Saturday, December 1, 2012

Overview of Sorbian Folk Costume

Hello all,
Today I will be doing an overview of the costumes of yet another of the minority peoples of Europe, the Sorbs. These people are also called Lusatians, and sometimes Wends. Lusatia is the name of the area in which they live, and Wend is an old Germanic term for 'stranger', it is cognate with the term Welsh, meaning someone whose language is totally other. [One the flip side, Slavs refer to Germans as 'Nemets', which means 'mute', i.e. one incapable of comprehensible speech.] They do not today accept the name of Wend. The Sorbs are a Slavic people who speak a language, or two closely related languages which are similar to Czech and Polish. There are two literary standards, Upper Sorbian - Hornjoserbsce, and Lower Sorbian - Dolnoserbski. 
They once occupied a territory from the edge of the Czech Republic and Poland as far north as Berlin along the Spree River, but they have been assimilated by the Germans over much of their historic territory.  Here is the location of Lusatia. As you can see, it is split between Saxony and Brandenburg.
About 40,000 people speak Upper Sorbian in the south and about 20,000 people speak Lower Sorbian in the north of this territory. They call themselves Serby. For more information see this article:

Here is a closer view of Lusatia. All of the municipalities in this area have names in both German and Sorbian.

The four generations shown in the initital photograph are wearing the Lower Sorbian Costume from the area of the city of Borkow [Burg]. This is worn in one version or another throughout the region of Chóśebuz (Cottbus), The headdress is meant to look like one very large scarf tied in a knot, but its largest iteration is actually made of three separate pieces pinned together. In the everyday costume it is much smaller, and is actually made of one large scarf. This is the best known of the Sorbian costumes.

An overview of the costumes of this region is made more difficult by the fact that each local tradition may have a work costume, everyday costume, going out costume, church costume, dance costume, bridal party costume, etc. There are generally considered to be 11 costume regions. I will name each region first in Sorbian, and then in German. These are all shown on this map above. We will travel roughly north to south.

Lower Lusatia:

1. Nowa Niwa (Neu Zauche)

2. Lubnjow ( Lübbenau)

3. Chóśebuz (Cottbus)

Video of a street dance in the town of Hus (Maust), to the northeast of Chóśebuz (Cottbus). The girls have dressed up in the costume but not bothered to put the headdress on.
I give you the Annemarie polka. 

Video of a dance performance from this region by the Sorbian National Ensemble.

4. Zły Komorow (Senftenberg) & Grodk (Spremberg)

Upper  Lusatia:

5. Mužakow (Muskau) 

6. Slepo (Schleife)


Video of a folk song from this region 'Daj mi Jadno Jajko'

7. Wojerecy (Hoyerswerda)


8..Wochoz (Nochten)


9. Klětno (Klitten)


10 Budyšin (Bautzen)

This costume and the following one have overlapping regions, this costume is found in the southern and eastern parts and is only worn by Protestants.

11. Kamjenc (Kamenz) & Radwor (Radibor)

This costume is found in the northern and western areas and is only worn by Catholics.

Video of a dance performance from this region. Including one girl dressed as a bride, in the black headdress. This group is from the town of Wudwor.

There is, in fact, one more costume which is worn sometimes. This is a simplified version of the costume of the central regions, Zły Komorow (Senftenberg) & Grodk (Spremberg),
Slepo (Schleife), and Wojerecy (Hoyerswerda). This is known as the 'Half-German' costume, and is sometimes used by dance groups for performances. What it lacks in distinctiveness, it makes up for in simplicity and ease of dressing.

Here is a video of the Sorbian Folk Dance Group Schmerlitz, from the town of
Smjerdźaca, I assume, doing a dance called Hanka.

This is, of course, the barest taste of Sorbian Costume. You may notice that in most of the regions above, there was one image that did not fit in with the rest. Usually this is the costume associated with weddings, which differ dramatically from the other costumes used in each area. There are, of course, other variations depending on age and occasion.  
One last image of the Sorbian National Ensemble singing with a mix of costumes.

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

Feel free to contact me with requests for research. I hope to eventually cover all of Europe and the Former Russian Empire/Soviet Union. I also gratefully accept tips on source materials which i may not have. I also accept commissions to research/design, sew, and/or embroider costumes or other items for groups or individuals. I also choreograph and teach folk dance.
Roman K.


Here is a website which shows some of the variation of the Lower Sorbian costume. The website is in German.

Here is a link to some videos of the performances of the Sorbian National Ensemble.

Source Material:
Lotar Balke & Albrecht Lange, 'Sorbisches Trachtenbuch', Bautzen, 1985
Měrćin Nowak & Pawoł Nedo, 'Serbske narodne drastwy 1.zwězk - Drasta Slepjanskich Serbow', Budyšyn, 1954
Jan Meškank, 'Serbske narodne drastwy 2.zwězk - Drasta Katolickich Serbow', Budyšyn, 1957
Měrćin Nowak-Njechorński &Lotaŕ Balko, 'Serbske narodne drastwy 4.zwězk - Drastwa Serbow wokoło Chośebuza', Budyšyn, 1964,1991
Błažij Nawka, 'Serbske narodne drastwy 5a.zwiazk - Drasta Serbow Wokoło Wochoz',
Gerat Apelt & Albrecht Langa, 'Serbske narodne drastwy 5b.zwjazk - Drasta Serbow Wokoło
Klětnoho', Budyšin, 1979
Błažij Nawka 'Serbske narodne drastwy 6.zwiazk - Drasta Evangelskich Serbow Budyskeho Kraja', Budyšin, 1979
Lotar Balko, ' Sorbische Stickereien', Bautzen, 1976
Rolf Langematz & Pawoł Nedo (Paul Nedo), 'Sorbische Volkskunst', Bautzen 1968


  1. This is great article! That had to take a lot of time and effort to collect all the photos from different regions. Thank you for that.
    I come from the Czech part of Upper Lusatia, but married off to Poland (Tricity), that's pretty far from my home. And with all the closed borders and travel restrictions I felt homesick and started to research Lusatia embroidery and folk costumes and I've found your blog which is amazing! Thank you for that, I can see piece of my home even hudrets of kilometers away :) I would also one day like to create Lusatian and Kashubian folk costume for myself and my daughters. It's kind of funny that coming from one minority I married and moved into another Slavic minority - Kaszubi :D and I love their embroidery as well, I think it's stunning. I don't know if you've already wrote about Kaszubi (I'll check that on your blog), but I have one book or booklet with Kashubian embroidery patterns from Wdzydze (there are few embroidery schools on the territory of Kashuby). I could send you scans to email if you'd be interested :).

    1. If you'd like to contact me my email is

    2. I do have a couple of publications on Kaszub embroidery but have not yet written an article specifically about the embroidery yet. My email is I am always glad to see new information. You might want to send the title page or something to see if it is one that I already have. Thank you