Sunday, May 26, 2013

Costume of western Krakow region

Hello all, 

Today I will be talking about the Krakowiak costume. This is often considered to be the national costume of Poland, Krakow having always been the cultural capitol of Poland. . This is the center of the region called Malopolska, and the most copied costume by Polish dance groups, and of course the Krakowiak is one of the 5 National Dances of Poland.
 Here is a map of the Krakow region.

 There is much more variety to this costume than most people realize. I will be focusing on some versions of the West Krakow costume, with emphasis on the Bronowice variant. The girl above is basically wearing the Bronowice costume, while the man's has some elements of the East Krakow costume. 

The chemise has white embroidery and usually some cutwork. Today it is mostly cut short and the bottom half is made into a separate item of clothing. It is always good to have one narrow chemise/underskirt, and at least one full petticoat over that. This provides for some modesty as well as good movement while dancing. If you look, you can see that this girl has a wide lay-down collar which may be separate from the blouse. The collar may be just a row of lace, or it may be missing entirely. Here is a blouse from the village of Pleszow. Note the white embroidery above the shoulder seam. This is displayed on the upper arm and should not be covered by the vest. The sleeves are always long.

Here is another blouse from the village of Bronowice Wielke. Notice how different the collar is.

I have found evidence for colored embroidery only on blouses from the East Krakow region, which I will cover in another posting.

Here are two possible cuts for the woman's chemise/blouse.

The skirt is full and generally hangs to mid-calf. Most commonly it is made from a rose print material with many possible background colors. There are a few appliqued ribbon stripes not far from the hem, a dust ruffle commonly sewn onto the hem itself, and a facing sewn onto the inside for a few inches above the hem, all of which can be seen in the first image.

This is by far the most common type of skirt in the western Krakow region. However, in the past solid color or damask skirts were sometimes worn, especially in the immediate vicinity of Krakow itself. Here is an old photograph of a woman from Bronowice.

Here is a solid colored skirt with embroidery, from the village of Szyce, in the immediate vicinity of Krakow, not far from Bronowice. Likely the front is not embroidered, as it is covered by the apron.

The one type of skirt which I have found no evidence of ever having been used in the Krakow region is a white skirt with many horizontal colored ribbons sewn on. This is something which developed in the diaspora as a result of being unable to find the rose print material.

Three types of apron are most commonly used in this area. The first is of printed cloth, often of a different color than the skirt, but the same or similar print. This is usually edged with lace, and often a satin ribbon as well. It may also have tucks and/or narrow ribbons sewn on horizontally.

This photo is of the costume from around Mogiła.

These two girls are from Bronowice.

The second type of apron is of white linen, with the same kind of white embroidery and cutwork as the blouse. This first example is from the village of Pleszow.

A less common variant is of colored cloth with polychrome embroidery. The next two photos are from Bronowice.

The third type of apron is of tulle, usually embroidered. I personally am not fond of this, but it is undeniably very popular in Polish costume. This girl is from Bronowice.

 This apron is from the village of Niepołomice.

Here is a contemporary example.

The vest, called Gorset, is the most variable part of the Krakow costume. It is of the standard Malopolska cut, with narrow shoulder straps, lacing or hooking closed in the front, and usually finished off with lappets at the waist. In the villages closest to Krakow, like Bronowice and
Mogiła, the lappets are replaced with a peplum which is pleated in the back. In some villages they use a multiple princess line cut, with a lappet connected to each back piece. Here is a very basic cut without the lappets or peplum.

Today what usually first comes to mind is the "Sukiennickie" type gorset. This is a modern development which started in the 1930's. In these gorsets, the ornamentation is composed of beads and sequins of various sizes, shapes and colors sewn on by hand. Many different compositions are found, but all are very colorful and folksy looking. These are too well known to need more than just a couple examples. Some satin-stitch embroidery may be included.

Originally the bodices were quite simple, of solid or printed cloth. They were later decorated with various combinations of buttons, tassels, ribbon and embroidery. Take a look at the old photograph of the Bronowice girl above. Her gorset is a plain dark color with tassels and buttons. Here is a closeup of a very similar bodice.

 Here is another old example with mother of pearl buttons. This type of gorset is more typical of villages off to the northwest of Krakow.

Here is a very simple gorset of printed cloth from the village of Mników.

Today the type of bodice most connected with the villages in the immediate vicinity of Krakow sport a collection of 'coral' buttons, metal braid, metallic fringe and embroidery. The metallic pieces on the old examples have tarnished somewhat. Here are two examples, the first is from the village of Przylasek Wyciąski, the second is from the village of Zielonki. Note that the peplum is gathered in back.

  These types of bodice are sometimes made of velvet or brocade, especially for special occasions. with the beads and soutache sewn on top. Here are a couple of examples.

Here are a couple of examples of contemporary commercially  available Bronowice Gorsetki. 

These last examples are from the website Perfekt. where you can buy these and many other costume pieces.

 There is another garment called katanka which is similar but with sleeves. These are worn in colder weather or by women 'of a certain age'. They are often worn over the gorset. This couple is from Bronowice.

These women are from Mogiła.

 This example is from the village of Zielonki.

Another overgarment, the kaftanik, is distinguished by the fact that the front fields overlap and are buttoned. This garment is often embroidered.

Girls wore flower wreaths in their hair, or kerchiefs tied at the back of the neck. Married women traditionally wore white linen 'chustka czepcowa', which had the same kind of white embroidery as the blouses and aprons. These were wrapped right around the head and tied on the forehead. Colored kerchiefs were used for less formal occasions. Here are a couple of examples.

Although today the standard lace-up boots are usually worn with the Krakow costume, originally they wore accordion pleated pull on boots.

The costume is not complete without amber or coral jewellery, although some of the coral is artificial.

For weddings, the brides wear a special wreath with ribbons and artificial flowers.

Here is a photo of a wedding party taken in 1927.

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

Just a few more images of this costume, past and present.

A video of the Polish college group Slowianki doing the Krakowiak.

The national emsemble Mazowsze doing the Krakowiak

The national ensemble Slask doing the Krakowiak.

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.

Source material:
Barbara Kożuch et al, 'Krakow Regional Costumes', Kraków, 2004
Barbara Kożuch et al, 'Cracow's Regional Costumes', Kraków, 2003
Stanisław Gadomski, 'Strój Ludowy w Polsce', Kraków,
Barbara Bazielich, 'Strój Ludowy w Polsce - Opisy i Wykroje', Kraków, 1997
Aleksander  Blachowski, 'Hafty Polskie Szycie', Lublin, 2004


  1. Hello, I have been doing some of my own amateur research into my family history and was hoping you could shed some light on a question. If your family comes from different regions what regional attire would you wear? I have great-grandparents and great-great grandparents from Bydgoszcz, Posen, Lubola, and Poltzk so far I have yet to find a specific answer and would love to find a place to start on regional clothing. Thank you!

  2. Hi,
    This was very interesting and beautifully done. Would you happen to know what the costume was like in the villages in the area between Jaslo and Biecz looked like? This is where my great-great grandparents came from around 1870.
    Reg Bielamowicz

    1. Thank you. That area is part of the Pogórzanie costume region. It is intermediate between the Krakow region and the costumes of the Lemki, which are a Ukrainian ethnic group in the mountains. Do a google image search of Pogórzanie or email me at and I can send you some material.


  3. Thank you so much for the beautiful pictures & the information on different regions of my family's homeland. My mother was from Lezajsk (I believe it is in south-eastern Poland) Is there a certain dress for that part of Poland ? Also what is the meaning of every one wearing red beads?

    1. That is part of the Rzeszow region, west of the San river. You can see more here
      As for red beads, they are for dressing up. Most women enjoy jewelry. The best ones, of course, are made of coral, but many had to be content with other kinds of red beads. Why red? because it is the liveliest and prettiest color! Beads of amber or glass were also worn.

  4. I am also inquiring about the picture on this last page. The 7th from the top & 6th from the last. I had a picture like this but was lost in one of my house moves. Can you tell me anything about it ?

    1. The artist is Piotr_Stachiewicz. The painting is called Dziewczyna_w_krakowskim_stroju, or Girl in Krakow costume. This is part of a series which he painted of a particular Polish model, Zofia Paluchowa, wearing various Polish and Ukrainian Folk costumes.

  5. Hello,
    I am looking for a place to see how Polish folk costumes are made in Krakow. Any idea where I can go ?

  6. I love how knowledgeable you are about the subject of folk costumes in this area! I saw a few plans for the clothing and I was wondering if you also had plans for the men's costume. My sister and I were thinking of making these together. Thank you!