Saturday, August 17, 2013

May I Have This Dance?

One of the special treats we enjoyed on our river cruise was a performance one evening by six Alsatian dancers. Strasbourg is the capitol of Alsace, France, which is situated on France's eastern border and on the west bank of the upper Rhine River adjacent to Germany and Switzerland.

The dance troupe performed typical  Alsatian dances--a waltz, a polka, and a march. 

You can probably guess what caught my attention...the embroidery on the women's costumes!


The dancers explained the history of their costumes near the end of their program.  The  women wore black hats, which were composed of two parts: a bonnet and a ribbon nearly 10 feet (3 meters) long. If the woman was married, her ribbons were plain; if she was unmarried, her ribbons were embroidered.  The color of her skirt indicated her religion.  Catholics wore red, and Protestants wore blue or green.  The white collar was heavily starched and trimmed with lace.  Each woman also wore an apron over her skirt.  The embroidered aprons were worn by the poorer women, typically those from farm families.  They were too poor to buy the fancier ones and had to embellish their aprons themselves with embroidery.  They did their embroidery over the winter months when the farm chores were not so demanding. The women also each wore a white petticoat and pantaloons.

The men wore a white shirt, black pants, a red waistcoat, and a black hat. The buttons were traditionally gold, and the number of buttons indicated wealth. The top button on the waistcoat indicated marital status: if it was closed, the man was married; if it was unbuttoned, he was single.

Now, see what you can tell about the dancers.  The following photo shows only five of the dancers; the sixth one was making an announcement when this photo was taken. You can get a glimpse of her in the background of the first two photos.  Who is wealthy and who is poor?  Who is married, and who is unmarried?  Are the women Catholic or Protestant? 

Clothing can indeed tell you a lot about a person.  Our commentator noted that on Sunday morning after church you could check to see who was available and how wealthy they were.

I leave you with a few glimpses of the lovely town of Strasbourg.

Any idea what is on the roof top of the house in the next photo?

It is a platform for white storks to use when building a nest.  Since the Middle Ages, the storks have been symbolic of the continuity and renewal of life. A stork nest on your house is considered to be a good luck.

The platform is an alternative to power poles and protects the wires from damage which could result from the nests.  In addition, the platforms help protect the house roof from the potentially heavy weight of a nest which can measure between 2-1/2 to almost 5  feet in diameter and weigh between 130 and 500  pounds!

Sadly, there wasn't enough time to spend at this museum.  With only a few minutes remaining before we needed to get back to the ship, I ran into the tiny gift shop and found a few postcards with samplers. Perhaps I can make it back to Strasbourg and the museum some day.


Barb said...

Beautiful costumes. The information about the stork is very interesting. Such a beautiful town!!

Vickie said...

ooOoo! I loved this post. Thanks.

Margaret said...

Wow, that's so interesting about the costumes and who was wealthy and who not. Funny how these days we would treasure the apron of the poorer woman more now. So cool about the platform for the storks too. The nests being so heavy is amazing! Love the beautiful scenery!

Annette-California said...

Incredible Embroidery work on the costumes. Unbelievable how heavy the nests can get. Beautiful Village! Oh I loved these photos too. Looks like you had some fun:)
love Annette
ps I dying to know what your favorite souvenir is that you brought back?

C Street Samplerworks said...

Our Russell family came from Alsace in 1836, so I loved reading this post and seeing the close-up photos of the beautiful embroidery on the costumes. The large bow headdresses of Alsace have always fascinated me, and I was glad to learn how they are constructed.

I'll never be able to travel to Europe, but your informative posts and luscious photos make it seem as if I took the cruise myself. Thank you!

Peace & Love, Fran

Anne said...

Wonderful post Ellen! I love those costumes! The embroidery is beautiful! Thanks for sharing your photos...I felt like I was there!