Interest in traditional folk costumes grew steadily during the Gustavian epoch and is reflected in many of Hilleström´s paintings In 1782 Gustav III personally commissioned the artist to paint “three small pictures of three peasants in their costumes”. Hilleström´s pictures of country life also became very popular with a wider art public, and altogether he produced about eighty paintings featuring the customs and costume of the agrarian population. These subjects gained wider currency through sets of engravings. A large number of Swedish parishes are represented i Hilleström´s costume pictures, but the main focus is on the regions most renowned in this respect: Dalarna, Södermanland and Skåne. He also treats Finnish subjects from Savolax and Karelia.
Hilleström was the first artist to concern himself with recording the traditional dress of the Swedish (and Finnish) people, which makes his pictures an outstandingly important source for studies of costume history.