‘Be Breton’ at Work

Author : Pascal Aumasson / February 2024

Their desire to be Breton at work led the waitresses at the restaurant Chez Mélanie in Riec-sur-Belon (Finistère) to dress according to local tradition. Mélanie Rouat, the owner, made them wear a coiffe. Waitresses thanks to their aprons and Breton thanks to their coiffes, the latter was an example of the giz-fouen dress tradition. Its complex lace structure held up by a piece of coloured ribbon was very recognisable. The raised wings, the width and position of which varied according to each village around Pont–Aven, were worn with a winged collar, which could take on spectacular proportions. However, photographs from the 1930s show young women from the Quimper area more casually wearing the coiffe glazig during their shift, which shows that priority was to appear Breton. By declaring her Breton identity in this way, owner Mélanie Rouat broke away from restaurant business clothing conventions, which suppliers (La Belle Jardiniere, Braillon…) were already catering for in order to guarantee food hygiene standards.

This promotion of cultural traditions using waitress uniforms gained such a reputation in the hotel and restaurant industry that in the 50s, 60s and 70s young women in Riec-sur-Belon would work summer seasons on the Emerald Coast more than 100 miles away. The hotel and restaurant the Printania in Dinard, for example, recruited them for many years. Likewise, canning factories such as Amieux or Cassegrain in Nantes looking for authenticity would use pictures of the ample figure of the female Breton cook in traditional costume.


Author : Pascal Aumasson, « ‘Be Breton’ at Work », Bécédia [en ligne], ISSN 2968-2576, mis en ligne le 5/02/2024.

Permalien: https://bcd.bzh/becedia/en/be-breton-at-work

Contributed by : Bretagne Culture Diversité