These portraits, depicting a Danish style of headdress form the 19th century, were taken by Trine Søndergaard, a Danish artist who has produced several series of photographs. When her work includes people, it pays special attention to cloth…

Immediate and still, Trine’s portraits require your attention despite the negative body language. Centred and expertly lit, the bonnets are, as the artist explains, ‘traditional pieces of headwear for well-to-do women in the mid-19th century Danish countryside. This tradition has a fine touch to it, as the golden fabrics from which most of the caps were made were until then the privilege of royalty and nobility.’ Each of these headpieces represents countless hours of work and class status, and provides juxtaposition with the mass-market jersey tops and American-flag t-shirts below them.

The portraits are faceless and nameless, although not uninviting; the wearers are facing away but could turn at any moment. As art historian Mieke Bal notes in her essay in a monograph on Trine Søndergaard, the women are ‘scaffolding for the artist's investigation.’

Instead of a structured and pleated cap, young women are wrapped in fabric which covers their hair and face; although some faces are turned toward the viewer, they are often wrapped or slackly expressionless. This dressing is known as a strude, and is a two-piece face covering with holes cut for the eyes which was once worn by working women on the small island of Fanø, off the Danish west coast. Women’s traditional folk dress from that island is complemented by one scarf coiled around the neck and one elaborately tied around the head to cover the hair. The mask-like hood would protect the wearer’s face and neck from strong winds and the sun...

To read this article by Arianna E Funk in full, order your copy of Selvedge issue 59 here.

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