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Postcard with two German soldiers and two women in Volendam-style costume, 1943 (TRC 2019.1436).Postcard with two German soldiers and two women in Volendam-style costume, 1943 (TRC 2019.1436).On Friday night, 17 May 2019, Willem Vogelsang wrote:

Tonight Gillian and yours truly watched a music show by André Rieu (we are not proud). What struck us was a group of supposedly Dutch girls in folkloristic costume dancing on the stage. They looked perfect. That is, from a distance. Long blond hair, blue eyes, and you could imagine tulips sticking out of their ears.

But a closer look revealed that their costume was rather weird: they covered their head with the Volendam cap, which, I know, appears to be world-famous and for many is The cliché of Holland. That is fine, but they also wore bright yellow and painted clogs, which again seem to be very Dutch (although I have never worn them and I am afraid my Dutchness is beyond doubt). A little detail, however, is that the Volendam cap and yellow clogs do not go well together. Women in Volendam wore black, carved clogs during the week, and shoes on Sundays. A little detail, but still...

That was not all. In between the Volendam cap and non-Volendam clogs the girls on André Rieu's stage also wore what looked like South German / Austrian Dirndl outfits. I like these costumes, and all they contain, but not really what one would expect to see anywhere in Holland. 


Photograph of a group of American soldiers and local children in Volendam-style costume. The photograph was taken in Hoensbroek, Limburg, The Netherlands, in 1945 or 1946 (TRC 2019.1424).Photograph of a group of American soldiers and local children in Volendam-style costume. The photograph was taken in Hoensbroek, Limburg, The Netherlands, in 1945 or 1946 (TRC 2019.1424).

But what the heck. When I come home in the evening the first thing I do is to put on an Arab dishdasha dressVisitors are sometimes a bit surprised to see this elderly guy in a dress, but it builds their character. All of this reminded me of some photographs that Gillian recently acquired for the TRC. They are quite notable.
One of them is a picture of a group of American soldiers walking hand in hand with a group of Dutch (?) children, all dressed in what seems to be a fantasy Dutch folkloristic costume, complete with a sort of Volendam cap. The photograph dates to just after WWII. What is so weird, and interesting, is the caption, which says that the photograph was taken in Hoensbroek, in Limburg, which lies in the extreme southeast of The Netherlands. I know, I live in a small country, but I don't think anyone in Limburg is likely to wear anything like a Volendam costume, from the northwest of the country. What happened? Did the American army organise 'cultural events' for their troops, introducing them to the intricacies of local society? I did the same thing for the Dutch troops in Afghanistan some ten years ago. I walked hand in hand with my Afghan friends, to the utter horror of my military companions.

Girl's apron in orange, white and blue, early 1940s (TRC 2010.0569).Girl's apron in orange, white and blue, early 1940s (TRC 2010.0569).

And then there is a picture postcard of two German soldiers and two Dutch (?) girls (see above). Another recent acquisition of the TRC. This picture dates to 1943, and shows the Germans wearing Volendam costume. That was the time when Holland was occupied by German troops, and the photograph, but also the text on the back (Meine lieben Eltern ....) constitute some sort of time capsule.
Finally, I found a photograph of my own parents, long departed, who got themselves photographed, again in Volendam costume, sometime just before the war. I think that they were just engaged, and it may have been a 'day out' for them, not long before they were engulfed by the war and all its horrors.

I talked about a time capsule. The TRC is preparing an exhibition on textiles and garments against the backdrop of the war. Next year, in 2020, we celebrate the end of WWII, 75 years ago. The photographs I mention above will be part of it, but there will be many other items, which illustrate an episode in Dutch, and world history that already seems so long ago, but at the same time so nearby.

Some weeks ago the TRC lent a child's apron to a Dutch girl to show to her class mates. It was a special occasion. The apron dates to the early 1940s and was worn during the war by a little girl from Leiden. It was made from blue/white gingham cloth and embroidered with orange thread: by coincidence... the colours of the Dutch flag.

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TRC Gallery exhibition:
5 Febr. -27 August 2020: American Quilts

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