Sunday, February 7, 2016

Overview of Norwegian Costumes. Part 1, the Southeast.

Hello all,
Today I will try to cover all of Norway. Norway has many beautiful costumes, and the folk costume culture is alive and well. The scene above, showing five different costumes is not unusual for festivals. 

The National Bunad Council Bunad- og Folkedraktrådet , the authority on national costumes appointed by the government, has developed five categories to grade modern day bunads according to ‘authentic’ regional folk clothing:
Category 1 – a bunad that represents a final link in the development of a folk costume.  This is basically an original folk costume that has taken on the function of a bunad.
Category 2 – a bunad that has a background in a particular folk costume that is out of use but not forgotten.  It is generally reconstructed from first-hand knowledge, with many extant examples.
Category 3 – a bunad that has been reconstructed from preserved folk garments which reflect the actual time and region of the piece.  Pictures and writings may be used as sources in reconstruction.
Category 4 – a bunad that has been made based on random and incomplete folk material.  Missing pieces have been designed to match.
Category 5 – a bunad that has been completely or partially ‘freely composed’.  It was the 1800s bunad movement that has given these types of bunad their status.
New bunads are being designed every year, and must go through the strict judgement process of the National Bunad Council in order to be classified as a proper ‘bunad’.  The council is very strict in making sure new additions follow closely the traditions and history of the area.  Because of this, many designs today, even though they have the same function as a bunad, generally don’t make the cut and thus can not be called ‘bunads’.  They receive the name ‘drakt' instead.
 Costumes are readily available in Norway, there are many businesses which make them. These are called Husflid. They are, however, expensive, as the Norwegians believe in paying a living wage to people who do things like embroider or weave by hand.  For every one of these costumes, whether bunad or drakt, there is at least one sewing house, or husflid, which specializes in making it.

Norway has a long history, even though for several centuries  it was ruled by Denmark. 
Norway has only two minority peoples, the Saami and the Kven. The Saami, also known as the Lapps, inhabit all of northern Scandinavia, and speak several languages which are related to each other, but unrelated to Norwegian. The Kven were settlers from Finland in the 18th and 19th cent. Very few of them today still speak the Kven language.

The map above shows  the Norwegian provinces, and I will consider them one by one, starting in the southeast, treating the capitol area, and then the eastern provinces north to south, and continuing around the coast. This is the traditional order of presentation. Some of the Norwegian costumes represent living traditions, however many of them are reconstructions, or designed from the ground up. I will not show every costume, as that would be too much to cover, but I will show the major variants from each province.

The Norwegian language is made up of quite a few  mostly mutually intelligible dialects, with a strong distinction between east and west. Norwegian is unique in having two literary norms, 
Bokmål and Nynorsk. The first means 'book language', and is used by most people, even though it is heavily influenced by Danish. The latter was an attempt to make a more purely Norwegian literary standard, and is more popular in the west. Both are recognized by the government.

The following map shows which parts of the nation lean towards Bokmal, [red], and which towards Nynorsk [blue]. Many municipalities are officially neutral, [gray]. It is interesting that most of the territories which have strong costume traditions favor Nynorsk.


Oslo is a province as well as a city. Oslo, like many cities around Norway has its own drakt, specially designed for the purpose. cat 5
Here we see the first example of the most popular cut for bunads. This is basically the Gudbrandsdal festive bunad with embroidered made over with different colors and embroidery. This has been done over and over again in many places. This has come to be understood as  the classic Norwegian costume cut.

The gray band set above the hem features realistic embroidery of Norwegian wildflowers, and the pocket is embroidered with the figure of St. Halvard, patron of the city.

Here is another drakt which was designed for the 1000 yr jubillee of the city, which features a more urban look. Notice the subtle damask design on the women's jacket. cat 5


This is an agricultural valley outside of the city, but still within the northwest part of the Oslo municipality . This is another remake of the Gudgrandsdal festbunad. cat 5


This lies between Oslo and Sweden, on the east bank of the Oslo fiord.

The most common bunads are those which are considered to belong to the province as a whole, as they were reconstructed from pieces found all over the province. 
The proximity to Sweden is evident in the most common men's costume, particularly in the cloth for the vest and the cut of the long coat. cat 3

As often happens, the embroidery on the bunad was  taken from one old piece found in someone's attic. This the variety of embroidery used is very limited. 
The most common women's bunad, designed in 1936 comes in green and red variants. cat 4

The embroidery on the shoulder shawl also has two variants.

Another bunad was designed in the 1960's. cat 4

A popular and attractive costume from this area is the Løkendrakt, designed in 1946. Another example of a remade Gudbrandsdal festbunad. cat 5

One local costume which has achieved the status of bunad is that of Mysen and Eidsberg. cat 5


Vestfold lies on the west bank of the Oslo fiord. This is the smallest province by area.

This is  also only one region. The bunads are used over the entire province. 
There are two types of the man's bunad. The first one comes with either a black jacket and red vest or red jacket and gold vest. cat 3

This is sometimes worn with natural color leather knickers instead of black wool.

The second is called the 'blue  jacket' bunad. It is mostly black, with long pants and a brocade vest in blue and dark red. cat 3

Several bunads have been designed for women. The earliest is the 1932 model. This has woven ribbon trim around the bodice and on the hem of the skirt, and an embroidered pocket, but no apron. It is made in a couple of different colors. cat 5

The 1956 model is similar, but adds more color options and features a woven apron. cat 4

This apron is based on an old photograph from about 1890.

There are two more common versions of the Vestfold woman's bunad. This one is called the brocade bodice bunad. It features an embroidered linen apron, which was copied from one made in the early 19th cent. The embroidery on the pocket is different. cat 4

The linen apron is also worn with the other  bunad.

The last of the common variants is the velvet bodice bunad. This features a dark apron, and a bodice of a different cut. cat 4

All of the above bunads were based on actual found materials. There is another bunad which was designed  in the 1930's as a 'free composition'. This is much less commonly seen but features embroidery on the dress, which everyone wants.


This comes in black, blue, and white, with rosemahl type embroidery. Another example of a remade Gudbrandsdal festbunad. cat 5


Akershus surrounds Oslo except on the northwest. This is a very densely populated area, including as it does some of the suburbs of Oslo.

This is the first province in which we encounter different districts, as can be seen on the map.


This can be worn by anyone in the province, but especially those in urban areas near Oslo. men cat 5, women cat 4


There is one Baerum bunad which comes in a variety of colors and choice of aprons. Plaids are common in Folk costumes all over north Europe, they are not restricted to Scotland. men cat 3, women cat 4


women cat 4, men cat 5

The above is the festive bunad, there is  also a winter bunad.

and a summer bunad.

The men wear embroidered braces under their vests.


There are currently two costumes from Follo. 
The Follobunad.
men cat 3, women cat 5

This features a linen apron with white openwork embroidery and rococo embroidery on white on the damask skirt, pocket and cap of blue or red.

Follo Festdrakt

This is a less expensive alternative now available based on brocades rather than embroidery.
cat 5


The men's bunad.
cat 5

The Romerike women's festive bunad comes in three colors, blue, green and red.
It also comes in three models which vary in type of bodice and embroidery. The three models, believe it or not, are called L40, L46, and L55. The unique Romerike embroidery was taken from an old horse blanket. The apron may be of the same embroidered wool or may be of printed linen. cat 5


This features a bodice which is the same color wool as the skirt and pocket. The bodice is cut straight at the waist and seems to be connected with the skirt.

This features a separate bodice with a peplum, the cut of which is copied from an old bodice found in the area. The embroidery, while similar, is distinct if you look carefully, both on the skirt and on the pocket.

Here we see the two side by side.


This model features yet different, although still similar embroidery, and a bodice with a straight cut that is made of damask.

Romerike also has an everyday bunad for both men and women.

There are two municipalities in the north of Romerike which have their own local bunads. Both are of the modified Gudbrandsdal festbunad type.

Hurdal Bunad
cat 5

Eidsvoll Bunad
cat 5


This province is found to the north of Akershus, and is one of only two landlocked provinces in Norway. It is very rural still. This is a much larger province than the ones we covered previously.

This area mostly did not wear folk costumes within living memory at the beginning of the folk movement in the early 20th cent., but there were historical records and paintings which showed the costumes. Thus the reconstructions are more historical than in the provinces to the south. There are three traditional districts: Hedmarken, Solør-Odal, and Østerdal. This last is the largest and is shown on the map above as three sub districts, south, north, and east.


This is a district within Hedmark province.

The man's bunad for Hedmarken  cat 3

Here are the most recent reconstructed women's bunads for Hedmark. They greatly resemble the common bunads for Solør-Odal and Østerdalen. cat 3

Here is the 'traditional' bunad from Hedmarken. In the first image we see, from left to right, the 1935 model, the1955 model, and the 1985 model. cat 5

Here is the distinct bunad from Vallset in the south of Hedmarken. cat 5


This district is in the south of the province of Hedmark, south of Hedmarken. The man's bunad is similar to that worn in Østerdal and Gudbrandsdal. The woman's has a unique bodice with scalloped peplum and fine leather edging. The bunad may be made from various different types of cloth, which is also true of the Østerdal bunad. cat 4

This district also has an embroidered bunad in the Gudbrandsdal cut, designed in 1940. Hulda Garborg was part of the committee that designed this bunad. cat 5

This is the everyday bunad of the area.

In the east of this district is the municipality of Grue, which includes an area known as Finnskogen, because there was in the 17th century a large group of Finns who settled there. They have to some extent kept their traditions and culture to this day. This drakt  is a reconstruction from old 4


This is the largest district in Hedmark. According to costumes, it can be divided into south, north and east subregions.
The man's bunad of this area has two forms, the older, which resembles that of Hedmarken and Gudbrandsdal is reminiscent of lumberjack dress, with a plaid wool vest and hat with a bill, cat 4, and the newer reconstruction which is more urban in 3

Here is an old print which is one of the main sources for the reconstruction of the bunads of this district.

Marie Aaen Bunad
One  of the first bunads designed to represent this district was by Marie Aaens, from Tynset in the north. She won a contest with this design in 1947. It definitely is quite attractive, and she paid attention to the traditions of the area, note the bodice with peplum and the plaid to the image above. She also added some very attractive embroidery, taken from rosemahling [folk painting] of the area. It remains popular today. The bodice and skirt may be in black with green trim or in green with black trim. cat 5

Another bunad to be used over all of Østerdal is less well known but has a very similar history.This one was designed by Ruth Arnestad Lødrup. cat 5

Lødrup Bunad

South Østerdal

Østerdal is the largest district in this province, and has several divisions, and bunads for each.
This is the bunad for the south part, shown on the map above. Note the similarity to the reconstructed Hedmarken bunad above. Since this is based on multiple museum pieces, there are a variety of possible fabrics for the bunad. One can wear a shirt and bodice, or a jacket. The most commonly used apron has a woven in leaf design. The blouses do not have cuffs or collars, but do feature white openwork. cat 4

South Østerdaln also has an everyday bunad.

North Østerdal

This is similar to the south Østerdal bunad, but has a plaid apron, an embroidered pocket and differs in other small details. The men's bunad is the same cat 4

There are other bunads and drakts  for specific areas in Østerdal. 
Here is one from the eastern part. men cat 4, women cat 5

Trysil Bunad

The rest of these are all from specific areas in the north of Østerdal. The original costume traditions lasted longest in the north.Each of these three areas have two bunads.

Alvdal Bunad
cat 4

Alvdal Bunad with embroidery cat 5

Folldal Bunad cat 5

Folldal Bunad with plaid skirt. cat 4

Kvikne Bunad
cat 4

Kvikne Bunad with embroidery, or Kvikne Church Bunad
This has exceptionally nice embroidery. cat 5

It looks like my article on Norway will turn into a series of four articles.
This is enough for one.

Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this interesting and informative.


Source Material:
Bjorn Sverre hol Haugen, 'Norsk Bunadleksikon' Oslo, 2009
Kjersti Skavhaug et al, 'Norwegian Bunads', Oslo, 1991
Heidi Fossnes, 'Norges Bunader og Samiske Folkedrakter', Oslo, 1993
Ellen Scheel et al, 'Bunad-Brodering', Oslo, 1997


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. I am sorry that I deleted your comment by mistake.
      It would be better to email me directly if you have a question.
      By the way, I was unable to use the url to find the pieces spoken of

      im at

  2. Here is my direct email address if you prefer to contact me directly:

    My shop is
    I will be using all this great info as a reference guide as I often get jewellery and never quite sure if it is Norwegian or when it dates from. Many thanks Angela Zwartjens

  3. I think the Norwegian Bunad is very good. I am very jealous at. With the exception of the tourist places such as Volendam and Marken, it is not the costumes worn. The only traditional costume that you see here is the Orange at sporting events. I hope next year with the Hutigruten the journey Bergen-Kirkenes-Bergen.
    If sentences are not good English or Norwegian, it is the fault of Google.

    Jeg finner den norske Bunad veldig vakker. Er veldig sjalusi som en hollender på. bortsett fra turist steder som Volendam og Marken, ingen tradisjonell drakt mer slitt. Bare kostyme du ser her er oransje under sportsarrangementer. Jeg håper neste år med Hutigruten reise Bergen-Kirkenes-Bergen.
    Hvis disse setningene ikke er en god engelsk eller norsk er det feil av Google.