Culture & Entertainment

Traditional Dutch clothing

Besides the cuisine, one of the most recognizable features of any culture in the world is its traditional costume. Here’s a guide to traditional Dutch clothing.

Traditional Dutch clothing

By Expatica

Updated 11-4-2024

While no longer worn in everyday life — having been replaced by worldwide fashion trends that leave little room for old-fashioned garb — traditional Dutch clothing has become a celebrated icon around the world. The most famous item is the often-mimicked wooden clogs, or klompen, but these shoes are not the only hallmarks of Holland.

Traditional Dutch clothing

Each region in the Netherlands has its own historical clothing, made for everyday wear or specific occasions such as weddings or funerals — all of which can be viewed, enjoyed and even tried on at Het Klederdrachtmuseum, also known as the Dutch Costume Museum, in Amsterdam.

Dutch Costume Museum: celebrating traditional Dutch clothing and culture

Aside from the wooden shoes, traditional Dutch costume includes a variety of dresses, pants and shirts, hats and other accessories that vary by region and, in many cases, by village. The most famous Dutch clothing hails from Volendam, a historic fishing village northeast of Amsterdam, with its pointed and curled women’s bonnets. However, there are many other clothing items such as the kraplap, a piece of (often heavily starched) cloth worn around the shoulders, or klepbroek, a type of men’s pants, that can be found throughout the country. Traditional craftwork played a large role in not just Dutch clothing, but the overall identity of each region.

The “little Dutch girl” costumes found so often in fancy dress shops are somewhat accurate, but they often miss out on some of the finer details that can be found in the Dutch Costume Museum. Not only is the museum itself historical — it is housed in one of Amsterdam’s 17th-century canal houses on the famous Herengracht, featuring two gables and an original Delft Blue toilet — it showcases its collection of clothing and historic wares in a unique setting.

Each of seven rooms of the museum is decorated in the style of each particular Dutch region, including Volendam, Marken, Hindeloopen, Staphorst, Spakenburg, Urk and Zeeland, which showcase the individual dress as well as the particular culture of each region — its history, crafts and traditions that shaped its inhabitants’ identities. Visitors also get a chance to view an exhibit of photographs of Marken residents wearing traditional clothing from photographer Jimmy Nelson, who donated the collection to the museum.

Dutch costume

When touring the museum, guests not only discover traditional Dutch dress, but experience past and present Dutch culture in a unique, immersive way.

Take a photo in traditional Dutch dress

For the perfect souvenir from a trip to Amsterdam, visitors can get a photograph of themselves wearing traditional Dutch clothing from Volendam at the museum. After donning the typical dress — complete with hats and bonnets, of course — guests will take a seat in front of a backdrop that features old Dutch décor pieces such as Delft Blue plates and the famous tulips. While guests slip back into their modern-day wear, the photos are printed for immediate viewing.

Host an event at the Dutch Clothing Museum

When hosting a business event in Amsterdam, the choice of venue is paramount — especially if attendees hail from countries other than the Netherlands, who will anticipate an authentic Amsterdam experience. The Dutch Costume Museum offers an intimate, unique venue as a historic canal house, the entirety of which can be reserved for privacy. Tailormade event packages are designed to accommodate any type of event, whether it’s a casual meeting among colleagues or a formal dinner with potential business partners. Impress guests with a welcome drink of Dutch jenever — yet another tradition the museum can highlight — and snacks such as smoked sausage, pickles and aged cheese or a standing seven-course buffet, followed by a private tour of the museum.

The museum can even offer attendees a one-hour course to learn the art of Staphorster stipwerk, a technique of decorating fabric with needles and paint, to further engross themselves in Dutch tradition. At the end of the class, guests can take home their own personally decorated bag. At the end of the event, commemorate the evening with a photo of all guests dressed in traditional Dutch costume!

Learn and shop at the museum

End a visit to the Dutch Costume Museum in the shop, which offers not only traditional textiles and clothing, but jewellery, handcrafted products and gifts for children. For a different kind of gift, bring someone (or just yourself) to the museum during a workshop on Wednesday or Saturday (check the website for dates) for a stipwerk masterclass.

Traditional clothing in the Netherlands is not often seen on the streets, but it is recognisable everywhere in the world. With a tour of the Dutch Costume Museum, visitors can see first-hand the differences in dress among Dutch regions — and even try them on.

Contributed by the Dutch Costume Museum

Editor's picks