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 countries, particularly in the rural areas. And in some regions even 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 of the Netherlands 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 is their trade, and whether they are in mourning.
Most Germans wear modern clothes in their everyday lives, but Bavarians (Bavaria is the largest region in Germany) have a special place in their hearts for their traditional clothing (called tracht in German).
Many wear it all year around, especially 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 types of festivities and celebrations. 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 the Germans from other districts sport their own regional trachts.
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.
The Sami are an ethnic group from Northern Europe. They like to keep their traditions alive so you can find them reindeer herding and wearing their folk dress.
The Sami that live in Sweden call their traditional clothes kolt.
Most Sami wear kolt every day. And even the ones that do not, take their kolt out for 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, and 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 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 from Southeastern Europe.
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 during Norway’s National Day, which is celebrated on the 17th of May. On that day every Norwegian wears their regional costume.
Norwegians also wear bunad in formal events like weddings, graduations, baptisms, sometimes for anniversaries, their own weddings, Christmas; and certainly for confirmations… It is usual nowadays for parents to give a bunad to their children as a confirmation gift so they can wear it during the ceremony.
From 70 to 80% of Norwegian women own a bunad.
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. 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 like wearing their national dress every now and then.
They do not wear 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 even 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 many of their hosts do the same.
The Gorals (highlanders or mountaineers) of the Tatra region still wear their folk clothes proudly. Many wear them everyday, 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 considered one’s best clothes and were reserved for special occasions, which still applies today. They 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
Most Chods and Hanas certainly wear it. The Chods are an ethnic group from Bohemia, while the Hanas are 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 on special occasions.
Spaniards usually wear them when they go to a romeria (pilgrimage). That might happen more frequently than you would think, since 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 and opt, instead, to go on horseback or on horse drawn wagons, like in the good old days.
For women is a flamenco/gypsy dress, colorful and full of ruffles.
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.
Incidentally, 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.
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 sort of formal events, where men pair them up 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, if you are visiting Scotland, you may also spot one or two patriotic kilted-Scots walking around town.