Europe, possibly one of the most culturally rich regions on Earth, possesses an eclectic mix of cultural clothes that derives from a multitude of cultures. Over the years, this region has seen many conflicts, migrations and influences; which eventually led to the formation of strong identities within each country and helped to form their own culture (and by extension, clothing as well!). As such, we decided to piece together a list of some of the most interesting pieces of cultural clothes that we could find in Europe!
This piece is traditionally used as a loose-fitting gown for women in the late 17th and 18th century. Over the years, it became an over-gown or robe typically worn over petticoats, stays, or a stomacher. Its origins are unknown, though some say it could have been named after the Mantua region in Italy or derived its name from manteau, a French term for coat.
Usually made with a single length of fabric, the mantua was usually used to showcase the finest of intricate designs alongside delicate jewellery, replacing the more drab-looking satins that were popular in the mid century. In the modern age, these dresses have become increasingly rare, and surviving examples of pieces belonging in the 17th century now lay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.
The kilt is possibly one of the most interesting pieces of clothing you would see in modern times today. Originating from the Scottish Highlands of the 16th century, it was the traditional dressing for both men and boys until the 19th century, when it became more associated with the wider culture of Scotland and even Celtic cultures. It is essentially a knee-length, non-bifurcated skirt-type garment with pleats at the rear, made of wool with a tartan pattern. They are not restricted to men however, as they have also been adopted as sportswear for women in some sports.
Oddly enough, though this garment is usually worn during formal occasions or Highland sports games, it is making a comeback in recent times as many begin to adopt it as casual wear, thus returning it to its casual roots. Particularly in North America, you would be able to get them for casual wear in a large variety of materials.
It usually refers to traditional garments in German speaking countries such as Austria or Bavaria, though many other German people do possess them as well. In northern Germany, the best known tracht are the “Friesische Tracht” and the “Finkenwerder Tracht”. The former would be decorated with embroidery and beads, and would be a sign of the wealth and social status of the wives who wore it. In the past, it would have been part of the dowry brought into the marriage by the bride, though it is still occasionally worn at weddings. The latter would be native to the inhabitants of an island at the Elbe river, worn by the folklore group called Finkwarder Speeldeel.
Trachts are also worn by professional guilds, people from the religious order, deaconesses, and is a historical garment of some professional groups (such as nurses). While many have now fallen into disuse, you might still be able to see carpenter journeymen utilising them while travelling throughout Europe.