Patterns and forms of the traditional Polish folk costumes from the collection of The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw.
The oldest embroidery patterns, so called "polskie szycie" (Polish sewing) included tiny, geometric motifs, done with cross stitches, then there was "ruskie szycie" (Russian sewing) – cross stitches of minute, flowery motives, while in the last period the flat, shaded stitches became popular and were used for creating large, floral motifs.
The embroidery in the costume from the Biłgoraj region is made with chain or flat stitch technique. Cotton red, black or blue thread called “zapał” was used. The spiral was the most popular ornamental motif. It appeared not only in embroidery, but also on Easter eggs or the wedding bread called “korowaj.” Embroiderers re-created the motifs from memory. Each village had their own talented embroiderers, who accepted commissions and were paid in food or money.
The modern look "parzenica" got from those tailors who began using red or navy blue string, simultaneously increasing the number of loops. Later the appliqué design was replaced with embroidery. Using woollen yarn allowed the "parzenica" to become more colourful and eventually it became a stand-alone trouser ornamentation, developed by talented tailors and embroiderers.
In the Opoczno and Łowicz regions the arrangement of stripes on the fabric was called “the fashion”. Over the years the colours and size of the stripes continuously changed. It was a result of the need for innovation as well as new dyes appearing on the market. In the mid-19th century wool used for weaving striped cloth was dyed with natural dyes, with various shades of red especially popular.
In the villages located along Northeastern outskirts of Kraków people wore cloth or velvet corsets, fastened with hook and eye, with wrinkled lower back section. Wedding corsets were made from brocade and silk damask. The corsets were richly ornamented with several tapes, tassels, ornamental buttons - especially red ones that resembled coral.
Trends in corsets and vests
In the second half of the 19th century it became fashionable in the Podhale region to adorn corsets with depictions of thistle and edelweiss. These motifs were the most popular in the early 20th century. When “Kraków style” came into fashion, highlanders of the Podhale region began ornamenting the corsets with shiny sequins and glass beads.
Very often buttons on traditional costumes not only had practical functions, but in some regions they were important ornaments. Metal buttons were the most intricate and came in many forms and variations. Regardless of their shape, size, value and region there was one thing they all had in common - they had to be shiny and polished or were considered not elegant. Buttons used in traditional costumes in Wielkopolska, Silesia and Łowicz regions were brass and silver-imitating alloys.
Polish peasants believed that buying strings of beads was a good investment. The value of three strings (the usual number worn) more or less equalled the worth of 4-5 cows or 1.4 acres of land.The jewellery was inherited through maternal line, bequeathed, argued over in inheritance disputes and could be also put in pledge for loans.In most areas of Poland they were often a necessary element of trousseau and they were worn with festive outfits.
The beads were attributed with a number of magical functions: for example their colour reflected their wearer’s health - fading colours meant an illness. The number of strings and the shape of the beads depended on the region. There were always an odd number of strings; round, bright red beads were the most valuable, ovals little less and the so-called “chaff” (miniature cylinders) were worth the least. Various crosses or medallions were often attached to the strings of beads.
Original devotional object used as an accessory for a coral necklace.The small medallion is also called a “mary” or “a looking-glass”. It was the most sought after devotional objects and pilgrims bought it off stalls even in 1944 in Częstochowa town. They were usually attached to strings of amber or coral. Typically, one side of the medallion showed the Madonna of Częstochowa and the Holy Family, the Crucifixion or a saint on the other. “Marys” were made as early as in the 17th century and still after the Second World War.
“Hoczki” clasps were worn with traditional women’s costume in the Cieszyn region.Originally used for practical purpose of fastening bras and corsets by drawing a small chain, colourful ribbon or tape through their loops. Since early 20th century used only as ornaments.They were always used in pairs (in the Cieszyn region from 4 to 12) and almost always all the hoczki sewn onto the corset were identical.
Smoking pipes came to the Podhale region, like tobacco, from the southern part of the Tatra Mountains.The tradition of pipe-making survived there until the second half of the 20th century. The most expensive and most ornamented pipes were called “parsywka” and were made from clay, fir wood and silver or brass plating. First the bowl was formed from clay and after firing metal plates were attached to it.Next wooden, arch-shaped shank with stem and bit were connected to the bowl.The bowl was capped with a convex valve plate, often adorned with a rooster figurine.The cap allowed the user smoking during rain.
Making of Highlanders` clasp. Mr Andrzej Wojtas at work. Bukowina Tatrzańska village, 2016.
For centuries clasps have been an important element of Polish highlanders’ traditional costumes. Originally used for fastening shirts, they fell out of use when buttons became popular, remaining only as ornaments. In the early 20th century they were already rare, used only by senior and young shepherds, who grazed their sheep on mountain pastures.In the 1920s and the 1930s they were considered collector’s items and sought after by tourists.In Zakopane they were often worn as ornaments for the “cucha” (outerwear), sweaters or occasionally on leather bags.
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