Figure 1.--These children are all boys, the younger boys dressed as girls as was the fashion on Marken until after World war I. Unlike some Maarken pictures, this looks very modern--note the socks and footwear.
Boys were outfitted in dresses in Maarken, a Dutch fishing village. I think the reason was similar to the why Irish boys were outfitted in flannel dresses, to protect them from the faries. Maarken boys and girls wore identical dresses and the same long blond ringlets until they were 6 or 7 years old. The only ways the boys could be distinguished from the girl was my the different decoration they wore on their caps. From 7 to 12 the boys donned baggy trousers but from the waist up kept the upper part of the dress along with the curls. If you happen to see an old Dutch postcard with little girls wearing trousers these are really little Maarken boys. A HBC contributor reports first coming across this while planning a trip to Europe during the 1960s. The was a paragraph in a travel book titled "A quaint custom on the Isle of Maarken". I think the custom lingered late into the 20th century because by this time Maarken had changed from a fishing village to a tourist stop where people came to see the unique Maarken dress. HBC has few details on this custom and only a few images, but hope to pursue the topic further.
Marken Island is a pcturesque Dutch fishing village. It is located close to Amsterdam, making a day trip for tourist an attractive possibility. It is situated in the former Zuiderzee (now the IJsselmeer) and is now conviniently joined to the mainland by a land bridge. It boasts many traditional wooden houses and you can still see people wearing traditional local costumes. The houses are painted green with white stripes and trim. The village as many European settlements originated in the early Middle Age. Marken was first reported in the historical record in the 13th century as the site of a Frisian monastery, Marken had become an island during the great flood of 1164. The island became part of nearby Amsterdam in the 14th century. Raiding parties from other Zuiderzee towns sacked the island numerous times during the Middle Ages, when they fought with Amsterdam over supremacy of trade. In the 17th century, the island gained prominence as a commercial port and it became independent in the beginning of the 19th century. Xavier Mellery’s paintings in the late 19th century help to popularize the small island. Mellery was intoduced to the island in 1878 by writer Charles De Coster, who needed illustrations for his article on Netherlands in the magazine Tour du monde. Marken was to Mellery what Brittany became to Gauguin: in effect a lost paradise. Tourism in recent years has become the major industry. Tides and floods periodically ravage the island--the last one in 1916--have diminished the size of Marken. It has been reduced from a municipality with 17 communities to one of 8 'centers'. A protective dike was built in 1957 to give the island a permanent link with the mainland.
HBC is unsure why boys were outfitted in dresses in Marken and the convention continued even though it was give up elsewhere. Of course historically the reasons are the same as explain why younger boys so commonly wore dresses until modern times. Why the tradition continued so long in Marken Island HBC is not sure. One reason may be similar to the why Irish boys were outfitted in flannel dresses, to protect them from the faries. Another factor may have been the continuation of folk costume in general and the importance of the tourist trade.
Figure 2.--Another photograph of a Marken Island boy. Notice the vertical stripe on his dress.
HBC is not sure when the dresses worn by Marken Island boys and girls developed. We suspect about the 17th century. Available images show that boys were still commonly wearing dresses in the early 20 th century before World War I (1914-18). A HBC contributor reports first coming across this while planning a trip to Europe during the 1960s. The was a paragraph in a travel book titled "A quaint custom on the Isle of Maarken". I think the custom lingered late into the 20th century because by this time Maarken had changed from a fishing village to a tourist stop where people came to see the unique Maarken dress.
Maarken boys and girls wore identical dresses. One source reports that the only ways the boys could be distinguished from the girl was my the different decoration they wore on their caps. A seller of Dutch postcards reports that that the children with vertical stripes are definatly boys. Boys after being breeched might keep the tops, hats, and curls for several years longer. I am not sure that boys always wore dress tops with vertical stripes. In a small community everyone would know whether a particular child was a boy or a girl. I understand that tourists were quite facinated that both boys and girls were
dressed alike. Prehaps the stripe was for the benefit of the tourists. Beginning about age 7 through 12 years the boys donned baggy trousers but from the waist up kept the upper part of the dress along with the curls. If you happen to see an old Dutch postcard with little girls wearing trousers these are really little Maarken boys.
The Marken Island children in dresses most commonly wore little white, often enroidered bonnets. Most seem to have had chin straps. Some seem to have been more like caps worn on top the head, but the mmore common type was a white bonnet worn securely over the head and ears and drawn tight with a chin strap. Some bous even wore these bonners after being breechhed and their curls cut. While this was the most common headwear, there were a variety of other styles worn by the children.
Boys also wore the same long blond ringlets as girls.
Maarken boys appear to have worn dresses until they were 6 or 7 years old, but this appears to have varied somewhat from family to family. Some boys continued to wear the long hair and curls even after being breeched. HBC has noted that in some images older boys in pants have short hair, but may wear the white striped top and bonnet. Another by about the same age still wears a dress and has long curls. Looks like there wasn't a fixed age when a boy was breeched, his curls cut, or more boyish headwear adopted.
One onteresting aspect of the Marken Island ethnic costumes is what the boys thought of the idea. Where many travel writers have mentioned the Marken Island folk costuming and conventions, I have never seen any comments as to how the Marken Island boys regarded their costumes.
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