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Picture of the Month


Carnival 1910

Mode und Haus, January 1910

Winter is a very costume-intensive season in Europe. The Christmas and New Year's balls are not quite forgotten yet when carnival starts to take its toll on your purse. What is carnival, anyway? Originally, before Christianity, it was the time when the spirits of winter were driven out with as much noise as possible. When Mid and Northern Europe were Christianised, the meaning changed: Now it was a time of feasting on the last stocks of the bygone year, to be followed by 40 (a magigal number) days of fasting until Easter.

Today, carnival is mainly celebrated in Venice for the sake of the tourists, in Southern Germany (under the name of Fasching in Bavaria, Fastnacht or Fasnet in the the Southwest) and in Western Germany along the Rhine. Mainz, Köln and Düsseldorf are famous for their carnival parades. In North America, most people know only Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), which is the last day of the carnival season. It is followed by Ash Wednesday with fish meals.

In the 19th and early 20th century, the costumes had three main themes, just like today: "Exotic" ethnic, historical, and fantasy. On the far left and right, we see "Hungarian" costumes. Just to make sure that everyone notices what they're meant to be, the colour scheme leans heavily on the Hungarian national colours, red, white and green. The second costume is a fantasy theme, "chestnut". Most women's fantasy costumes of that time are low-necked, short-sleeved and have a calf-length skirt, i.e. much shorter than what was considered decent in everyday life. The third costume is a domino. These painted coats were worn with a face mask by both men and women if they wanted to make sure that they weren't recognized - or just didn't want to spend much imagination or money on a costume. This one satirizes the "double discovery" of the North Pole a the year before. It is painted with polar expedition scenes and again, just to make sure that everyone knows what it's meant to be, the names Cook and Peary are inscribed on it along with some phrases with allegedly humorous content. Nothing like having people ask what your costume is all the time to make your evening.


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