Silk ribbons in Museum Amager – A window to Europe

The project seeks to create a new understanding of one of the largest collections of regional dress in Denmark and shed light on a largely unknown history of Danish production and consumption of silk ribbons.

The collection of silk ribbons at Museum Amager will form the basis of the project, which will examine the rising globalisation beginning in the 18th-century and the technological advances in the European textile industry of the following century. Furthermore, the project will illuminate how mass-produced objects, such as silk ribbons, received new meaning in a Danish peasant milieu, and how new wares became an integral part of the local dress and identity on Amager.


There are more than 400 individual silk ribbons in the collection of Museum Amager, which represent the comprehensive and varied production of ribbons that flourished in Europe from the middle of the 18th century and into the 20th century. The provenance of the ribbons is generally lacking, and as of now it has only been possible to ascertain an approximate production date for a small part of the collection based on aesthetic and technological factors (Grymer-Hansen 2021). The project will generate new knowledge of a significant Danish textile collection and its history in a European perspective through a systematic analysis of the entire collection of silk ribbons combined with comparative studies in European collections.



The European production of silk started in Italy during the renaissance but in the following centuries France appeared as the main producer of silk beginning the 17th century (Caracausi 2019; Rothstein 2003). Silk ribbons, however, have been used in dress in Scandinavia for more than a thousand years e.g., tablet woven silk ribbons were found in the Viking Age grave from Bjerringhøj at Mammen in Denmark, which has been dated to the 10th century (Rimstad et al. 2021). Silk and silk ribbons were for centuries reserved for the wealthiest social classes but following the rise in mechanisation and automatization of the production in the 18th and 19th centuries, silk ribbons became increasingly available to people outside elite groups (K. Sørensen 2000).

In Denmark, the use of imported silk ribbons and other silk products was restricted to the only the nobility and high-ranking government officials until 1799, when the sumptuary laws were repealed. Almost immediately after their repeal, silk ribbons appear prominently in several regional dresses across Denmark, not least on the dress of the so-called ‘Dutch peasants’ on Amager, where numerous and colourful silk ribbons became an integral part of the local dress identity (Grymer-Hansen 2021).



The collection dates to the opening of Amagermuseet in 1922, a forerunner for the contemporary Museum Amager. The museum was established through the efforts and patronage of locals, descendants of the Dutch peasants, who wished to preserve and present their heritage and history. The museum remains centred on the history and legacy of the Dutch peasants, who arrived at Amager from Friesland following an invitation from king Christian II in 1521. For centuries, their descendants remained a distinct group of privileged peasants who spoke Dutch, intermarried, and retained their own church and priest (Mentz 2020; Sørensen 2022). They became well-known for their distinctive dress practices, especially the women who sold their produce at the square in Copenhagen, and several new dress traditions evolved over time (Cziffery Nielsen 2022). It was not until the 18th century that members of the group started to marry outside their own community and slowly integrate into wider Danish society (Brock 2020). The museum has collected silk ribbons as part of complete of partial examples of regional dress for over 100 years.

The collection of Museum Amager contains more than 400 silk ribbons e.g., in the dress exhibition, in the teaching collection, which is used to teach the history to school children, and others are stored away. The silk ribbons at the museum are still in used at certain times of the year, when locals still wear the regional dress, but since few are still in possession of a complete set of clothes, they borrow missing parts from the museum. 1921, at the 400 year anniversary for the arrival of the peasants from Friesland, Danish newspaper journalists reported on the impressive regional dress worn by the locals, and at the combined 500 years anniversary for the arrival and 100 year anniversary for the museum in 2022, 50 adults and children wore the regional dress, when they greeted Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and the former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.



The entire collection of silk ribbons at Museum Amager will be registered, photographed, and catalogued, whereafter a technical analysis is conducted. The technical analysis of a textile, this case a ribbon, is necessary to obtain as much information as possible. It is necessary to ascertain which weave has been used. There are three basic weaves: tabby, twill, and satin. Furthermore, there are innumerable ways in which a pattern may be woven into a textile. If one can discern how a pattern has been woven by analysing how the loom has been set up to produce the textile, one might also be able to deduce which loom type has been used. We need to establish which technique was used to weave the pattern and if the ribbon looks like some of the other ribbons in the collection. If yes, it may have been woven in the same manner and maybe even on the same punch cards as the other ribbons. The results of the registration and analysis will be made available online. The results will be sued to determine types and examples to be used in the later stages of the project and publications.



Brock, A. L. (2020) ”Hollænderne på Amager i 1700-tallet: Et samfund i krise?”: Temp - Tidsskrift for Historie 10:20, 115-138. 

Caracausi, A. (2019) ”Made in Italy: Seidenbänder im frühneuzeitlichen Europa“. In J. A. Schmidt-Funke (ed.) Materielle Kultur und Konsum in der Frühen Neuzeit. Göttingen: Böhlau Köln, 39-60.

Cziffery Nielsen, C. (2022) ”Amagerdragten fra Friesland”. In S. Mentz (ed.) Amagermuseet og den historiske forbindelse med Holland. Dragør: Museum Amager, 130-155.

Grymer-Hansen, M. (2021): “Detaljen i dragten: Amagerbønder i silkeklæder”. In S. Mentz (ed.) Amager: 500 års hollænderhistorie. Dragør: Museum Amager, 111-125.

Mentz, S. (2020) Portræt af et lokalsamfund: Fra amagerdragt til røvgevir. Aarhus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag.

Rimstad, C., U. Mannering, M. L. S. Jørkov og M. Kanstrup (2021): ”Lost and found: Viking Age human bones and textiles from Bjerringhøj, Denmark”: Antiquity 95:381, June 2021, 735-752.

Rothstein, N. (2003): “Silk in the Early Modern Period, c. 1500-1780”. In David Jenkins (ed.) The Cambridge History of Western Textiles, vol. 2, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 528-562.

Sørensen, H. (2022): ”Sporene af den hollandske kultur på Amager” i S. Mentz (ed.) Amagermuseet og den historiske forbindelse med Holland. Museum Amager, 11-39.

Sørensen, K. (2000): Danske silkebånd med europæisk baggrund. Jelling: Landsforeningen Danske Folkedansere.

Terminologicentralen (1951) ”Forslag 1: Forslag til terminologi vedrørende kunstfibre, rayon, rayonuld mm.”: Tidsskrift for Textilteknik 9, 229-230.




Name Title Phone E-mail
Grymer-Hansen, Morten Valner S Academic Research Officer +4524655646 E-mail
Lervad, Susanne Guest Researcher +4551301887 E-mail
Mokdad, Ulrikka Academic Research Officer   E-mail
Yvanez, Elsa Associate Professor   E-mail


Name Title
Mentz, Søren Museum director, Museum Amager
Nielsen, Camilla Cziffery Museum curator, Museum Amager
Besson, Sylvain  Museum curator, Musée d’art et d’Industrie, Saint-Étienne
Mühlemann, Corinne Assistant professor, University of Bern
Sørensen, Henning Archivist, Historisk Arkiv Dragør
Petersen, Majken Local dress expert