By Tiffany Jarman Jansen
Summary: Dutch fashion is modest, practical, and eclectic all at the same time. Writer Tiffany Jarman Jansen describes the Dutch fashion sense.
Now that I've been through 2 1/2 seasons here in the Netherlands, I feel as though I'm beginning to understand the way they dress. Their idea of fashion, so to speak. Although it is part of Europe, the style here is very different to most other European countries. I've read several expat accounts of the Dutch fashion sense, which all draw the conclusion that the Dutch do not have one. It's just a hodgepodge of everything without a care as to what belongs, what doesn't and what the hap-hazard ensemble looks like. To be honest, I like it. It's modest, practical, and eclectic all at the same time.
Be aware though, as you read this that I am referring to women's fashion since, as a woman trying to fit into her new culture, that's what I've been paying most attention to. What I can say about men is as follows: tight jeans, polo shirts, lots of blazers, vests, etc, and in the younger crowd the 80s hipster look runs rampant. For the most part, it's like living in an Abercrombie and Fitch advert. One article I love is the button down shirt with one design on the outside and a completely different one on the inside which peeks out through rolled up sleeves and folded collars. Very classy.
Work attire is interesting. It's either jeans or a suit. If you were to walk into the city court house, it would appear as though office uniform is jeans. Tops vary (widely) but the jeans factor is pretty dependable. And this is a government office! When I worked at Bath and Body Works in the US, we were expected to look uniform: black or kakhi pants and white or black shirts. But here store salespersons are usually in jeans. Just last week, I went to an interview at Undutchables - an employment agency specializing in finding jobs for non-Dutch speakers in their native language. I was interviewed by a guy in jeans and a polo shirt, while a friend of mine had an interview with a dude sporting a button down long sleeve shirt and army shorts! On a morning or evening train, you're most likely to find yourself among a sea of jeans...
What I've noticed most about the Dutch way of dressing is that it's all layers. I thought this was a bit extreme at first, but I soon found myself following suit. After all, with the weather being what it is here, you have to be prepared for anything and everything. Just today for example, I went out to walk the dog in flip flops, jeans, summery shirt and a jean jacket. It was a bit chilly, but dry and sunny. We hadn't even walked to the end of the block when it began to drizzle. It was a hard, heavy drizzle and yet the sun was still shining. Only about halfway through the walk did the sky begin to look appropriate to the weather. Soon my feet were wet and cold and it came to my attention that the jacket just wasn't cutting it. So, once inside, I put on a light sweater, socks, sneakers, and my light leather jacket. I walked out to the shed to get my bike feeling confident that this time I had donned the appropriate clothing. A 5-minute bike ride later, I was sweating bullets, feeling overheated, and digging out my sunglasses. I had stripped myself of my jacket and sweater before even entering the building and on my way to the cafe on the 4th floor I dug a tissue out of my bag to mop my face. One latte later and I was back to my normal self.
Anyway, the moral of this story is layer, layer, layer! The weather is always this ridiculous and since you never know what to expect, you have to expect everything (I now carry an umbrella in my purse at all times). T-shirts and long sleeved tees are worn under tank tops and straplesses, leggings appear under shirts and dresses and even shorts, and sweaters and jackets are either worn or carried with the ensemble. It is June at the time of this writing and women are still wearing boots and scarves (the ones that fold bandana style but are more flowing and usually sport some sort of trim or fringe). My husband told me the other day that he's been to beaches and seen women clad in bikinis and knee-high leather boots! The one question my mom asked the last time my parents visited while we were walking through town on a lazy, sunny afternoon was: "Do women wear boots all year round here?" From my observations so far, they do.
This summer I'm seeing a lot of skirts. Long, short, hippy style, ones that look like the girl robbed Little Miss Muffet, flowing, lacy, jersey fabric, all colors and designs and shapes. These all made appearances in the winter and spring as well, but were more often accompanied by tights or leggings than at this time of year. Another popular combo is long shirts and leggings. While in town earlier this week, I spotted a very classy ensemble of a white, man's button down shirt that went about to the girl's mid-thigh, a thick black belt, and black leggings. Of course, this is something that, in my opinion, you have to have the body for. So this is not a look I will be trying to emulate any time soon! I have noticed that even with the warmer weather, Dutch women are very careful about what they reveal. There's little in the way of clothing that shows cleavage. In fact, I have seen absolutely no cleavage since moving here. Even when women wear clothing that would normally show some booby butt crack, they tactfully balance it out with an undershirt of some sort.
These birkenstock flip flops are all the rage. I personally find them hideous. Ballet flats and sandles are also popular and heels are very in. Heels are worn mostly with jeans. It's a very chic look. But you also see them with skirts and capris. I have yet to see anyone wearing them with shorts. And, of course, there are still boots in great numbers. Though not as much as in the winter. Boots are a must-have in the winter. Knee-high leather boots seem to be the norm with Uggs coming in at a close second. Towards the end of the winter season, cowboy boots were coming back with a vengence.
Another winter must-have this past year was the sweater dress. I was also motivated to stock up on leggings and skirts. The heels is something I haven't bought into yet. The styles make me drool, but I just can't imagine having to walk in them. So much more walking is done here than I was used to in the US. But I guess they're used to it... Maybe someday I'll get up the nerve to do it!
Just for fun, check out the website of the Dutch fashion duo Viktor & Rolf!
First Published: Oct 13, 2009