This post describes the typical weather in the Netherlands and what do traditional Dutch Clothes look like to create thermal comfort and protection from the elements.
The Climate of the Northern Netherlands
Climate refers to the average weather calculated from weather data of 30 years. The annual mean temperature and rainfall in Amsterdam, for instance, are 51.2F (10.7oC) and 33.2 inches (844 mm), respectively.
The climate of the Netherlands is marine Westcoast climate (Cfb in the so-called Köppen-Geiger classification), which means warm temperate conditions. Rain occurs year round, and even the driest month has a lot of rain. Due to the the warm Golf Stream passing thru the North Sea winters are typically mild. The comparatively warm waters warm up the air above the ocean surface. Water evaporates and is taken up by the air. In summer, the water cools the near-surface air. In fall, the still warm ocean warms the air.
Wind is a major feature of the weather in this country. January to December monthly average wind speeds are 15.3, 14.2, 13.2, 11.7, 11.1, 10.8, 10.7, 10.7, 11.8, 13.1, 13.8, and 14.6 mph, respectively. When the skies are clear, sea-breezes occur and travel several kilometer inland in summer. Because land heats up faster than water, land breezes may occur in spring. When cyclones approach the coast the weather becomes wet and the wind may even speed up.
In other words, the Netherlands have maritime midlatitude climate similar to the Pacific Northwest. More on what to wear in Pacific Northwest weather.
What Does Traditional Dutch Clothing Look Like?
Prior to the industrial revolutions, clothing was very expensive because it was hand-made by tailors or seamstresses. Consequently, people only had few clothing and were eager to protect it to last long.
At that time, all clothing has to be washed by hand. Typically, spills happen on the front when working. Consequently, it was advantages to wear separates and leave the dirnl-like black dresses for Sunday’s Best. Furthermore, to reduce the amount of laundry, aprons and vests served to protect the skirt, and fitted, typically black, collarless blouse. More on the history of black clothes in Europe.
The full skirts reached to the low calf or just above the ankle. The vests had lining from the same fabric they were made of. Both the vests and aprons had embroidered trim for Sunday’s Best, but not for everyday wear. In winter, an underskirt or old skirt served to add an extra layer for insulation and thermal comfort.
The footwear of the rural people consisted of wooden shoes with knitted wool knee-high socks. When I lived in Germany close to the Dutch boarder I owned a pair. I would trade my garden boots for a pair of wooden shoes any time. They are actually very comfortable and keep the feet dry and warm when walking on muddy soil.
A white bonnet with lace trim finished the look. The iconic pointed and curled bonnet stems from Volendam, a fishing village northeast of Amsterdam.
How Traditional Dutch Clothing Coped with the Wind
To avoid that the wind plays with the full skirt (11.5 ft, 3.5 m circumference) the hem is 5 inches (12.5 cm). The weight of the doubled fabric and the width of the full skirt keeps the fabric down.
The weave of fabrics was very tight to achieve “wind proof” conditions. Originally, linen and wool served to weave fabrics. However, the trading with colonies brought cotton as an alternative to linen for summer clothing.
The apron also features 5 inches hem. The apron closes in the back with two hook closures, one at the smallest part of the waist, one at the lower bum. This arrangement keeps the fabric of the apron in place even under windy conditions. I remember my great aunt wearing this style of apron still in the late 1960s.
Instead of buttons, the vest often had rings on both sides to hold a ribbon and tie it for closure.
As outerwear served a sleeveless windbreaker that reached to the waist. It was made from a square fabric folded over. In the middle, there was a boatneck often with trim in another color or in a color of the often floral print of the fabric. At the arms, the windbreaker had a rubber band that hindered the wind to enter the armholes. The result was a cup-sleeve appearance.
The hair was braided to avoid knots caused by the wind. The hat stays in place by means of fabric bands that were knotted under the chin.
Video showing details of the Dutch ethnic clothing design
In a Nutshell What Do Traditional Dutch Clothes Look Like
While the bonnet is a relict of the everyday wear of the 19th century Victorian Era (more on the history of hats), the design of the hems of skirts and dresses is an adaptation to the typical windy weather of the Netherlands. As a consequence of the low land (almost 1/3 of the Netherlands are below sea level), and notable rain year round, soils are wet and willows grow well. The wooden shoes are a smart adaptation to the local soil conditions.
Kottek, M., Grieser, N., Beck, C., Rudolf, B., and Rubel, F., 2006. World Map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification updated. Meteorologische Zeitschrift, Vol. 15, No. 3, 259-263.
Mölders, N., Kramm, G., 2014. Lectures in Meteorology, Springer, New York.
Mölders, Nicole, 2019. Outdoor Universal Thermal Comfort Index Climatology for Alaska, Atmosphere and Climate Sciences, DOI: 10.4236/acs.2019.94036
Photos of me: G. Kramm
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