Do you picture Chanel dresses at the mention of “European clothing”? You are not alone. After all, modern clothes are common in Europe. But the thing is, not everyone wears them. There are plenty of spots where people still wear their traditional clothes every day.
1. The Netherlands
In Dutch cities everyone wears modern clothes nowadays. But if you go to the villages, you can find people wearing their beautiful regional costumes 24/7. The villages of Staphorst, Urk, Spakenburg, Bunschoten, and Volendam lead the way.
Each region of the Netherlands has its own distinctive clothing. So you can tell where a person is from by their garments. The clothes also disclose other personal details of the wearer. They show whether the person is a Protestant or Catholic, also if they are in mourning. They even show the profession of the wearer. Which comes in handy if you need, say, a carpenter.
Most Germans wear modern clothes in their everyday lives. But not Bavarians (Bavaria is the largest region in Germany). Bavarians have a special place in their hearts for their traditional clothing.
Traditional clothes are called tracht in German.
Many Bavarians wear tracht all year round, especially older women in villages. But you may spot a tracht-wearing Bavarian here and there even in the cities.
Tracht is common in events such as soccer matches. It is the go-to garment for special occasions like baptisms, weddings, and graduations. And it is a must during festivals.
During Oktoberfest, for example, everyone shows up in their tracht. Oktoberfest is celebrated for two weeks in Munich, the largest city in Bavaria. Even tourists wear Bavarian tracht for the event. While Germans from other districts sport their own regional trachts.
Bavarians that work in tourism-related businesses, like restaurants, wear tracht daily.
The garment is called dirndl for women and lederhosen for men. And it is so popular in the region that there are workplaces that have instituted “Dirndl Fridays.” And some politicians have campaigned wearing it.
A few traditional Germans still get married in tracht. The wedding dress is pretty much like a normal dirndl but is all white.
People also wear tracht in Austria, Switzerland, and northern Italy.
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The Sami are an ethnic group from Northern Europe. And they like to keep their traditions alive. So you can find Samis wearing folk dress and reindeer herding.
The Sami that live in Sweden call their traditional clothes kolt.
Most Sami wear kolt every day. And the ones that do not, at least wear it at parties, weddings, funerals, religious ceremonies, and the like. When there is anything festive or formal going on, the kolt is out of the closet.
The Sami live in Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Russia.
In Albania, it is mostly older villagers who wear traditional clothes every day.
In the north, both men and women wear them, and the garments are colorful. While in the south, it is women who keep the tradition alive Their clothes are black.
All in all, there are about 200 different versions of Albanian folk costume, one from each region.
Both men and women cover their heads -men with hats called Qeleshe and women with headdresses. They both wear vests. And men, depending on the region, may also wear a white skirt called fustanella.
Folk Albanian clothes are made of wool, cotton, and silk.
The Gorani are an ethnic group from Southeastern Europe.
Older Gorani women wear their traditional clothes every day. The younger ones reserve them for special occasions. They sure will be wearing them at weddings, celebrations, and religious events.
Goranis live in Kosovo, Macedonia, and Albania.
Wearing traditional clothes, bunad, is a must during Norway’s National Day (May 17). On that day, every Norwegian wears their regional costume.
Norwegians also wear bunad at formal events. They can wear it to get married, to attend weddings, graduations, baptisms, anniversaries, Christmas… And certainly for confirmations. Nowadays, it is usual for parents to give a bunad to their children as a confirmation gift. That way, the child can wear it during the ceremony.
Bunad can be suitable for the most elegant occasions. For the blessing of the king and queen, for example, many guests wore traditional clothes.
Bunads are passed from generation to generation. It is not surprising, since a new festive costume can cost $3,000 or more. The costumes that are for everyday use are less expensive.
From 70 to 80% of Norwegian women own a bunad.
In the village of Hardanger, it is customary to get married in bunad. The brides wear elaborate, beautiful headdresses. Those too, are passed from one generation to the next.
The Danes of the mainland wear modern clothes. But the Danes from the Faroe Islands like to dust off their national dress every now and then.
They wear it at weddings, baptisms, and other events. Also at festivals like the Olavsoka, in which sporting the national costume is a must.
The Opening of Parliament takes place during Olavsoka. And everyone, including politicians and priests, dress in folk costume for the ceremony.
Danish royals wear traditional Faroese clothing when they visit the island. And many of their hosts do the same.
The Gorals are the mountaineers of the Tatra region. They still wear their folk clothes proudly. Many wear them every day, especially those who work in the tourism industry.
If you want to see Gorals in their traditional clothing, head to the Polish towns of Podhale, Orawa, and Spisz.
In the rest of Poland, traditional clothes were never worn daily. They were one’s best clothes. So Poles reserved them for special occasions. That still applies today. Poles wear folk dress at festivals and national and religious holidays. And sometimes at weddings, or to attend church.
These clothes tell a lot about their wearer. They tell the region the wearer came from. They also show their economic, social, and marital status. For example, a woman’s headpiece can tell the initiated whether she is single or married.
Gorals also live in Ukraine and the Czech Republic.
9. The Czech Republic
Many of the people that live in Bohemia and Moravia wear folk dress every day. Bohemia and Moldovia are regions of the Czech Republic.
In Bohemia, most Chods -an ethnic group- certainly wear it. So do the Hanas of Moravia.
Hana women used to hide their hair completely, even from their husbands (see the first picture). While the men wore their hair long.
Other Czechs wear traditional clothes only at festivals and such. Mostly the Czechs that live in the eastern territories.
In Spain, traditional clothes are only worn on special occasions.
Spaniards usually wear them when they go to a romeria (pilgrimage). That might happen more frequently than you would think. For every city and town has its own pilgrimage.
In some pilgrimages, people go for the complete retro look. For starters, they wear their regional folk dress. And then they turn it up a notch and leave their cars behind, opting to travel on horseback or horse-drawn wagons.
Each region of Spain has its own folk costume. The most famous one, and the one that foreigners more readily recognize, is the one of Andalusia.
In Andalusia, women wear long flamenco/gypsy dresses with ruffles. The dresses are quite colorful and sometimes have dots.
And Andalusia is the region where one might find people in folk dress more often. Whether you are a local or a tourist, you are expected to wear traditional clothes at the famous April’s Fair.
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And to close, the famous Scottish kilt.
Scots usually wear kilts at weddings. The grooms usually wear it, and the guests might choose to do so as well.
Kilts can be found in all sorts of formal events. Men pair them with jackets and ties to look more dashing.
They are not used every day. But sometimes Scots show up at the stadium wearing them to support their favorite team. And you may also spot one or two patriotic kilted-Scots walking around town.