Thursday, November 21, 2013

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 117

National costumes of Bretagne, France


Reverse, with shadow image of the women in costume

American friends who are currently living in France sent this postcard above.  The card is a reproduction from of Le Doaré Archives known as Editions Jos. and is a peek into Brittany’s past.  The picture shows the national costume of Bretagne (Breton, Brittany), France.  The reverse of the card has another paler image showing the backs of the women so we get both views.  There were two envelopes, one for the postcard and a second mailing envelope.  The mailing envelope had modern color photographs, see below.  The lower right corner shows how the headdress has changed and is now a very elaborate tall lacey hat as opposed to the small caps shown on the original postcard.  The reverse side of the envelope has additional scenes from Bretagne.

Photos from a modern mailing envelope

Reverse of mailing envelope

The lace cap or bonnet is a triangle of fabric mounted on a base.  During the 19th century the costumes became more colorful and elaborate with the cap resembling a tall sugar loaf.  Today the cap hovers around 30-35 cm or approximately 1 foot in height.  It seems to be all about the hats--the little girls are wearing fancy embroidered caps, the older boy and a couple of the men have wide brimmed hats with a long ribbon or tie that hangs down in the back.  The older man seen sitting has what looks like a scarf on his head and wooden shoes on his feet. 

Brittany is located in the northwest of France bordered by the English Channel on the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Bay of Biscay to the south.  The area has prehistoric origins with humans living here for thousands of years.  The oldest monuments include Cairns and the Carnac stones that are arranged in rows and total 71 standing stones.  Rows of stones like these can be found in several different areas of Brittany.  Unfortunately, in some places these ancient standing stones have been neglected and either removed to make room for modern roads or used for other purposes such as building material. 

Several different groups of people have dwelt here including Celtic tribes who came before the Romans.  Evidence of the Romans can be found in many places in France including Bretagne. 
In the 10th century the Vikings descended and heavily raided the area.  During the middle ages Brittany was divided into three kingdoms.  Today it is part of France with French as the official language.  The Legend of King Arthur has references to Brittany including the Lady of the Lake and a dolmen said to be Merlin’s tomb.  Tristan and Iseult are also said to have lived in Brittany.  

Jos. Le Doaré in Breton costume and posing as photographer

As mentioned above, the pictures on the postcard and the envelope for the card are part of the Editions Jos.  The photographs were taken by three generations of Le Doaré family the entire collection totaling 80,000 to 100,000 pictures.  Jean-Marie Le Doaré was the first to establish the dynasty in 1898, his son, Jos., shown posing as the photographer in the photo above, dressed in the Breton costume and having shoulder length hair was next, his son, Dominque, as the third generation.   Currently Dominque and his brother Jacques are scanning and digitizing thousands of the images to preserve them and the pictorial history they represent.  Many of the images are once again finding their way onto souvenir postcards.

Many thanks to S & M for thinking of me and sending the card.  It is especially appropriate since they are serving a records preservation mission as part of FamilySearch and essentially doing much the same work as Le Doaré Archives only preserving old written records instead of photographs. 

For more information about Brittany, the costumes, and the Le Doaré Archives, please see:

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