken away, and were regarded as part of men’s possessions. In Greece women were literally mentioned on lists of household goods. Of course they had to cover. Actually, they were only allowed out of the house one day a year. In Rome every married woman was considered a priestess of Vesta and had to be veiled. Through the Roman Christian faith, with has been so successful in taking away the rights of women all over the world, the concept of covering the head for women was also induced into Europe.

Anyway, Dutch traditional dress. This one is especially for my sister Suroor who like traditions so much. The Netherlands are but a little speck on the map. But, because all Dutch always think they know better than the next person, there is an enormous diversity in regional dresses, and, for your education and amusement, I’m going to show you a few of them. The poorer a region; the more ancient in style the dresses. In very poor regions the dresses were almost medieval! up to about sixty years ago, some fishing villages still kept to the medieval mourning custom where women covered themselves with their skirt turned up over their heads.
That wasn’t as indecent as it sounds, they could wear as many as 11 other skirts underneath!

So about the weird regional dresses. One thing I have to point out first is the use of what is called the ”ear-iron” This was originally a metal wire that went around the head, with a curl at the end, and used to attach the head cover. But over the centuries it evolved in different forms all over the Netherlands.

The ear-iron’s function is to keep the halal christian head-covers in place, and have been used for hundreds of years. Here you see a very old painting of a lady with head-cloth. To proof she is Dutch she’s carrying a couple of Dutch cheeses.

The richer the province, the larger the ear-irons. The northern provinces were very rich and the ear-irons evolved into a kind of helmet. While in poorer regions it remained quite modest in size.

A second detail of dress I’d like to mention is lace. On some photo’s you’ll see an awful lot of lace, and I want to make clear that making lace by hand is an extremely difficult and time consuming business. A lace parure could cost more than your jewellery together!
Here you see a lady making a simple bit of lace ribbon, check out the bobbins. Imagine the enourmous numbers of bobbins were needed for a piece of really intricate lace!

I’ll start off with my province, Groningen, and next to it, Friesland. The province of the Frisian horses. The ”Black Pearls of the North”. These horses look their best in front of an eighteenth-century ”Sjees” driven by a handsome couple in traditional dress.

The ear-iron could also support a kind of sunscreen to protect your complexion from the sun (A lady was nรฉver tanned!)

So, the irons used in the North are amongst the largest in the Netherlands. And they were essential! If you were poor you wore a silver one, and if you were pathetically poor a brass one. But it was unseemly to go about without one. There were subscriptions to raise money to get orphan girls their ear-irons so they could get jobs, and there were skating competitions for girls to win a gold ear-iron. If fashions had not changed I am sure I’d have tried much harder on becoming a good skater.

There is one snag with wearing these ear-irons: on top is a lace cap, underneath is a black cap, under the black cap is a white cap, and to be able to fit all of that on your head you have to
Which brings us to this delightful painting of a family-crisis: Here we see the stern, Groninger, Mater Familias, (and you can’t see it very well, but believe me, she’s holding an enormous pair of scissors!) The young daughter is distraught and holding on to her golden locks, the threatening ear-iron and lace cap are ready in the corner. The elder sister is trying to console her weeping sister and calming down the determined mother.

And this is how it is still worn today (on special occasions)

It’s getting too long, digest this, dear readers, and tune in for the second part!



16 responses

24 05 2008
Susie of Arabia

Hi Aafke –
What an interesting post!!! And I love the photos as well. I had no idea about the ear irons! Holland’s own form of Hijab. Some cultural traditions are just so difficult to understand, aren’t they? Thanks for providing this information. I really enjoyed learning about this – I can’t wait for the 2nd installment!

24 05 2008

If I may, I’d like to point out that the problem is not ‘women’ but rateher sexuality. Something almost all religions seem to fear and dread.



24 05 2008

Very interesting post and photos! I agree with Rhysz that the covering of women is about sexuality. Was it invented and perpetrated by men? I’m not so sure. Maybe our ancient female forebearers covered themselves as a means to stave off enthusiastic men in whom they had little interest. The men, of course, did take the cue from them, and commendeered the custom for their own benefit, which obviously gave them more control over the women.

24 05 2008

The painting of the mother and daughters is very impressive. What is the title, who is the painter? It stirrede lots of emotions in me, because it shows that women themselves can perpetuate a custom opressive to them, by just following traditions.
Its good this is a thing of the past.

24 05 2008

Well said, ~W~. I, too, had a visceral reaction to that painting. I felt sad for the young girl, and I projected my own sense of acquiesence onto the mother. As women, we learn early that there are some things with which we must simply cooperate. We stuff our true feelings away, or we identity with the enemy, and willingly accept what is dished out.

Do you really think this is a thing of the past?

24 05 2008

Dear Marahm,

I think, unfortunately, it is not. Even more I thinkthat’s it’s affecting males more and more these days. We do away with free will and try to conform more and more. Maybe, I’m just getting old and grumpy. But so many people seem to want to live up to their own stereotype.



24 05 2008

Susie, well the regional fashions have an evolution which can be followed quite easily, check out the photo of all the ear-irons in a row.
But in the whole of Europe women had to have their heir covered. Even if it was reduced to a token fluff of lace as in the eighteenth century. Especially married women.
Perhaps I’ll write about that too, and show lots of lovely pictures on fashions!

Rhysz and Marahm: yep, it seems that ”men” seem very pre-occupied with sexuality, ownership, and perhaps feeling insufficiency? A REAL MAN wouldn’t need to think up this sort of stuff, or lock their wife up in the house, as is done by some in KSA. A real man wouldn’t have to worry, he would know his wife would never care about anybody else.

~W~ and Marahm, Yes, a very impressive and stirring painting isn’t it? I don’t know who painted it. It used to be in the Groniger Museum, But I think it is stuck in the depot now. The Groninger Museum thinks very highly of itself as a very important modern museum, and has a great dislike of the ancient collections they’re also stuck with.
You know, it would be very interesting to do some research on the painting.

And yes, it has always struck me deeply. I don’t give the little girl’s golden locks much chance.
The only thing that belongs to the past is the cutting off of hair to fit the head for an ear-iron.
I think it is the responsibility of parents to be brave and stop submitting their daughters to unnatural inhibiting cultural practises.

I am very interested to read the painting struck you too!

Oh, yes! Little brother Rhysz! you are sรณ turning into a Grumpy Old Man!!!!!
And may I add how wonderfully your avatar illustrates your personality…

24 05 2008

Well, I wanted to visit to help you prop up your lagging blog stats… but I find I cannot let this post fade into the cyber sunset without comment! (Well researched, by the way… excellent job!)
I must join Rhysz in speaking from the ever growing legion of grumpy old men. People, of every religion, background, ethnicity, gender, (fill in your adjective here), are all finding themselves more and more pressured by “societal norms” to conform to the majority way of thinking. Aafke, you touch on it in your comment on life in the KSA. Perhaps it’s simply my own personal rebellious nature speaking, but I think that people have quit thinking for themselves and are allowing themselves to be herded like so many cattle to wherever the “powers that be” (religious, political, etc.) choose to lead them. It’s truly a shame. And I don’t want to believe it can last much longer.
However, I find some of the fashions you discuss to be quite beautiful, with some of the accessories obviously very detailed, requiring much care in their making. If someone – out of the free will Rhysz mentions, and I cling to – chooses to adorn themselves in that fashion, I think it’s perfectly well to do so. If, however, as is the practice in too many places on the planet today, they do it out of blind compulsion to comply with someone else’s idea of how they should look, dress, behave, etc., I pray they will wake up, open their eyes, and realize they have the right to choose for themselves.
Wow… didn’t plan on saying that much. Sorry! ๐Ÿ™‚

24 05 2008

Lofter: glad to see you! Very nice comment! I agree with you free independant thought seems to be on the demise.
The fashions are very lovely, In Groningen it’s mostly a collection of gold jewellery, and it is all beautiful and very detailed. There is more to come!
But they are for us, very cumbersome. I like dressing up, and I also have a nineteemth century getup, complete with boned bodice and it’s so tiring just to wearing it. I’ll write about fashion and history more, it’s quite a passion of me.

There were a lot of different fashions in which you could distinguish yourselve and show your individuality. And after all: we all want to belong, and clothing is a very important part of that,everywhere in the world.

but it should never come to the point where there are punishments and repercussions if you don’t ”tow the line” when it comes to dress-codes. I actually see that as a sign that something very evil and creepy is going about.

24 05 2008

Its sooooooo interesting. There is a painting by one of Hollands’ Artists, “Girl with a pear earring”. There is a book about story of this art-work too and also a movie with same name based on book.

In this book, the writer completely explain that how much covering hair was important, common and obligatory among people of Netherlands in the past.

when i read that book, based on the explaination i imagined the clothes and costums. These fotos really made all those pictures alive in my mind again. Thank you.. ๐Ÿ™‚

24 05 2008

Shahrzad, glad you liked it! But remember; in the case of Groninger, Friesian, Drenther ladies, the hair was cut off!!!!

24 05 2008

@ Lofter

Magnificent post! If you could dress any way you wished, what would that be? I think you expertly, and much more clearly, said what I was trying to.

@ Aafke

I think you kind of missed the point of my post you feminist fundementalist!

Random thought:

My friend showed me some videos of some awesome, beautifull and strong muslim women today. I hold them in my thoughts.



24 05 2008

LOL… if I could dress any way I wished… ๐Ÿ˜€
I can, and do, dress any way I wish! I prefer blue jeans, hiking boots, and loose fitting shirts that allow me to hang my arm out the window and let the wind billow through! I’m far flung from anything considered “fashionable” these days. Then again, I never much cared what anyone else considered “fashionable” anyway!
But an interesting question, Rhysz… I would like to pose it to everyone else here. If you (speaking in general terms) weren’t bound by anything – and I do mean ANYTHING – regarding your choice of dress, what type of clothing (if any) would you choose to wear for yourself?
(Consider it an exercise in thinking out of the box… :-D)

24 05 2008

I always wear exactely what I want to wear.
Actually, as I make most of my clothes myself, it can’t get more personal ๐Ÿ˜€

25 05 2008

These are perfectly modest clothes. Very hijabi!

I am amazed – there is so much variety in colours, designs, styles and accessories. It is just brilliant.

25 05 2008

You do realise the last photo, the one on the right, is a bloke?

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