Art & Science of the Traditional Polish Folk Costumes

The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw

Depictions of Polish traditional folk costumes in 19th and 20th century folk studies from the collection of State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw.

Archive of Watercolours

The SEM`s Archive has a collection of watercolours with ethnographic themes. The most valuable ones come from the ethnographic album of Galicia by Stanisław Putiatycki, made between 1840 and 1850. This is a unique collection of 72 watercolours and 8 pencil drawings documenting costumes and folk types from Galicia. This collection was handed down to SEM in Warsaw by the Iconographic Archive of the National Museum in Warsaw in the 1950s.

The collection focuses on the typical clothes and headgear of people from the areas of Rzeszów, Mielec, Sędziszów, Sokal, Tarnopol and Radziechów. This is a specific kind of costumes study of those areas.

Peasant women’s headdress; Podkarpacie region.

Peasant russet coat.


Kraków area traditional costumes.

Lublin region traditional costumes.

Deep Dive into Polish Fashion

In October 1905 the “Świat Kobiecy” [Women`s World] magazine held its first competition for Polish women’s garments. Artists, tailors and people connected to the world of fashion were invited to participate. The designs had to allude to Polish traditional costumes or those with origins in the attire of Polish nobles.

The competition results were announced on 12th of February 1906. 26 designs were sent in, including clothes, miniature dolls and drawings.

Designs based on traditional folk costumes.

Awarded design

Aniela Gawlikowska and Leona Bierkowska’s design was awarded an honourable mention. It was published in a newspaper and was on public display in the Industry and Agriculture Museum in Warsaw (currently: the SEM in Warsaw).

Leona Bierkowska (1855 - after 1910). Painted portraits, landscapes and folk-themed scenes. She initially attended painting courses for women at the Technology and Industry Museum in Kraków, then continued studying art in Paris. In 1905 she participated in an exhibition of contemporary textiles and ceramics at the Technology and Industry Museum in Kraków.

Traditional women’s costume from the Kaszuby region.

by Zofia Stryjeńska.

Zofia Stryjeńska (nee Lubańska) - Polish painter, graphic artist, illustrator, designer, representative of art deco. One of the most famous Polish artists of the interwar period.

On October 1st, 1911 Zofia Stryjeńska, disguised as a man called Tadeusz Grzymała Lubański, began to study painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich (the local academy did not accept women at the time). After a year she was recognized by her colleagues and left Munich for Krakow, where she began a period of intense work by painting and writing.

Credits: Story

The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw/ Państwowe Muzeum Etnograficzne w Warszawie

Curators/Kuratorzy: Patryk Pawlaczyk, Klara Sielicka-Baryłka from Polish & European Folklore Department

Coordination/Koordynacja projektu: Klara Sielicka-Baryłka

Support team: Elżbieta Czyżewska, Anastazja Stelmach, Przemysław Walczak, Anahita Rezaei

Special thanks to: Jadwiga Koszutska; Łukasz Zandecki; Marzena Borman; Joanna Bartuszek & Barbara Kowalczyk; Edward Koprowski; Mariusz Raniszewski; Agnieszka Grabowska; Aleksander Robotycki

Translation: Jan Sielicki & The SEM`s documentation

Credits: All media
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