These Europeans, from Scotland to Ukraine, wear their traditional clothing proudly
Do you picture Chanel dresses at the mention of “European clothing”? You are not alone. But although modern clothes are widespread in the Old World, traditional clothing has not disappeared. It is still worn in many European countries, specially in the rural areas. And in some regions even the city dwellers partake in the fun -and tradition!- of wearing their folk costumes, at least during festivals.
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, specially in Staphorst, Urk, Spakenburg, Bunschoten, and Volendam.
Each region has its own distinctive clothing. And the garments can not only tell you where a person is from, but also other details of their lives such as whether they are Protestant or Catholic, what occupation do they have, and whether they are in mourning.
Bavarians (Bavaria is the largest region in Germany) have a special place in their heart for their traditional clothing (called tracht). Many wear it all year around, specially older women in villages. But you may spot a tracht-wearing Bavarian here and there in the cities, as well. Tracht is common in events such as soccer matches. It is the go-to garment for special occasions like baptisms, weddings, graduations, and all sort of festivities and celebrations. And it is a must during festivals.
During Oktoberfest, for example, everyone shows up in their tracht. Oktoberfest is celebrated in Munich, the largest city in Bavaria, for two weeks. Even tourists wear Bavarian tracht for the event. While the Germans from other districts sport their own regional costumes.
Bavarians that work in tourist-related business such as restaurants, as tourist guides, etc., wear tracht on daily basis. The garment, called dirdnl for women and lederhosen for men, 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 it. The wedding dress is pretty much like a normal dirdnl, but is all white.
Aside from Germany, people also wear tracht in Austria, Switzerland, and northern Italy.
The Sami are an indigenous ethnic group from Northern Europe. They keep their traditions alive. So you can find them reindeer herding and wearing their folk dress. Swedish Sami call their traditional clothes kolt.
Most Sami wear kolt every day. And all Samis wear their traditional clothes 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.
Older people wear their traditional clothes everyday in the villages, specially in the north of the country. The south has a different style of clothing, and conservative older women mostly wear black folk dresses. 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 and women with headdresses. Men, depending on their 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. They live in Kosovo, Macedonia, and Albania. Goranis are Slavs that converted to Islam more than a century ago. Older Gorani women wear their traditional clothes everyday. The younger ones reserve them for special occasions such as weddings, celebrations, and religious events.
Wearing traditional clothes, bunad, is a must for the 17th of May, a national holiday. Each Norwegian wears their regional costume that day.
Norwegians also wear bunad in formal events like weddings, graduations, baptisms, sometimes for anniversaries, their own weddings, Christmas; and certainly for confirmations… It is becoming usual for parents to give a bunad to their children as a confirmation gift so they can wear the garment during the ceremony. From 70 to 80% of Norwegian women own a bunad.
Nowadays it is considered very formal wear, 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, which is not surprising since a new festive costume can cost $3,000 or more. But the costumes that are for everyday use are less expensive.
In the village of Hardanger it is customary to get married in bunad. And the brides wear elaborate, beautiful headdresses that are also passed from one generation to the next.
While the Danes of the mainland wear modern clothes, the Danes from the Faroe Islands keep their national dress alive.
They do not use it everyday, but dust it off frequently for celebrations. It is worn at weddings, baptisms, and other events, including the Olavsoka, a summer festival in which sporting the national costume is a must.
The Opening of Parliament takes place during Olavsoka. And politicians and priests dress in folk costume for the ceremony.
When the Danish Royals visit the island, the royal women wear traditional Faroese clothing. And their hosts tend to do the same.
The Gorals (highlanders or mountaineers) of the Tatra region still wear their folk clothes proudly. Many wear them everyday, specially -but not only- 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.
Gorals also live in Ukraine and the Czech Republic.
In the rest of Poland traditional clothes were never worn daily. They were considered one’s best clothes and were reserved for special occasions. Which still applies today. Poles outside of Tatra wear them at festivals, some weddings, national and religious holidays, and sometimes for church services.
These clothes tell a lot about their wearer, from their economic, social and marital status, to the region they come from. For example, in some regions, a woman’s headpiece announces to the initiated whether she is single or married.
9. Czech Republic
Plenty inhabitants of Bohemia and Moravia wear folk dress everyday. Among them the Chods, an ethnic group from Bohemia; and the Hana, an ethnic group from Moravia.
Hana women used to hide their hair completely, even from their husbands (see the first picture). While the men wore their hair long.
As for the rest of the Czech Republic, people in some eastern regions wear their traditional clothes for festivals and such.
In Spain traditional clothes are only worn for special events. They are usually worn at the romerias (pilgrimages). Every city and town has its own pilgrimage. In some of these pilgrimages people not only wear their regional folk dress, but they forgo their cars to ride horses or to travel in horse drawn wagons -a typical site during the Romeria in Torremolinos, Andalucia.
And speaking of Andalucia that is the province where one might find people in folk dress more often. For it is customary to go to April’s Fair, whether you are a local or a tourist, wearing the traditional clothes of the region. Which for women is a flamenco/gypsy dress, colorful and full of ruffles.
Just as in other European countries, each region of Spain has its own folk costume.
And to close, the famous Scottish kilt.
Scots wear kilts at particular events, specially weddings, where not only the guests may wear it, but the groom usually does. Kilts can be seen, paired with jackets and ties, in all sort of formal events.
Scots sometimes show up at the stadium wearing kilts to support their favorite team. You may also spot one or two patriotic Scots sporting the traditional garment while strolling down the streets of their city.