Dress Up and Dance

The intense art of designing and wearing Slovenian folklore costumes

By Slovenian Tourist Board

Tadeja Pance drawing new designs (2021) by Domen GröglSlovenian Tourist Board

While Tadeja is going through her drawings of the folklore costume of Kostel area, Helena is carefully pleating the fabric. 

The pleats have to be perfectly symmetric in size and appearance, so the skirt’s shape is perfect when a dancer of the folklore dance group Tine Rožanc starts to spin around. 

Costumes for a folklore dancers (2021) by Domen GröglSlovenian Tourist Board

Despite the modern times, you can easily find a folklore group even in the smallest of villages in Slovenia. Around 500 groups of 10,000 folklore dancers are active on this little piece of land.  

With captivating choreographies and their enchanting costumes, they transport us to times when wearing a costume was an expression of one’s belonging to a certain regionality.

Tadeja Pance behind the fabrics (2021) by Domen GröglSlovenian Tourist Board

Tadeja Pance, who is a designer by profession, has always been fascinated by folklore costumes. So much so that she even got married in one. 

In times when white was the obligatory colour for brides, she wanted to say “yes” in a black two-part costume, typical for Ljubljana’s late 19th century bourgeoise. 

Helena Jamnik sewing national costume (2021) by Domen GröglSlovenian Tourist Board

Only Helena Jamnik was brave enough to take on the challenge of sewing it. That was 15 years ago and they are still a strong tandem. It was a given that they would start making folklore costumes together. 

Tadeja as a creative mastermind and Helena as a flawless master of the sewing needle and thread. 

Sewing pattern on paper (2021) by Domen GröglSlovenian Tourist Board

Before Helena starts to sew, she creates a sewing pattern on paper. This is the part of her craftsmanship that requires the most experience. 

As a young girl, I used to observe my mother who was great at sewing foklore costumes. So, later I just evolved the feeling for shapes and forms and came to love folklore and everything connected to it,” Helena says.

Traditional red necklace (2021) by Domen GröglSlovenian Tourist Board

There are not many excellent tailors like Helena left,” says Tadeja. However, it is not just the craftsmanship of tailoring that is important, but also the attention to detail.

Before drawing a sketch, Tadeja studies literature and old photographs, and she even consults with an ethnologist. “I do greatly consider tradition and ethnological heritage, but I also bring something of my own into the creations.

Group of fabric materials (2021) by Domen GröglSlovenian Tourist Board

The most important thing is that the dancers feel good in their costumes and that the appearance of the group is appealing and uniform. So, Tadeja chooses colours and materials that function as best as possible. 

Natural linens, cottons, wools and silks are usually the go-to fabrics for the costumes. Helena loves working with them.

Tadeja Pance with her designed belt (2021) by Domen GröglSlovenian Tourist Board

Basic pieces are simple as the true appeal of the costume is in the accessories and details. “Those have to be perfected, no work is in vain," says Tadeja and shows a colourful handwoven belt.

It will be an attention-grabber on the dancer’s waistline.  

Hand-knotting strings on the scarf (2021) by Domen GröglSlovenian Tourist Board

When basic pieces are sewn, they both work on the accessories. All the costume work takes an enormous amount of time that can never be financially reimbursed. 

You simply have to love this work to find the patience and will,” says Tadeja while hand-knotting strings on a scarf. Knotting will take days of work.

Sewing national costume (2021) by Domen GröglSlovenian Tourist Board

Helena and Tadeja both work on the details. Machine and hand work is extremely time-consuming as the weaves and embroideries have to be as perfect as possible and the seams have to be mostly hidden behind another layer of fabric.

It takes virtuoso skills to do that properly.  

Traditional bride’s flower crown (2021) by Domen GröglSlovenian Tourist Board

The biggest reward, they say, is the satisfaction they get from the dancers. Every folklore dancer would surely be proud to wear a bridal flower crown, this lush, colourful collection of ribbons that celebrates life, just like folklore dancing does. 

Tadeja and Helena have done their work adorning the costumes. Now, it is time to put them to the test. 

National costumes of Slovenia (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

The greatest stage for the dancers is nature. Just like in old times, the dancers of the Tine Rožanc group swirl around in the beautiful landscape of Bela Krajina in SE Slovenia. 

They all love the music, the tradition and the transformation they go through when they put their costumes on.

National costumes of Slovenia (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

In the past, dance accompanied people on the important milestones in their personal and social life. Dancing was an integral part in celebrations of marriage, holidays, changes of seasons and celebrations of important chores on the farming calendar, like harvest.

So, today, the group performs different dances, illustrating various occasions.

National costumes of Slovenia (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

There is a certain magic in their performance. It is colourful, lively and utterly enchanting, even for onlookers who don’t consider themselves fans of folklore.

National costumes of Slovenia (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

Basic pieces of the Kostel costume, which is just one of the costumes of Bela Krajina, are quite elementary – white dresses, skirts, lace-ornamented blouses, shirts and trousers.

National costumes of Slovenia (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

But the true appeal is in the accessories – the apron, the woven belt, the bouquet on the woollen vest, the lace, the headgear called peča, the neckerchief, the jewellery. 

The bigger the event they’re dancing for, the more special the ornaments they wear.

National costumes of Slovenia (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

As they dance, the group is owning their dance art and their beautifully accessorized costumes. Tadeja and Helena’s work has done the magic.

National costumes of Slovenia (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

Mostly, folklore is danced in pairs. 

There is another Slovenian tradition that requires a pair - marriage! However, the groom should first prove himself before he and his bride can become a true pair.

Credits: Story

💃🏼Special thanks to:
Folk dance group ŽKUD Tine Rožanc
Tadeja Pance
Helena Jamnik 

💃🏼 Story by Anja Leskovar

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.
Explore more
Related theme
Slovenian Stories
Discover with us the most densely forested country in Europe, it's natural beauties, intangible heritage, local crafts, people and how they're all connected to nature.
View theme
Google apps