Friday, November 18, 2016

Faroe Islands 2016 - Faroese National Costumes I

ISSUE DATE: 26 September 2016
STAMP SIZE: 40 x 26.5 mm
STAMP DESIGN: Edward Fuglø 

Visitors to the Faroe Islands have hardly failed to notice that many Faroese wear national costumes at parties and town festivals. They will see men wearing breeches and the distinct Faroese hats and women in full-length skirts with beautifully embroidered aprons and shawls, with elegantly made silver jewellery.

In actuality, the Faroese national costume tradition is not very old. The costumes are based on the way everyday clothing looked up until the mid-19th century, and it was only during the national revival  in the late 18th century that they started becoming different from the commoner's clothing. The term "føroysk klæði" (Faroese attire) should be compared to the concept "donsk klæði" (Danish attire), which designated clothes bought in shops - and does not necessarily denote formal wear. Gradually, as it became more customary to dress in "shop's clothing" as most Europeans did, the traditional attire came to occupy a class by itself. In my childhood we still could see men, especially of the older generation, using breeches, knitted sweaters and hats in everyday life.

Over time, and especially during the national romantic revival in the late 18th century, the Faroese attire began assuming its current status for festive occasions. There have been a number of changes made from the original attire and a certain standardization of both female and male dresses has taken place, so that one can now talk about a genuine national costume. After World War II the use of the national costume gradually increased, but in the last two or three decades it has come back with a vengeance, partly because of nationalism flourishing due to the severe financial crisis in the Faroe Islands in the nineties.

In three annual stamp issues we will illustrate aspects of both the female and male costumes.

Torso - the female costume
The knitted blouse that goes with the female costume is short and tight. It is open in front and has a wide neckline. Traditionally the blouse is red with tiny black patterns or, more rarely, blue with dark blue patterns. Recently, designers have started experimenting with colours - violet, green or yellow, to name just a few.

A detachable bosom is worn underneath the open front of the blouse. The bosom originates in the old festive apparel called "stakkur" and was not being commonly used for this costume in the past. In days of old the bosom was woven or knitted in wool, then fulled or felted, while nowadays being made of lined velvet or similar fabric. The bosom serves two functions - the first as a compensation, let's say if the woman gets a little bigger, enabling her to use the same blouse. Its second function is to serve as an underlay, enhancing the costume's silver ornament.

In order to tighten the blouse against the body, use is made of a silver chain, a so-called "stimi". The stimi is pulled through the eyelets, "malja" in Faroese, on both sides of the blouse opening. A silver needle called "sproti" is at the end of the stimi which is fastened to the blouse after insertion. A source reports that formerly the stimi went up under the bust in order to accentuate it - but now it goes up on the bust of the dress.

Around the waist women wear a wide black belt with ornamented silver buckles. In rare cases, the entire belt is composed of ornamented silver pieces.

A large ornamented silver brooch is on top of the detachable bosom, used to hold the shawl in place. The brooch and belt buckles should preferably match with each other.

On the whole, silver ornamentation plays an important role in the national costume. There are women who, while their daughters are still young, start collecting the single silver pieces which at some point in the future will become a complete set. The silver ornamentation is also often passed on from mother to daughter. The design of the brooch and the silver buckles varies. In recent years Faroese decorative motifs have become more frequent.

Torso - the male costume
Men dressing in the national costume generally wear a white shirt next to the body. Over the shirt they wear a waistcoat with six silver buttons, two small pockets and intricate floral embroideries. The waistcoat is either red or black in front. There is also a white waistcoat variant used by bridegrooms at weddings.

Over the waistcoat men wear a buttoned knitted sweater, open in front with silver buttons on both sides. The sweater is mostly worn open in front, held together at the top by a short silver chain with silver buttons at each end. The buttoned sweater is either uni-coloured dark blue and made of knitted and felted wool - or, as shown on the stamp, light blue with a dark blue pattern.

author: Anker Eli Petersen

Stamp images and description thanks to Posta

Faroe Post - Posta