Sunday, July 7, 2013

Costume of Čičmany and vicinity, Slovakia

Hello all,
Today I will talk about one of the most colorfully embroidered costumes of Slovakia, That of the village of Čičmany and vicinity. The costume of the general area is similar, including the villages of Valaská Belá, Zliechov, Čavoj and others; the largest variation being in the embroidery. Čičmany is in northwestern Slovakia, between the cities of  Žilina and Trenčin. Today it has been declared a Folk Architecture Reserve.

Slovakia has a very rich folk embroidery heritage, but even in that context the embroidery of Čičmany is outstanding. It combines counted satin stitch with needle woven hemstitch, cutwork, faggot stitching and other techniques.

Here is an old drawing of the costume of the neighboring village of Valaská Belá, showing the basic parts of the costume, but with very modest embroidery. This is likely an everyday costume.

 The foundation of the costume is a garment called rubač which consists of a linen tube worn over the torso with straps over the shoulders. A skirt which is full enough to walk in is gathered into the bottom seam. Here is a drawing of one from the village of Moravské Lieskové, which has woven ornament on the midriff. The rubač from around Čičmany is plain white, as you can see from the above images. This garment is essential to the costume.

Over the rubač is worn a very short, full blouse called rukávce, which literally means 'sleeves'. It leaves the midriff uncovered. The front, back, and shoulder pieces are gathered side-by-side into the collar, the sleeves are then gathered into the lower edge of the shoulder piece, and are then attached via a gusset to the sides of the blouse. There is a stand-up collar, and in the Čičmany variant, a wide band of colored bobbin-lace is also gathered into the collar.

The ends of the sleeves are gathered into a flounce. The main focus of the embroidery is on the shoulder insets, but the stand-up collar and the sleeve ends are also often embroidered.

This outfit is from the collection of Jan Letowsky. You may see it and other exceptional examples of folk dress and other items at his website: 

 The front and back fields are tightly pleated.

The embroidery typically has a wide central band composed of cutwork and counted satin stitch, bordered by two bands of needle woven hemstitching [shabak], and then edge patterns.

Front and back aprons are worn with this costume. The back apron is pleated like the blouse, with embroidery over the pleats around the waist. It wraps all the way around and ties in the front. 



The front apron is shaped like a regular apron, gathered into the waistband. There is a band of embroidery across the front which varies from wide to extremely wide. This is  the major focus of embroidery on this costume. The embroidery harmonizes with the other pieces of the costume.


 Since the 1960's the skirts have shown a very unfortunate tendency to get shorter to the point where the outline of the costume is no longer aesthetic. Not everyone has given in to this, thankfully. The girl here above seems to be wearing a white sweatshirt under the costume for some reason. The following photo shows one of the elaborate aprons which form part of this costume, and on the left, the simpler, dark embroidery expected of a widow.

A sash, usually plain red is worn tied around the waist above the two aprons.

 On the head two stuffed linen balls were tied onto the temples with a ribbon. A cap, čepiec, was worn over this, giving a two-horned silhouette, [see the photo with the widow above, and the first photo], and then an embroidered kerchief was pinned over that, in a singularly asymmetrical manner.

 This, of course, refers to married women. Girls wore their hair uncovered. The golden orangey-yellow color now considered typical of Čičmany embroidery is also technically for married women. Single girls are traditionally supposed to have red embroidery, and widows should have embroidery in blue and black.

This woman and her granddaughter are from the neighboring village of Zliechov. The embroidery is similar but includes a wider range of colors. You will notice that the woman's headdress is also different.

I will continue my next article with a closer look at the embroidery of this costume.

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

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:
Viera Nosálova, 'Slovenský ludový Odev', Slovakia,1982
Anna Chlupová, 'Slovenská l’udová výšivka : techniky a ornamentika', Bratislava, 1985
Jozef Markov, 'The Slovak National Dress through the Centuries', Bratislava, 1956
Jitka Staňková, 'Slovenské a české Tradičné Kroje', Prague, 2004
Blažena Šotkova, 'Volkstrachten in der Tschechoslowakei', Prague, 1956


  1. Very beautiful handwork, blog, and photos. I really enjoyed seeing these beautiful kroje. I once knew a person from Jihlava who told me that the houses in Cicmany used to be decorated in yellow and gold much like the traditional dress of that village, but that the village burned down. I don't have any dates or any more information than that. Does anyone?

    1. Yes, the fire was in 1921.
      The government rebuilt the town as it was.
      The houses were all built out of dark logs, and designs from embroidery were painted on them. You can see them in the background in some of the photos in my article, specifically 21 and 25 from the beginning.
      thank you for your kind words.

  2. Dear Roman K,
    Your blog is beautiful and so informative. I absolutely love it! I am passionate about embroidery and especially cultural embroidery. Thank you for your love of sharing for it is the only way, in my opinion, to keep handwork art alive.

    1. Thank you,
      that is my intention.
      I hope to spread this information and encourage people to do traditional embroidery.

  3. Hay Roman,

    Your blog is wonderful!
    I will follow your blog.
    Please take a look into my world.

    Love from Marijke from Holland

  4. Oh what a fabulous blog! I'm so glad I found it!
    I adore folk embroidery. Great to see so many good clear pictures. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Pán Kozák, váš blog je úžasný! Predpokladám podľa domény, že ste Slovák a tak píšem po slovensky. Oceňujem vašu námahu pri tejto práci, zmysel pre podrobnosti a tiež ma teší, aké dobré meno má váš blog, usudzujem podľa ohlasov. Zatiaľ nepoznám žiadny iný takýto blog či stránku, ktorá by sa takto venovala výšivkám či ľudovým krojom. Veľa zdaru vám prajem. Berona

    1. Dobrý den, tu na Slovensku je více lidí co se zabývá podobným stránkám. Musíte vidět na FB Tajek gallery.

  6. Beautiful and ours. Thank you for this article! :)

  7. Great Job! Congratulations. I'm from Paraguay (South América) just working to promote products of handycrafts women here in my country and I've found that the embroidery are very simlar to our traditional work here named ao po'i (it means light fabric cotton in guaraní, our second languaje). Regards!

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