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.
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.
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