While most people get excited about the hundreds of thousands of tulips sprinkled around Pella, Iowa, many don’t notice the intricate details and rich history behind the authentic Dutch costumes locals wear. From different fabrics to layers on layers of underskirts, each thread holds a lot of history.
Tulip Time is Pella’s annual celebration of the town’s Dutch heritage. (Pella was founded by a group of immigrants from the Netherlands in 1847.) As they get ready for the 88th annual event from May 4-6, people anxiously await to enjoy classic Dutch letters, watch multiple parades and see the more than 300,000 blooming tulips. The community welcomes thousands of people from across the country.
Carol Verhey has been involved in Tulip Time from a very young age. From walking in parades to now sewing costumes for her family and the Royal Court, Verhey has been involved with many aspects of the event.
Currently, she is one of four women who research and sew authentic Dutch costumes for the Tulip Queen, her Court, and the Duchesses, who all play special roles in the Tulip Time celebration. But the work isn’t limited to Tulip Time. The team collaborates year round working on the intricate details of each costume.
“As soon as we finish, we choose the costumes we will do the next year and obtain fabrics and accessories and work out patterns,” Verhey said.
These costumes aren’t like ordinary dresses — each has been researched and selected based on a specific area of the Netherlands. While each area has different influences, traditional Dutch costumes for women typically have long skirts, short or long sleeve tops, a possible apron or layer and a type of head piece.
The Costume Committee has the honor of deciding what province or village the costumes are influenced by each year. Even the wooden shoes they wear have significance as they are designed to match the tulips the Court carries.
“We have many research books from the Netherlands to help us with our choice each year,” Verhey said.
Each village in the Netherlands has a unique style depending on what it is known for, from fishing to farming. Camryn Huyser, a Court member from 2019, wore a costume inspired by Huizen, a small fishing village in northern Holland.
“Every area has a different style that they wear,” Huyser said. “A lot of that has to do with the temperature of the place and what they did in the village.”
While the Queen traditionally wears the Sunday outfit, a more fancy costume, Huyser wore the weekday outfit along with other members of the Court. Since the women back then didn’t participate in fishing, the outfits were more for household wear. Plus, Huyser wore a traditional head piece that was originally made for protection from the sun.
Like many costumes, Huyser’s has many elements. Containing an underskirt and undershirt, she wore a black skirt and top with a white apron over the bottom. Huyser recalls the vast amount of buttons on the front of the top along with the overcoat and hat she wore.
“There are many pieces to the costumes and we had multiple fittings to make sure everything was perfect for each specific Court member,” Huyser said.
Though the costumes change every year, the Queen and her Court get to keep the costume to wear for future Tulip Times. It is an honor to wear the costumes as a member of Court and for future Tulip Times.
“The young ladies get to keep their costume and it marks them as the particular year’s Royal Court,” Verhey said.
Each year the previous Courts have the option to walk behind the current Court. They wear their costumes from their year to represent their time and area.
To highlight the Dutch heritage, the costumes are crucial to the celebration in representing the areas of the Netherlands. Verhey said there is something beautiful about remembering her Dutch heritage, and the costumes play a huge role in that. She has completed her fourth year of costume designing with the other three women and continues to love her job.
“Tulip Time for me is the most wonderful time of the year,” Verhey said.