Textile Tales From The Second World War

Feestrok, celebrating the liberation of the Netherlands. 1948. Feestrok, celebrating the liberation of the Netherlands. 1948. TRC 2011.0001a

11. The years after the war

The first few years following the liberation of the country in 1944/1945 are characterised by a rebuilding and general feeling among the Dutch of the re-emergence of the Netherlands.

The defeat of Nazi Germany, the succession to the throne by Queen Juliana in 1948, and the Dutch recognition of Indonesian independence in 1949 marked for many Dutch people the start of a new beginning.

The postwar period was also the time that Nazi Germans and their Dutch sympathisers were arrested, charged and sentenced by Dutch courts. Some of the germans and their Dutch collaborators were executed; many were imprisoned. Immediately after the war ended, some 100,000 Dutch people were interned.

One of these internment camps was in Stadskanaal, in the north of the country. The TRC houses a most intriguing memento of the Stadskanaal prisoners, namely a handkerchief embroidered with the names of many of the women held there (TRC 2015.0193).

The Feestrok

The Feestrok is a patchwork skirt that was made by many Dutch women after the war to celebrate the liberation of the country. The idea was born in 1943, when Mies Boissevain-Van Lennep (1896-1965), who had joined the resistance against the Germans during the war, was imprisoned by the occupying forces. While in prison she was sent a scarf tie that was made from scraps of cloth from the clothes of family and friends.

After the liberation, she became a member of a women's committee that wanted to create a garment that reflected the diversity, unity and reconstruction of the Netherlands after the war. The Feestrok symbolised 'unity from diversity'; 'new out of old'; 'building up from ruins'. Anyone who made a Feestrok skirt could have it officially registered. In the end, 4,000 of these skirts were registered, but many more were made and worn. The TRC Collection houses a number of these garments, and one of them is illustrated here (TRC 2011.0001a).

Tablecloth produced by the Ferwerda company in 1945/1946, to celebrate the liberation of the Netherlands (TRC 2014.0814). For more information, click on the illustration.National breakfast tablecloth

In 1945/46, the Ferwerda company sold a tablecloth commemorating the liberation of the Netherlands (compare TRC 2014.0814). In the centre is the Dutch lion rampant with a sword piercing a swastika. This tablecloth was designed during the war, the first 144 copies were woven clandestinely from artificial silk that was actually intended for towels to be sent to Germany.

Parachute fabric

After the liberation, parachute fabric was used to make clothing. Initially, parachutes were made from long pieces of silk. During the war, nylon, a synthetic material that had been introduced by Dupont in 1935, was further developed and used for parachutes.

2017.3365 2Christening gown made of parachute silk, 1947 (TRC 2017.3365). For more information, click on the illustration.Most of the parachute fabric used to make clothing was acquired soon after the liberation. Some came from parachutes that were used before, during the occupation, and had been kept for years. Given the shortage of textiles, the fabric was more than welcome and the clothing made from it added extra lustre to the liberation and the years that followed. Many wedding and christening dresses were made from parachute fabric.

One of these christening gowns, now in he TRC collection (TRC 2017.33657.3365) was made in 1947 from material acquired during the war, and was subsequently used for the christening of seventeen children between 1947 and 2013. For a TRC blog on the subject, see Christening gown with a rich history (1 November 2017).

New Look

In February 1947, Christian Dior released a new collection, characterised by long, full skirts with petticoats, a wasp waist and shoulders without padding. After the long period of thrift and austerity, this feminine and luxurious style matched the post-war mood.

The editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar called Dior's dresses "such a new look," which is how this style received its name. Not everyone was happy with the New Look. In the USA, women demonstrated against this style, which for them symbolised the surrender of their freedoms: no longer working in the factory, but back to the kitchen and into a corset. That did not stop the success: the New Look became the post-war clothing style.


2015.0193 2Handkerchief with the embroidered names of Dutch women who were interned after the war at Stadskanaal, Groningen (TRC 2015.0193). For more information, click on the illustration.

For the Kerchief from Stadskanaal, see the TRC blogs:


 For the Feestrok, see the TRC blogs:


For the 'New Look", see the TRC blog


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