Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Faroe Islands 2017 - Faroese National Costumes II

Technical Details:
Issue Date: 2 October 2017
Values: 9,50 and 17 DKK
Stamp Size: 40,0 x 26,5 mm
Artist: Edward Fuglø
Printing Method: Offset. 
Printer: OeSD, Austria
Postal Use: Small Letters Inland and to Europe, 0-50 g

The second stamp issue of the Faroese national costume shows the skirt, pants, socks and shoes

About the Motif: Faroese National Costumes II

The Female Dress:

The Skirt
Nowadays the traditional skirt is black with red stripes. The material used was the so-called "linsey", i.e. originally homespun flax with wool, but now machine-woven cotton with wool is being used. In recent years traditionalists have levelled some criticism at this trend. Young women especially have chosen other colours, for example black with green stripes or black with yellow stripes.

The sources, however, tell us that from times of old different colours have been used. In his description of the Faroes, dating back to 1800, pastor Jørgen Landt (1751 - 1804) reports that the skirts were brown with white stripes for everyday use and yellow-striped for special occasions. The tailor Hans Marius Debes (1888 - 1978) writes that formerly the skirts were dark blue in basic hue rather than black, with light blue, white, red, yellow or green stripes. Debes also writes that the skirt should be fitted with 13 pleats, the reason being the common practice of girls getting their skirts around the age of confirmation and as their bodies developed the pleats would gradually even out.

The Apron
The apron, of course, is a remnant of the old everyday dress and served the purpose of protecting the skirt from dirt and wear. It's easier to wash an apron than a skirt – and the apron can be replaced in a trice. Folklore researcher J. C. Svabo (1746-1824) stated that the aprons were made of blue-striped canvas, while H. M. Debes, a few centuries later, stated that they were made of muslin, silk or some similar fabric. In the past aprons were shorter than nowadays when they are worn exclusively for decorative purposes. Much attention is often paid to the apron’s embellishment, usually by using embroideries which, incidentally, have to match the scarf.

Socks and Shoes
Underneath the skirt girls and women wore black or gray socks, most likely knitted with Faroese yarn. Since then socks have become daintier, made of silk and nylon, and nowadays black nylon stockings or panty hoses are used.

The shoes were originally of traditional Faroese cowhide or sheepskin shoes, or clogs and galoshes. Besides, shoes of foreign origin have undoubtedly been used as well.

Today, the most commonly worn shoes are black semi-high heeled patent leather shoes with wide shoe buckles made of silver.

The Male Dress:

The Breeches
One of the most distinctive features of the men's traditional costume are the black breeches. J. C. Svabo gives quite a humorous description of Faroese trousers used in his own times. He writes that they are black and wide, open below the knee and fastened about the leg with drawstrings. The fly was in front without any buttons, always open and extra visible because of the white undergarment. It would have been more befitting, in Svabo’s opinion, to use a flap or a panel to cover the front opening of the pants - but he doubted that this would happen.

Chances have actually happened since the times of Svabo. Today, the pants have a flap in front which is fastened up with silver buttons on the sides. The modern breeches are also tighter, made of black homespun cloth and they are also fitted with buttons in the seams just below the knees.

The reason for the traditional use of breeches is a practical one. Coming home after a hard day’s work it was easier to change socks than pants since work often meant getting your feet and legs wet.

The Stockings
The socks, or rather the stockings, are long, reaching up above the knee and held in place with a so-called garter, preferably woven in coloured patterns. The stockings date back to ancient times, most often brown or grey in colour. On festive occasions men often used blue or white stockings - which is also the case today. The stockings are usually blue, but they can be white or brown as well.

Traditionally, cowhide or sheepskin shoes with long laces wrapped up around the legs were used almost exclusively. For festive occasions some men may have worn shoes of foreign make, but this would have been very rare.

As the national costume became distinct from everyday clothing in the late 1800’s, people started using "Danish shoes" which were more refined leather or patent leather shoes with a wide silver buckles, often decorated with shaded ornaments.

Anker Eli Petersen

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