Woman's Bollenhut, Baden-Württenberg, Germany

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Clothing and Dress


Woman's Bollenhut, Baden-Württenberg, Germany


ca. mid-20th century


This headdress identifies the wearer as an unmarried woman from the Black Forest area of southwest Germany. This large, forested mountain range, bounded by the Rhine River to the west and south, contains many small, relatively inaccessible valleys to which industrialization was slowly introduced. Historically, the area produced iron ore and timber products for export. Today, tourism is an important source of revenue to the area, and the Bollenhut, first worn by women from one of three villages, has become a symbol of traditional dress for the entire Black Forest region.

Local dress held symbolic importance in the German states before the twentieth century, when the region was organized with city-states, dukedoms, and principalities. Originally the headdress was worn by single women in the villages of Gutach, Kirnbach, and Hornberg-Reichenbach, identifying the Protestant religion of the wearer as well as the area in which she lived. Married women dressed in a bollenhut with black wool pompoms instead of red. A black silk cap would be worn under the hat and was donned by girls prior to their confirmation, at which time they received their bollenhut to include as part of their traditional dress, or tracht. Older women and widows could put off the bollenhut and resume wearing just the black silk cap of their youth.

The base of the hat is straw, strengthened by a mixture of calcium and gypsum. Fourteen wool pompoms are attached to the top, the bottom three covered by the others to form the shape of a cross when seen from above. Customarily, women made the hat, beginning with weaving the straw base and making the pompoms, and finally joining all of the parts together.

The headdress in its modern form of fourteen large wool pompoms on a straw base appears to have originated at the end of the 18th century, with fewer and smaller decorations on the top of a straw hat. The Black Forest is located in the state of Baden-Württenberg, an area that between 1495 and 1806 belonged to the Catholic Holy Roman Empire, but was heavily influenced by the Protestant Reformation and the Lutheran faith. The region shifted between Catholicism and Protestantism with the fortunes of the ruling person; in the 18th and early 19th centuries these were the Dukes of Württenberg and the political upheavals caused by the Napoleonic Wars. Clothing was a way to identify and understand where a person “belonged” -- geographically, economically, in faith, and even in the marriage market.

One story credits Frederich Eugen, Duke of Württenberg (1732-1797) with encouraging the production of straw hats in his duchy as a means of improving the economics of the region. As the manufacturing of straw hats increased, the Protestant women of the Kinzig Valley in which the villages are located began to decorate their hats. First the ornamentation included painted circles, then small wool pompoms secured to the top.

Artists such as Wilhelm Hasemann (1850-1913) romanticized the rural life they found in the Black Forest in the late 1800s through drawings and paintings. Hasemann helped establish an artists' colony in Gutach, living there until his death. The area became a popular destination through the reproduction of his paintings and collaboration with writer Berthold Auerbach (1812-1882).

R. Turner Wilcox, in the book Folk and Festival Costume of the World, published in 1965, describes the hat as having "six huge pompoms" while a second book from 1952 shows a drawing of a woman with a circle of small pompoms around the crown of her hat. From these humble beginnings, the pompoms grew in size to those of today’s traditional hat.


Bradshaw, Angela. World Costumes. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1952.

Wilcox, R. Turner. Folk and Festival Costume of the World. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1965.


Donor: Delores Richter


URI 2002.11.01


Susan J. Jerome, MS '06


wool, red or black
calcium and gypsum


“Woman's Bollenhut, Baden-Württenberg, Germany,” Historic Textile and Costume Collection, accessed July 30, 2021, https://uritextilecollection.omeka.net/items/show/382.

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