May 5, 2015

5 May

This particular blog post is a little detour in honour of this day. In many countries, 5 May is VE Day, here in the Netherlands, we have a simpler name for it: Bevrijdingsdag (= Liberation Day). An apt name because it wasn't until the total surrender of nazi Germany that this country was liberated in its entirety.
Nowadays, there are two national holidays surrounding the date: There's a commemoration of those who lost their lives in armed conflicts on 4 May, and a 
celebration of freedom on 5 May.  
For this post, I wanted to share a little-known celebration of liberty from 1945 and the years immediately after that: The National Party skirt.

These patchwork skirts were made from scraps of fabric both to celebrate the liberation and to serve as lasting reminders of all the moments in one's life in which garments made from those fabrics had played a part (for those of you who read Dutch, here is a great article about these skirts on the Gemeentemuseum blog, with a picture of a skirt in their collection which is on display in the museum's central hall today).
There seems to be a bit of confusion about when these skirts were first made: According to the article I just mentioned, the National Institute came up with the idea to design something like this early in 1946. According to my period texts, and another part of the same article, women made these skirts in May 1945. All agree about the role of resistance heroine mrs. A.M. Boissevain-van Lennep in designing the skirt.  
I assume patchwork skirts were made in 1945 but the specific design with the orange triangles at the hemline was probably only introduced in 1946. The design was partially inspired by a British tradition to collect memories in a patchwork garment.
It is certain that many were made and many in the 'official' design.

In preparation of Liberation Day 1948, Libelle magazine wrote this:

Do you remember how we made a party skirt from all kinds of fabric scraps for the liberation festivities? Do you not have one yet? Than you should definitely make one this year. For the celebrations in honour of the 50-year jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Wilhelmina, we will wear these skirts in the parade which will take place in The Hague. There will be dances in the national party skirt and choirs will sing a "Skirt Song"
You too will want to wear a party skirt to express your happiness and gratitude.
So start on it now. All the scraps of fabric can come out of your sewing box, personal souvenirs, cherished memories: A piece of your wedding gown, a scrap from your little daughter's first coat, a corner of a table cloth from many years ago, a colourful kerchief.
From all these pieces, we make a harmonious whole, a symbol of  of our women's lives: Unity in plurality, new from old, building up from tearing down. And in the points at the hem of the skirt, we embroider the high points of our national existence: In the two points at the front the date of the liberation: 5 May 1945. On every next point, the year in which you have worn the skirt to celebrate that liberation. In the skirt itself, you can embroider the dates and memories of your own personal life.
When the skirt is finished, you can have it registered; it will get a stamp and will be entered in the register of skirts. This will enlarge the historical importance of the skirt. 
Mrs. A.M. Boissevain-van Lennep, Hondecoeterstraat 8, Amsterdam-Zuid, tel. 27342, will gladly provide you with all information about the "skirt project". You can also send your skirt to this address to be stamped. The register is located at the International Archive of the Women's Movement, Keizersgracht 264, Amsterdam. Registration costs f1,50.
And if you don't have time to make a skirt, an apron is much more quickly made and will also look festive. 


  1. Thank you! This is so, so interesting and I'd never heard of the bevrijdingsrok.

  2. That's some great history. Thanks.

  3. Oh I had never heard of these, interesting!

  4. Nooit van gehoord, heel interessant inderdaad!

  5. really interesting, it will be a very colourful occassion!

  6. What an amazing history! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Interesting piece of history. I wonder if we had anything like that in Norway. We celebrate our Liberation day the 8th of May up here Thanks for sharing!.