Asked in ClothingEngland
What is England's traditional dress?
January 13, 2010 9:03PM
The English have rediscovered a national dress which harks back to the thegn dress of the 7th century which was pretty much universally worn at this time yet is modern enough to be widely acceptable. The outfit is smart but casual enough to wear at public functions such as weddings,particularly when adorned with the rich embroidery which replicates the traditional craft of the English seamstress.The national dress can be made from cutting patterns or bought as a tailor made finished article complete with embroidery.
Until recently, the English do not have a particularly typical national dress. In Britain, the Scotsmen in the north, in Scotland, of course have the kilt (a tartan skirt), the sporran (a type of purse that hangs in front) the dirk (a dagger held in a calf-length sock, and a tartan hat, the 'Tam-o'shanter'. Women have a similar dress, but without the sporran or dirk. Traditionally Scotsmen wear no underwear under the kilt - a source of much humour and innuendo about 'what a Scot keeps under his kilt...'.
The Welsh female also has a traditional dress - a full woolen calflength skirt, a cotton frilly top, a tassled shawl and a Welsh traditional hat that is a little like a witch's traditional hat but without the pointed top - the hat being truncated into a flat top
Sadly, however, the English do not have such well known traditional costumes. Apart from that being resurrected (see above) the nearest would be the Morris Man - a traditional (almost exclusively male) dance costume that consists of white shirt, white trousers (pants), black shoes, a boater-type hat and usually coloured sashes like those worn in beauty contests. The hat is usually bedecked with flowers, and the ankles with bells that jingle as the dancer moves. Although appearing to a tourist as a little effeminate, it is considered quite a macho thing to belong to a group of Morris Men - who are renowned for dancing but also for drinking the many pubs in England dry after they finish their stint at local fairs and May day celebrations.
The traditional wear of the English businessman has always been a pinstripe suit, and a bowler hat ( as worn by Laurel and Hardy) - and the accompaniment of a rolled up umberella (because of the changeable weather!) but sadly so few businessmen dress this way nowadays.
The question was What is ENGLAND'S traditional dress,-not what is Scotland,Wales and Ireland's?
However,interestingly all of these are invented traditions like England's new national dress.
The thegn style of dress was worn for the better part of 1000 years in England before the common folk finally abandoned it,having been impoverished by their Norman overlords.
The brightness of this costume is not completely seen in the website photo,nor can the embroidery be fully appreciated.
The reason for using this particular style of dress was because several emblems are traditional.
The English dress of the man and woman is made from pure English wool,and the colour is made using traditional dyers weeds or herbs.The brooch and metal clasps are made with wyrms( dragons) incised into the metal to symbolise the white dragon of the Angles and Saxons which they revered from the earliest times and carried into battle.
Silver in itself was revered by the early English as it conferred status and was a mystical metal.
The seaxe worn in its leather scabbard by both males and females is an integral part of our dress as it was worn by every freeman and woman and child,and demonstrated the right of all English folk to bear arms for protection.
The colours which echo the traditional red and white of England are added to by the addition of embroidery.
Every county of England has its own sacred emblem and these show others where each
wearer originates.The white horse for Kent three seaxes for Essex etc.
The originators of this dress took great care to make it practical and attractive, and one which could be personalised, and added to over the years.
The embroidery echoes the artistry of our ancestors whose needlework was famed throughout northern Europe. (After all the Bayeaux Tapestry was made by English seamstresses in Canterbury)
P.S.The kilt was invented by Thomas Rawlinson (an Englishman) in the 18th century because at the time the Scottish highlanders were dressed in blankets pinned with a brooch at the shoulder and frankly looked rather 'rustic'.
The Welsh were dressed up in their national costume by Augusta Hall -(an English woman) in the nineteenth century.