Regional Types – Traditional Polish Folk Costumes

The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw

Polish folk costumes from the collection of The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw.

Łowicz type

"Corpus Christi procession in Złaków Kościelny", directed by Tadeusz Jankowski, 1939. “Księżacy” - inhabitants of Złaków Kościelny, in the Łowicz area of Poland, are going to participate in the local Corpus Christi procession. They are wearing traditional folk costumes typical for the region.

Łowickie costumes are the most representative ones in central Poland. They have undergone many changes with regard to both colour of fabric. Towards the end of the 19th century and until around 1914, the background of the striped fabrics was red, then it became orange and did not change until the end of the 1920's, but in the 1930's, with the arrival of aniline dyes, it took on some cooler colours; green, blue, violet and grey. During the above periods the embroidery of shirts was changing too.

The garland

It was a characteristic element of the traditional wedding costume.The oldest garlands were made from rue, which was grown in home gardens. Later garlands made from herbs and flowers were replaced with fairly large headgear.The garland consisted of a cloth cap, adorned with draped ribbons and pearls.The cap was crowned with a headdress - a large bunch of silk flowers, beads and tiny glass bubbles.The garland was fixed on the head with a ribbon or a wire, entwined with small braids over the forehead.

Łowicz region men’s traditional folk costume

Typical hat from Łowicz region.

"A wedding in the Łowicz region", directed by Tadeusz Jankowski, 1937. One of the first colour films produced in Poland.

Kurpie Zielone type

Women’s traditional folk costume, Kurpie Zielone area

The Kurpiowski costume of the Green Primeval Forest includes a very characteristic element – a girls' headpiece called czółko (a “little forehead”).

Men’s traditional folk costume, Kurpie Zielone area.

Biłgoraj type

Biłgoraj costume is classified as archaic. All its elements are made of linen. The original women's headpiece consisted of a "chamełka" (a type of a supportive bonnet) with a "rańtuch" (a scarf worn loosely around the head), common across the South-West Poland. The S-like and helix-like embroidery patterns used were also of archaic nature.

Men’s traditional costume, Biłgoraj area.

“Kalita” - men’s bag was a characteristic element of men’s traditional costume in Biłgoraj area. The horseshoe shape bag had a flap covering its whole length and making the whole thing convex.“Kalita” was worn on the back-left side with the strap over the right shoulder.It was used for travelling, for example to a church fair, distant weddings or fairs.When setting off men would put food into the bag (bread, pork fat, alcohol) as well as necessary tools, for example a knife, leather tobacco bag, pipe, flint and steel, snuff box made from bull’s horn.

Lachy Sądeckie type

The costume worn by Lachowie Sądeccy is considered to be one of the most beautiful Polish folk costumes. It pleases the eye with colourful, embroidered, chain-stitched applications (made by men) on jackets and trousers, colourfully embroidered shirts and delicate, linear, bead embroidery on female corsets.

Lachy Sądeckie women’s traditional folk costume.

Lachy Sądeckie group. Men’s costume is traditionally believed to have stemmed from Swedish uniforms.

Kraków type

A Cracow costume is the only peasants' attire which was promoted to the rank of a Polish national costume. This decision was made on patriotic grounds, with the Cracow's peasants’ participation in the Kościuszko Uprising as a main factor. Even the Uprising's leader, Tadeusz Kościuszko, used to wear the Cracow costume (so he dressed "like a peasant") just so that he would not be recognised by Russian spies. Kościuszko's popularity contributed to the popularisation of the Cracow costume among the Poles in general.

Some of the costume's elements were applied to the uniforms worn by participants of the 19th century national uprisings. This popularity of the Cracowian costume, especially in its female version, was then reinforced by the Cracow’s intelligence of the Young Poland (Młoda Polska) movement, who promoted it as a new fashion.

East Kraków region traditional costume - front.

It was usually worn in winter. Recognizable for its wide, entirely embroidered, triangular collar called “suka.”The garment’s cut made the man wider in the shoulders and made him look fashionable thanks to the narrow waist and flared lower section.

Podhale type

Podhale region traditional woman`s folk costume.

A piece of printed fabric
Since the 1840s hand-dyed and printed skirts were worn in the Podhale region on both festive and normal days.

The highlands are represented by Podhale costumes. A common feature of both Balkan and Carpathian highlanders is the fact, that the men’s outfit elements, such as "gunia", "cucha" (types of coats) and "portki" (trousers), are all made of thick, fulled cloth in the natural colour of sheeps fleece. Rich ornaments, colourful applications and woollen embroideries were all made by men. The colourful compositions, woven on the thigh sections of "portki", called "parzenica" deserve particular interest.

Full dress men’s traditional shoes (“kierpce”) ornamented with metal “cętki”. This type of shoes was fashionable in the interwar period and after the Second World War. It is still worn by men, especially in Bukowina Tatrzańska area.

Żywiec town type

A Żywiec costume is an example of a bourgeois fashion, with over 200 years of tradition. Its characteristic feature is the "złotogłowie" (gold-embroidered) bonnet and tulle elements; a ruff, a shawl called "łoktusza" and an apron, all embroidered with floral motifs.

Townsmen’s traditional costume, Żywiec region.

Rozbark type

Men’s traditional folk costume from Rozbark area.

However, the Polish folk costume had not really bloomed until the second half of the 19th century, after the affranchisement of peasants and abolition of serfdom in the countryside, which resulted in changes of the peasants’ legal status and helped improve the general living conditions of rural communities. Villagers demonstrated these changes by making their costumes richer, using better quality, beautiful embellishments, such as priceless embroideries, laces and jewellery.

Szamotuły type

Women’s traditional costume, Szamotuły area.

Element of festive maiden cap.
Made from tulle.Trimmed with delicate “tiulka” along the forehead and side-sections, made by rolling the fabric on twigs or straws with special frames.

"Western type" costumes

The costumes of regions such as Wielkopolska, Silesia, Lubuskie, Kujawy or Warmia are classified as western type, as they stemmed from the West European bourgeois style. They are made of very high quality fabrics: wool, damask, silk and velvet.

Kaszuby type

Present-day women’s costume from the Kaszuby region.

The Kaszubian embroidery as we know it today appeared in the region in the 1920s and 1930s. It was created by Teodora Gulgowska, Franciszka Majkowska and Maksymilian Lewandowski and other people creating the so-called variations (the schools of teaching the technique in the Kaszuby region). The embroidery was created to combat unemployment and was designed to be liked by urban and foreign customers. Today “Kaszubian embroidery” functions as “Kaszubian model” and is used in various markets (food, advertisement, everyday items, regional coats of arms etc.).

Present-day men’s costume from the Kaszuby region.

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
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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