Sunday 25 July 2010

Folk Costume

My folk costume from the south-west corner (more specifically, Oxie, Vemmenhögs, Skytts och Bara härader), of the county Skåne (Scania) in the very south of Sweden, is, after having working on it for the past year or so, now almost completed – enough for it to be worn anyway. I will now show it, layer by layer. This is what an unmarried farmer’s daughter of rather comfortable means might have worn to church and parties in about 1820-50. I’m afraid there’re no close ups, since the batteries in my camera died, and some of the pictures aren't very good for the same reason. I've linked to previous posts on the different garments, in case anyone would like to go back and learn more about them.

First it’s the sleeveless shift, hankasärk, made from half bleached linen.

Then the opplöt is put on, a blouse made from fine, bleached linen, with a collar of fine cotton voile. Black wool stockings are worn. I haven’t knitted a period pair yet, so I’ll have to make do with a cotton blend for now – they won’t show that much under my long skirts anyway, and at least the colour is right. Black is a rather unusual colour in Swedish women’s folk costume stockings, in most other places they’re white or red.

The hair is braided and wound round the head, as seen in this painting from Torna härad. Or maybe you can't see, the picture being rather small...

The painting is not from my area (in Skåne there where 23 areas, called härader, with slight or pronounced differences in dress), but borders to it, so some elements of dress are the same (notice the red spedetröja the girl in the middle is putting on), while others differ (like the shape of the collars, and the married woman’s white headdress). I’ve woven the wool ribbons in the hair myself.

After the opplöt, the knitted, woollen spedetröja, trimmed with silk, is put on.

The silk bodice, liv – the roll at the bottom of it looks quite ridiculous, but that’s what they looked like. I must confess I’m thinking of making it smaller though – after all, this costume is not to be worn in living history settings, but on festive occasions in modern day society, so even if my aim is to make it as right as possible, I wouldn’t feel too guilty with this compromise. As long as its purpose, to support the skirts and prevent them slipping, is there, I’m satisfied. The liv is laced with a steel chain at the moment, but it will be replaced with a silver one eventually. Btw, I found buckles almost identical to mine in the database of Nordiska Museet, which made me quite happy.

The heavy, wool skirt is next. Notice the look of “a comfortable size” the roll of the bodice gives the hips. This would be even more pronounced by the multiple layers of wool skirts, that was the custom back then. Skåne was comparatively rich, having good farmland, and everyone wanted to show of their wealth, not only by silver and as fine materials as they where allowed, but also by looking well fed. Not a look we tend to go for today, is it? The skirt has a tuck just below knee level, to help hold out the skirts. A silk ribbon with a pattern of woven-in flowers was often sewn on between the tuck and hem, but I have yet to find one in real silk.

The woollen apron, with its woven cotton waistband/ties. It ties a little off centre, with a bow. An apron was always worn, even to church, by the farming community; no woman would be seen without it. On the head is a cotton kerchief – this kind could be worn by married and unmarried women alike.

The starched, white headdress was worn by married women alone, as a symbol of their social status. A married woman would not be seen outside the immediate family without a kerchief of some sort on her head. Today, most people who wear folk costumes in Sweden omit the hats and headdresses, thinking they look silly. I can agree, but think it depends on the setting. I might do both, wear it over my braided, tied-up hair sometimes, and at other times wear my hair uncovered in the styles I usually wear, all according to the occasion. Like I said before, the costume is to be worn to parties and such in this time and age, so making some exceptions and adaptions is all right in my mind. I will for example wear make up, though I will probably not wear modern jewellery.

And that’s as far as I’ve come. I will, when the money, wish and time is there, add spedetröjor, liv and skirts in other colours, aprons in different patterns and materials, and several opplöts, so I can mix and match according to my mood. When it looks like I’m likely to marry, I’ll start to embroider the white headdress. But the costume is perfectly appropriate to wear as it is now. Yay!


  1. Hope to see it soon! LIVE! :D

  2. Oh my goodness Sarah! This is quite beautiful. I am amazed at all the attention to detail you put into this outfit and your very fine execution of it. It makes me wish we had a folk costume for America, or parts of America, but alas, we do not. :( I would have to research back my family tree and their certain geographical locations when still in Europe to get ideas to make one of my own. You look perfect and beautiful. I don't think the hips look too big, I think the whole shape is very pleasing indeed. Thanks for sharing this, you are always so inspiring to me!

  3. Fantastiskt fint arbete! Hela dräkten är underbar och den klär dig verkligen jättebra!
    Apropå det rosa silket på spedetröjan.. jag har för mig att jag läst nånstans (fast jag kan för mitt liv inte hitta var nu) att spedetröjorna stickades i vitt garn och färgades efteråt.. kanske det är anledningen till att silket är rosa i vissa fall? Att det inte tagit färgen lika starkt som ullgarnet? Nå.. jag vet inte.. kanske jag bara hittat på det för jag hittar det inte i nån av mina böcker nu. Hursomhelst är tröjan jättefin och som det ser ut på bilderna mycket välstickad! Snyggt jobbat!

  4. That's amazing! Thanks for showing all the layers.

  5. Grattis, vilket arbete! De däringa skånska dräkterna är verkligen vansinnigt fina!

  6. Thank you all :)

    Slingerbult - jag har också läst att de färgades i efterhand. Det verkar dock generellt vara så att sidenbesättningarna ofta var i en färg som matchade plagget, gäller livstycken också; rosa på rött, grönt på grönt, blått på blått, svart på svart. Förresten, det rosa sidenet kanske var rött när det begav sig, men har bleknat till rosa? Många om och men...

  7. Wow! Thank you for sharing all the reasearch that you have put into this costume. How much fun!

    It is absolutely beautiful! I love how the entire look comes together with the bright and dark colors!
    And I agree with Sarah Jane - the skirt shape doesn't bother me a bit! Looks positively darling!

  8. Oh Wow your costume is just beautiful Sarah! You are quite a seamstress. I am working on a gregorian dress at this time though
    it is not very accurate. I hope one day to make a costume as researched as yours:)

    Have a blessed day
    Ileigh Jean

  9. Marie Wallgren26 July 2010 at 14:33

    WOW!! Du är såååå duktig min vän!

  10. It's so beautiful Sarah! I just love coming over to your blog as I learn so much about historical clothing in a whole other part of the world. Thank you for all your research, time, and hard work. You can bet your readers truly appreciate it.

    Have a blessed day!

  11. Wow Sarah det här är UNDERBART! Kul att få se step by step! :)

  12. Vad vacker du är, och du är så duktig!
    Vissa delar påminner om min mammas folkdräkt, hon är också från Skåne.
    Kram Kicki

  13. Äntligen you crazy lady! Är du nöjd nu?

  14. This is so fantastic! It's really interesting to get such an in-depth glimpse of period clothing from a specific locality. I can't wait to see more detailed photos.

    And you look adorable with the big hip rolls!

  15. vad fint det blev, vad fin den är!!!
    sidenband finns hos norska husfliden, jättedyrt men jättefint. /K

  16. Woooow!!! Oj vad fin den och du är!!! det ska jag säga till dig in persona också så jag verkligen får fram budskapet. WOW igen!! vilket jobb! Jag är rå-impad!

  17. Hi is apron the same word in Swedish?
    I am quite taken with idea that the apron was worn everywhere. Was that too protect the precious garments or to keep women firmly in the domestic sphere?

  18. Apron is "förkläde" in Swedish.

    Actually, it seems the apron was worn because it was good and proper, but also as a means to show of ones wealth and skills at working with textiles. Mine is made from wool, and would have been made at home back then. It would have been a clear signal to everyone just how skilled I was at designing, assembling colours and weaving - a very important thing for a woman in that time and place to know. For fancy occations a bought fine cotton apron was worn by those who could afford it - a clear indication of wealth.

    In some parts of the country it was custom to wear as many aprons as you possesed at nicer occations - but as they could not be worn without a garment between them, many, many skirts was worn as well. Must have been difficult to move at parties, but then, when was fashion ever sensible?


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