Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Breton Costumes! by Judy D

It is almost impossible to collect Quimper pottery without developing an appreciation for Breton (and other) costumes ... the figures on the various pieces serve as references for the costumes of different areas at different eras. So it is not surprising that the pièce de résistance at a pottery auction last weekend was a costume, and in fact, it was the costume whose details are on the cover of the catalogue for that sale.

As I noted in my previous blog, this costume is thought to be the oldest dated example of a Breton garment. It is black heavy felted wool, with red embroidery, including the buttons and dated 1811 - it would have been a special order for a well-off Breton. Costume collectors are as fierce faience collectors: the estimation fo the costume was 1200-1500 euros, but the bidding shot up to 5000 euros in pretty short order. At that point, there was a pause while an absent bidder was tracked down on the phone, after which the bidding climbed to the final gavel price of 6000 euros (to which a buyer's fee of 19% must be added!). This piece made yesterday's paper, including a comment from the auctioneer that the jacket will remain in France.

For all of its historical significance, the black jacket is extremely sober, too much so for my personal taste.
On the other hand, this bridal costume (of which the back is shown here) of Plogonnec (west of Quimper) from about 1880 is full of color and texture, including wool, ribbons, embroidered lace, and glass beads. It sold for 1500 euros, and it is stunning!

And how about this one for a little boy??
In wool, from the beginning of the 20th century, gavel price 300 euros.

During the exhibit, I asked the costume expert which one he personally preferred - he told me that it was this one:

He said he liked it because it was a complete costume of the wife of a craftsman of Quimperlé (east of Quimper), and it gives clues to the lifestyle of the wearer. One can see the social standing of the lady by the elegant touches on her dress. The color of the black is a bronzed shade that would have cost more money to dye. There is black velvet edging her pockets as well as her sleeves and the back of the top of the dress. The quality of the fabric is another indicator of her economic class, and the quality is such that over 100 years later, the costume is in excellent condition.

Actually, one thing that amazes me is how good the condition of many of the costumes were. Some were undoubtedly specially preserved by families (particularly wedding costumes, I would think), but even so, you have to start with a good product to be able to keep it good for 100+ years.
We're linking this post of Judy's to "A Few Of My Favourites Things Saturdays" meme held by Laurie each week, on her blog entitled: Bargain Hunting and Chatting with Laurie. I think Laurie has a soft spot for Quimper although we haven't yet persuaded her to join QCI.
Please go over and visit with her & tell her all the good reasons why she would enjoy our group.


  1. Judy, thank you for sharing all this interesting information again. Have fun at the auctions! ~ Sarah

  2. I love the costumes and finding out about them adds another dimension to collecting Quimper Pottery....

  3. Love this post so much information...thanks ...Hugs and smiles Gl♥ria

  4. I had never heard of Quimper till I saw it on Laurie's blog.

    Those costumes are amazing, Maggie!

  5. Oh they are wonderful! That weddiing costume is stunning. I've never seen anything like it! It is amazing that these have held up so well. I think about the way wedding dresses are preserved now, and these did not have that special treatment; yet, they look wonderful. What interesting facts about how the expert could tell the station in life because of the materials and the dyes. Wonderful post, and I'm so glad you linked it to Favorite Things Sat. (Yes, I do have a very soft spot for Quimper. Please don't get me started on a costume collection too!!!) laurie

  6. Very interesting! I love vintage costumes. Thanks for sharing!...Christine

  7. Bonjour,

    Quels beaux costumes! So many fine details! I have never heard of Quimper. I did travel to Delft a few months ago and it does look similar. I see a tulip vase in your header that looks similar to mine. Collecting pottery can be very addictive. LOL

    Merci d'avoir partager toutes ces informations historiques.

    Anne-Marie :D

  8. This was a most interesting post. I knew nothing about Quimper Pottery until I started blogging. I think the first I heard of it was via Sarah's blog, your first person to comment! Thanks for all of the lessons Judy, Sarah and Maggie!

    Best wishes,

  9. This is the first I've heard of Quimper pottery and the costume information is so interesting.

  10. Beautiful costumes! So colorful :-)

  11. Super! I am so delighted that the to-die-for jacket will be staying in France. I hope it will be in a museum..where we all can view it. Thanks for the wonderful blogs, Judy.