regional dress and adornment

Splendour and Shine

Jewellery and dress are not static. They change over time, sometimes only marginally, sometimes profoundly. Some are ‘frozen’ in a particular form, and some continue to inspire new forms. These changes during a lifetime and exchanges between cultures are the central theme of the exhibition Splendour and Shine in the Flow of Time, that is on view in the Kreismuseum Zons, Germany, during the winter of 2021-2022. I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the exhibition, and brought the accompanying publication home with me: another highly informative read!

As in her earlier publication Splendour and Shine in the River of Time, which accompanied the exhibition in Liechtenstein, Irene Steiner combines traditional jewellery and dress from the German-speaking world with that of the rest of the world.  In 9 chapters, the book discusses change and developments starting out with traditional dress that has virtually remained unchanged for over a century and ending with the existence of traditional dress in a global world. The many dresses and items of adornment shown serve as case studies to present a train of thought, and that makes this book densely packed with food for thought. There is not enough space for an in-depth discussion of all of these, but the entire book hands us several points of view and case studies to consider, combining both past and present.

The publication is also a visual reference, as many varieties of a certain type of ornament are shown in the images. The photographs are many and, as a result, often small, but they will bring you a good idea of the wide variety in dress and adornment. Think of buttons, rings, belt- and shoe buckles for example, but an overview of brass dangles that would have been worked into a bridal crown is presented as well, including their various executions and their meaning. In this respect, the book also offers a wide range of research possibilities by showing several examples of details that are waiting to be researched and documented before they become forgotten: how to create such an intricate bridal crown for example, or the meaning and provenance of a certain necklace (p. 46-47). There is still a lot that regional dress and jewellery has to share that is not fully understood, and the book makes an important contribution to the study of this type of heritage in highlighting these possibilities.

What you will get from this book is both an understanding of details of regional European dress as well as many avenues for exploring the themes and concepts beyond dress and adornment: you will find yourself pondering the many angles in this book long after you have read it. I thoroughly enjoyed it as an exhibition publication that goes beyond captioning the exhibited pieces, offering many thoughts on how we regard regional jewellery and dress, and what has created the circumstances under which we have grown accustomed to seeing them in a particular way. Why is regional dress from German-speaking Europe associated with the Oktoberfeste for example, and how did jewellery from North Africa, Southwest Asia and the Arab Peninsula end up in oriental dance? The book is bilingual, and the abundance of photographs will make you enjoy this book for quite some time!

Splendor and Shine in the Flow of Time. Ethnic jewellery and traditional costume in a changing world, by Irene Steiner.

92 pages, full-colour, bilingual German/English. Available with the author.

The book was purchased in the Kreismuseum Zons.