Portrait | Nominee

Carmen Kirchhain


OFFGESETZ & BORTEFIRWES – Hessian traditional dress in the present day


Attracted by unfamiliar cultures and in today’s fast moving world, people long for a chance to wind down and enjoy the natural and authentic. Festivals crest the wave of current trends and numerous media-formats report on back-to-the-roots country life, crafts and traditions. Traditionally influenced articles have recently become a part of the fashion world and the advertising industry exploits this stylised symbolism for the marketing of authentic and traditional products. This view, however, shows an altered face of a cultural asset that has much more to offer than exotic fashion looks. ‘Offgesetz’ (literally placed on top) and ‘Bortefirwes’ are Hessian dialect words for bridal crown and women’s shoes. As the saying goes, you have to look at a person from head to foot to reveal the character hidden behind the clothes. But who still wears traditional regional dress and is able to decode the mysteries of its dress code? For my portfolio, I went looking for people who still wear traditional regional dress in the bastion of traditional clothing, the state of Hesse. Between private rooms and public stages, the people let me take a look behind outward appearances, from women who wear everyday traditional dress as a matter of course to children who see traditional dress as a kind of cosplay. But who are the characters behind the outward appearance, does the private sphere gives us clues that their true identities, and in what context and temporal setting are the people captured in these pictures to be found?