Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Community Dressing: Urk

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Community Dressing was made possible by the Nederlandse Kostuumvereniging, the Zuiderzeemuseum and the VSB Fund.

Meanwhile, were well on our way in our research aimed at discovering links and differences between Dutch regional costume and todays fashion.

In this episode well aim to uncover the secrets hidden in Urks traditional dress

particularly those with respect to the social relations of men and women.

Because Urk used to be an island and because a lot has changed in the last hundred years,

well discover what sets Urk apart as Dutch fashion heritage.

Since weve closely inspected the way in which women went about in regional dress communities in the previous episodes,

the question automatically arose as to how men are positioned in all of this.

And thats why in this episode well take a closer look at what the role of a man has been within a regional dress community.

It is quite interesting to take a closer look now, as we find ourselves in the middle of a new feminist wave.

What does that mean? And what can the traditional dress of the village of Urk teach us?

Urk was originally a fishing village and lies in the Noordoostpolder, the northern part of Flevoland.

Before 1950 this village - an island at the time - belonged to Noord-Holland.

It subsequently belonged to Overijssel, until the reclaimed polder-area was named Flevoland in 1986.

Since a couple of years theres nobody on Urk who wears its regional garment on a daily basis.

The last two remaining wearers passed away as of January 2015, rendering the regional dress extinct.

Thats not to say that theres no more esteem for Urks cultural heritage.

Urk counts as many as ten authentic choirs, of which the oldest was founded in 1897.

Beside that, the Urkerdag takes place annually on the Saturday preceding Pentecost.

Almost every inhabitant of Urk then goes about in its respective regional garment to await the arrival of the ships carrying young women.

This is an annual tradition of the past;

Back in the day, young girls held jobs as maids with families at shore,

And came back home on this day to celebrate Whit Sunday.

A girl would then seek out a relationship with a boy at the docks, eating a fried gurnard or Urker dikkoek, to subsequently make preparations for the Pentecost weekend.

What appealed to me most when doing my preliminary research for this episode was that Urk has a very particular society.

That is to say that, when the men would embark to go fishing at sea and would be away for long stretches of time,

women waved the scepter and more or less became the governesses of the island.

Those social relations are - if youd ask me - still perceptible today,

causing one to feel a certain muted balance.

It appears as if nobody is the boss over anyone else, but rather that everyone understands their respective roles and responsibilities towards one another.

I can imagine that - because Urk used to be an island - you had to make do with each other,

men provided income and the women looked after family life, a very easy division of roles.

However, that balance Im perceiving, appears to be more something that I can feel than Im able to explain it,

and that renders it rather mysterious for me as an outsider.

At first sight, Urk, in terms of regional dress, appears to have a simple mode of dressing. However, nothing is what it seems.

The woman's day-to-day dress starts with a black undercoat with flowered sleeves down to her elbow.

Atop of that a corset is worn, also known as het milde.

The blue milde is fortified with whalebone seaming and is characterised for being trimmed with shammy leather.

On the back of the milde sat a worst, a tubular protuberance upholding the skirts.

And in the front the drawstring-cord would be covered with a patch of red cloth.

After that she would put on her white underskirt and place her diezuk, a.k.a. thighbag.

Then follows the black upper skirt and the frontal tippen, the tips of the milde were worn over the skirts.

Over the milde one wears a kraplap of which the armholes are ruffled in and lined with cordon.

The kraplap closes at the shoulder with hooks and eyes, and on the sides with a ribbon that is attached underneath the milde.

During the week the kraplappen of Urk were of a colourful, floral fabric.

On Sunday they were made of a plain satin with an embroidery in the middle.

A top of that she wears a striped boezel, a pinafore thats also found in the regional attire of Volendam.

The difference between these two is the strap on top of the pinafore,

In Volendam the striping is horizontal, whereas its vertical in Urk.

On her head she carries a white undercap with a black lining, under which the womans hair is tucked away.

A silver headpiece is worn on top of it, with two birds beak knobs at its tips.

Attached onto the headpiece is a gauze wrap with a border of yellow lace, in turn pinned down with golden pins.

This wrap is plicated by rubbing starch into the fabric and subsequently having it creased by a hot folding machine.

A round strip of black satin is worn atop of the wrap on the back, also known as het dasje,

Indicating the marital status of its wearer.

If the wearer is unmarried, shell wear the white cotton on top of her wrap,

A glass collar with a golden locket in the neck is worn as adorning jewellery.

Traditionally a woman wears slippers;

a pair of which neither slipper was made right or left sided, but were rather broken into.

Everything would be worn in black fabric, should the lady be in mourning, replacing all golden items for silver.

If a woman went to church shed wear a black silken wrap with tassels over her shoulders and back, the boezel is in that case made of black tebe.

A man wears a vertically striped shirt in red, white, black also known as the stribaaitje.

These have two series of buttons and a red jabot that is closed with two golden globes.

He wears a black jacket - a Rukkie - that sported one row of buttons in summer and two in winter.

The hivernal version of the jacket is called a Baaitje.

If the man was to embark to go fishing, hed wear a knitted fishermans sweater instead of his rukkie or baaitje.

The fishemans sweater of Urk had its very own motif,

so it would distinguish itself from those of other towns surrounding the former Zuiderzee.

The mans trousers are a seventeenth-century seamans pants consisting of twenty six pattern parts.

Men would traditionally wear another pair of trousers underneath known as a tussenbroek.

The trousers are ruffled in around the waistband. The cuff in the front closes by means of two silver stents.

Biblical scenes were always depicted on these silver stents,

and these were worn under the frontal cuff should a man be in mourning.

A man wears a rolled-up black silken wrap with his wedding ring around his neck,

to be replaced by a rolled-up red handkerchief if hed set sail.

For footgear a man would wear a black clogs, with a pair of homemade socks of serpentine stitching.

Finally, for headgear the man would wear a viltjen in summer or a karpoets in winter,

a fur cap which - in spite of its Kurdish origins - has become typical for Urk.

The hipster fashion trend of a couple of years ago in which all men would suddenly grow out their beards and wear sturdy fishermans hats,

seems completely in place on the former island of Urk.

The regional costume for men can perfectly well be worn as everyday clothing if youd ask me,

given that its worn with a touch of rock n roll.

That rock n roll spirit is well understood by the men in Urk,

almost every man whos not seen wearing the traditional attire, can at least be seen rocking a typical Urker earring.

This earring is still used by boys and men alike to show what profession they have.

It goes without saying that it creates a feeling of fellowship among men.

The garment isnt worn anymore, but the earrings for example...

The jewellery can still be seen everywhere. How come its still so popular?

Gerard de Ridder is an authority on the Urker regional dress and a member of the authentic regional garment group.

Besides that Gerard collects everything that has to do with regional garment. He has an impressive collection of men- and womenswear.

And then theyre newborns and these boys got to have an earring...

... and those have a nickname: de Pooi, these boys then have a tiny earring with a gurnard in it.

There hangs a tiny fish, youre used to it.

Everyone, all the boys have earrings.

Yeah, but thats

And if they dont have one then I think that others might think they dont fit in.

Its of course also tough, such an earring.

Yes, yes and what youre saying is that fitting in is very important?

Yeah, that you belong and that you... are a bit tough, that you

"Youve got to have an earring, do you get me?

Gerard managed to tell me that young girls would work on the docks up until the moment theyd marry.

From that moment onwards she was the head of her family and thus an important member of the community.

So if a girl was married, she would retire, then

...she would stay at home?

Yes, you would come to Urk and youd marry and then she would become a housewife.

But an Urker woman had to be busy in those dire time, you had to peel shrimps and do everything to make a little on the side.

Yes. A Woman of Urk would work just as hard as her man did.

Her man would be at sea all week, but the woman was in charge. She also had to make sure the housekeeping was accounted for.

Her man would be at sea for weeks or months on end?

Back in the day it was months, then they sailed on to the deep sea.

But in our day the men would leave on Monday morning, and later at two or three oclock on Monday morning.

But otherwise they went away on Monday morning and came back Fridays - or ultimately Saturdays.

They were at sea all week.

Then a woman had all week to

Im assuming that when the men would be out sailing, the women had the whole island to themselves.

Is it too crude to suppose women would then be in charge on the island?

Well, a woman wasnt so much the boss, but she arranged for everything.

Well, a woman wasnt so much the boss, but she arranged for everything.


Yes, and thats the way it was, women organised everything.

Money matters, women arranged those affairs.

I mean banking affairs werent the terrain of a man, they were out sailing all week and women would account for them.

So the moment that man would set foot in the house it would be like: tally-ho, hand me the money?

Indeed, the man would deliver his loonzekkie as we call it.

Back in the day it wasnt like the money would be deposited in your bank account, you would get a pay packet and your lady would take care of it.

Waw! The world upside down am I right?

Well, whatever.. I mean for me thats completely reverse.

Was there talk of man and woman being each others equals?

I mean it wasnt like one pushed the other around

...they stood as equals. Men and women were equals but the woman just organised everything.

And thats still the case, although we live in more modern times.

A Urker woman accounted for everything. Yes.

In that case theres is equality, however, they understand each others roles very well, they compliment each other.

You know when our boys used to be at sea

An Urker man wouldnt go to a shop either.

You were sent to Leendertje to buy a couple of trousers or sweaters and those were tried on at home.

And then you had to go back to the store, that sweater and those trousers.

An Urker man wouldnt go to a store either.

If an Urker couple married, the woman would join her mom and her cleaning lady to go out shopping for furniture.

Her man wouldnt know anything about it, it wasnt like that around here

Hed just have to wait and see what hed find in the living room.

Well I think that a lot has changed since then, however, in my day, the men didnt know anything about the day-to-day. It was accounted for by women.

Such a woman could redecorate her entire kitchen

Yes, without her man knowing.

Waw! [chuckles]

Id really abuse that if I were such a woman!

During our conversation it quickly dawned on me that the Urker woman has been in many ways an equal of her male counterpart.

and with that we stumble upon a sensitive and contemporary issue.

Mostly in the United States, but also in Europe, masculinity has come under attack.

Feminism is once again a topic of great societal relevance.

We find ourselves amidst a new feminist wave,

in which everyone from popstar to activist, fights for equality between men and women.

The only one not seeming to bend is the cis-gender man - the traditional mens-man,

known for cutting the meat on Sundays and solely being able to talk about soccer and cars.

It turns out that in our society a shift is happening in which this archetype is losing its validity,

and with that, once again, a political feminist battle takes place.

A expression of that could for example be the pussy-hat,

Worn during the Washington Womens March right after the inauguration of the American President Trump.

Where women fight for equality in rights and treatment,

and to be a woman in whatever for, it seems unacceptable to men to deviate from the social norm.

A man who cries is still regarded as a wimp in our society, to just name an example.

Are men allowed at all to show that they have feelings?

Or rather: what gives them the impression that they have to prove their masculinity?

With feminism one always aims at achieving equality between men and women,

and to further research this I paid a visit to my former teacher Bibi Straatman.

Bibi taught me about gender studies, but most of all she provided me with insights on current societal and political issues.

Id like to know from her whats going on in our society.

A neat question to start off with is: what is to be understood by feminism?

Because Im assuming that theres people out there who dont know.

And then your question for me is if I can define that right out of the bat?

[both chuckle]

It is perhaps big? Yeah, somewhat big yes.

I can get straight to the point and say that feminism was always about subordinated women who desired to have the same rights as men

But now a different discussion takes place.

Because this is where it gets interesting, that we realise that feminism isnt just about

- and altogether the entire strife thats being waged -

Its not just about rights, but also about us realising how were being disciplined in a multitude of ways.

By an array of codes, fashion codes; a man cant wear a skirt.

Those are simple things and I think a lot of people interested in culture, fashion and politics

...are starting to realise about a sort of emancipation struggle

That is not so much about rights, but about

What can we demand? What can we do? Exactly this is more about norms and what is to be perceived as normal.

Or what somebody thinks is or isnt appropriate in a certain context, etc.

And its becoming high time that we realise that being born as a man or as a woman is about more than being born into a certain body

One is also born into certain kinds of identity politics.

Like, what is the proper way to be a boy and what is the correct way to be a girl

That boys always have to work harder and arent allowed to cry and that girls are to marry a rich man, do you get me?

That type of old-fashioned, patriarchal patterns of thought form a roadblock for men as well.

and when I say patriarchal I mean...

ways of thinking about the societal roles of men and women that are ancient, 10.000 years old even,

(and) that originate from the very first agrarian communities in which it was normal for women to stay at home to look after her boiling pots...

...maintaining a steady fire in the hearth.

And men that scoured the fields, went out hunting and were in the great outdoors.

And its that division between genders, but moreover spaces; that women were confined to the house - or the garden at best -

and men occupying the exterior realm, the outdoors.

And that men represent the active, external role and that women chose a role focusing on the internal...

thats a tradition dating back to over 10.000 years, we know this for a fact.

And in a way were still being encumbered by these roles, I mean that were still handling very basic matters by these standards... the meantime thinking: Yes, these are our lives and weve chosen this. No!

These arent conscious choices were making, there are matters that sneak into our lives because they are conventions and...

because they are thoughts, ideas or fantasies that we unconsciously perpetuate.

Say we were to make a shift by which we move towards a more feminine society...

what then happens to power dynamics?

This publication...

[laughs] Barack Obama?

Barack Obama! In French: De la race en Amrique, on race in America.

Its about you know, the question youve put forward...

isnt about masculinity or femininity, but rather about the way we handle power dynamics and how this power is instrumentalised in creating binary oppositions.

Theres the one with a lot of power and the other with little power, men had always had the majority of power and women less so.

consequently, that kind of power becomes denominated as masculine while having little power is rendered feminine.

No, that is incorrect.

The matter at hand is that weve lived through 10.000 years of culture, patriarchal culture,

in which it was commonplace for men to occupy the external realm, hence politics, trade and institutions alike.

That has only been changing since sixty years, thats remarkably short,

and that we think that thats something which is essentially masculine.

I think its a fallacy to claim that the one thing has to be masculine whereas the other is called feminine.

What we have done is to strategically put in place binary oppositions and what Obama says - great president -

Obama said: What we need to learn is to stop presenting affairs as opposites.

We ought to resist thinking in binary oppositions. Yes.

And whats more to gender these oppositions, saying that the one thing is masculine and the other is feminine, further essentializing the matter.

Modern day, occidental fashion has become the vessel for expressing ones standings towards these traditional binary oppositions.

Well, your clothes scream; I dont want to be defined by the oppositions.

As for me Im playing a little game with a jacket and say something masculine.

I like it, but its in no way profound.

But as a 21st century individual, I do however want to get the chance and the space to play with these codes of gender.

Now this is something that virtually everybody does nowadays, right.

Fortunately doing so is becoming more normal thanks to the present, western fashion within our kind of democracies.

Such playing around is fun.

Absolutely, but can this playing around simply cause a shift in politics?

I think exactly that is happening now and were slowly seeing different kinds of shifts happening.

Not only with respect to law, i.e. that we ought to have equal rights and that we ought to be able to do similar things and

that we should be able to exercise similar professions.

This shift is about a different kind of acquiescence pertaining to gender, pertaining to masculinity and femininity.

Were now beginning to realise its not sufficient to tinker around with our appearance,

Its now becoming vital to go beyond that, plunging into the realm fantasy and phantasms.

Thats what #MeToo is about.

For me its important that we are now in the middle of a feminist wave,

because I believe in the power of having even more equality in norms surrounding masculinity and femininity.

Ever since I was a kid I didnt fit the traditional norm for a boy or a man,

I had always been different, frivolous, creative, docile and always a bit girly.

I dont know what its supposed to feel like being a manly man.

and at the same time Im not feeling like a woman either...

Apparently I find myself somewhere in between these worlds and thats exactly what the term gender is about.

On our website,, weve put up a bonus video in which the theme of gender and identity is being elaborated upon.

The fact that as a kid I was more inclined towards women and girls,

Made it so that I could never easily find my way around places where the energy is predominantly masculine.

To put it crudely, Im better at operating a sewing machine than a drill machine.

So to challenge myself I wanted to make a headpiece in this episode,

because the profession of blacksmithing was traditionally practised by men.

Basing myself on photos and pictures, Ive made mold for a basic headpiece,

Derived from those worn on the island of Urk.

By participating in Making & Metal, a masterclass in which artisans working with metal were paired up with designers,

I was able to experiment with executing this headpiece in different kinds of metal.

Apart from for example copper and brass, Ive also used iron roof cladding.

And after sufficient material experiments Ive had a ready-to-wear headpiece by the end of the week.

These headpieces were traditionally used to keep in place the bonnet,

but now that the bonnet has been removed, one could wear the headpiece as an adornment if youd ask me.

Pretty sleek as an eyecatcher, right?

In Urk - this is my last question by the way - the adage exists Man is the boss, but what a women says will happen.

[chuckles] Thats the case in many places, right?

The president is boss, but its his wife whispering in his ears about what he ought to pay attention to.

So essentially Michelle Obama has been commander in chief all along? Yes, who knows.

Many traditionally masculine men occupying traditionally masculine, patriarchal roles,

trying to support feminist views will concede that theyre part of team, and that theyre not on their own.

My wife is the most important.. How would you call it?

Voice of reason, the one sitting on my shoulder talking with me, my partner.

So the more books there are in which a male protagonist is allowed to cry, or simply cries,

or the more parents there are switching up roles by the mom folding her arms around the dad, the more these things are bound to change.

But its a long and winding road.

Changes in this area are happening within people, over the lifespans of people, and how do these people live? Theyve got partners.

Who in turn have coalitions, friendships and connections that help them to root.

And thats where the work has to be put in, in that area.

And then, when youre having or start raising children, or when you think youve got something to pass onto a next generation,

Then you can try to pass on some ideas of a more equitable partnership being possible.

Only then such an adage as the one from Urk... [Thijs chuckles]

of a man saying: Yeah my woman has the final say, that is beautiful.

So you can claim that its an old fashioned way of putting things, however, its beautiful.

It exactly represents what it should be about.

Were not done talking about gender, feminism and more equality between the sexes for the times being,

But I think its beautiful to witness that in a community as that of Urk, equality is in a way part of its genetic make-up.

In that respect, Urk might be a forerunner of some sorts,

and we ought to think about just how equal men and women are in the Netherlands,

at home, at the office, legally and in politics.

In the next episode well visit Staphorst and well research how a regional costume comes about.

If you like you can subscribe to our Youtube channel,

but you can also sign up for our newsletter at

The newsletter will keep you posted on new episodes, offline presentations and workshops.

This was Theodorus Johannes for Community Dressing, see you in the next episode.

Oh boy, that camera is pointed at him, this boy is lit!

Fashion! Fashion! Fashion! Give it all, give fashion!

Yeah? [Cameraman Julius: Yep]

All this is such fashion.

Subtitles by Rick van Os

The Description of Community Dressing: Urk