The Costume Festival in Arles

In early July, during the costume festival, the Arlésiennes parade in the streets of the town dressed in their most beautiful finery. The young girls who wore the traditional dress at the Festo Vierginenco last year, will be presented at the Théâtre Antique this year. Every three years, in front of the people of Provence, the enthronement of the new queen takes places and she gives a speech in response to that of the queen stepping down. The next enthronement will take place in 2017.

The Costume Festival at the ancient Roman theatre of Arles

Arlésiennes in traditional Provençal costume

An Arlésienne's finery and jewellery

Accessories of the Arlésienne's costume

The fichu of the Arlésienne's costume

Arlésienne headdress and fan

Shawls and parasols, the Arlésienne's accessories

Provençal folklore dances at the ancient Roman theatre of Arles

The Fête du Costume (Costume Festival) started in 1903, instigated by Frédéric Mistral (a famous French writer from the South of France) when he created the Festo Vierginenco (Festival of Virgins).
Young girls were invited to wear the dress and hair ribbon as a symbol of their pas-sage into adulthood (up to the age of 15 they could only wear the "Mireille" costume).

Concerned about the future of the Arlesian dress, Mistral wanted to officialise it and make sure that wearing it was considered not just a symbol but also an honour and an occasion. In 1903, 18 young women responded to his plea. In 1904, there were 350 girls and the festi-val moved to the Théâtre Antique (an ancient Roman theatre).

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