Rosannguaq is researching the Greenlandic national dress

Rosannguaq Rossen is researching the Greenlandic national dress.


By Nicoline Larsen


Rosannguaq Rossen thought she knew her own national dress quite well. But she was met with many surprises as she set out to investigate the history and significance of the dress in her PhD project “Branding through fashion – the West Greenlandic women’s dress as a symbol” which she undertook at Ilisimatusarfik.


During her work, Rosannguaq Rossen discovered that, for example, the “rules” for what color anorak to wear can be traced back to the Moravian brethren. So, when married Greenlandic women today wear blue anoraks, it actually stems from an old German tradition.


According to Rosannguaq Rossen, she’s not the only one who doesn’t know the history of the West Greenlandic women’s dress. She points out that there are actually no rules at all for who is allowed to wear it and how it should be worn.


“The Greenlandic society forgets that the Greenlandic ancestors constantly changed the dress because the fashion constantly changed,” Rosannguaq Rossen.


The embroidered pearl collar that is so characteristic of the West Greenlandic women’s dress is ’only’ about 150 years old. And it looks markedly different today than it did back then. In the beginning, the pearl collar was very short. Today, it reaches all the way down to the elbow.


According to Rosanguaq Rossen, the pearl collar is a good example of how the West Greenlandic national dress is a product of the many cultural encounters that have taken place between Greenlanders and Europeans. The pearls in the collar were originally traded with Dutch whalers.


Which is why Rosanquaq also believes that it’s misleading to view the national dress as a ’sacred’ object that must be preserved in its current form. According to her, it has never had a fixed form. On the contrary, interaction and influence from the outside world has helped to change it many times throughout history.


Rosannguaq Rossen is head of the Department of Language, Literature & Media at the Department of Culture, Language & History. Hear her talk about her research into the West Greenlandic national costume in the video at the top of the page.


Read Rosannguaq Rossen’s entire Ph.D dissertation “Branding through fashion – the West Greenlandic women’s dress as a symbol”.