Saturday, July 4, 2015

Men's Costume and Embroidery of the Pieniny Dunajec region in more detail. Lemko Polish Slovak Rusyn


Hello all, 
Today I am continuing my article with the men's costume of this area. The men's costume underscores the fact that this region is the confluence of two Highlander peoples, the Lemkos or Rusyns who live to the east, and the  Górale or Gorali who live to the west.

In this general area, the men enthusiastically keep and wear their traditional costume. The plate at top shows the costume as worn in the early 19th cent. It has since become more elaborated.

The main item is a linen shirt with long full sleeves. There is nothing particularly distinctive about it, and is sometimes replaced today with a modern white shirt.

Here is a Lemko man from Bila Voda working in his shirtsleeves.


Simple linen pants are worn in summer for everyday and for work. These are on a drawstring.

In cooler weather, and for dress occasions, heavy wool pants are worn over them. These are the signature garment for highland men. These are always the cream color of natural wool. In many areas they have two front openings at the waist, but in the Shliakhtova Szczawnica area, they have just one. The waist is folded over, and a leather belt or strong cord holds the pants closed.

Originally the front opening, the pocket slit and the open seam on the lower legs was simply decorated with cord and red cloth applique. Later simple embroidery came to be used. 

 The side seams also received modest decoration.

In the 20th cent. these embroideries became more elaborate. You can see a progression here.

Here you can see an example of the older simpler pants on the upper right, and the more elaborate newer pants on the lower left.

As tthe 20th century progressed, a second pocket was added on the other side, and floral designs began to be incorporated into the embroidery under the influence of the Podhale costume. 

These examples are from Sromowce.

This is from Spišská Stará Ves.

Further west, in the area around Kacwin and Trybsz on the Polish side, and extending to Matiašovce
and Hanušovce on the Slovak side, the pants have two openings, and the embroidery is different, sometimes incorporating cording.

Here is the cut of the pants in this area.

Around Jurgow the pants were also embroidered, but in a different style. This has also gotten more elaborate and floral with time.

Here is the cut of the pants from Jurgow, somewhat more similar to that of Podhale.

In Osturňa and Ždiar, the pants are again similar. Here they also have two openings but the ornament is completely made up of red and blue cording, although the placement is similar. These again became progressively more elaborate.



A wide leather belt is commonly worn with this costume. The same belt is worn throughout the Carpathians, as far east as the Hutsul region, even into Romania, and as far west as Orawa and beyond. It varies in width from about 4 inches to double that. Sometimes a long narrow belt as shown here above is worn, which wraps around twice. This is more common on the Slovak side. 
The blue vest, leybek, is common in Lemko costumes.  Such a vest is also found in some Górale costumes, but does not seem to be found among the Rusyns in Slovakia. While the vest was commonly made of the blue commercial wool intended for Austrian uniforms, it was also made of black home woven sukno. We have two records of the vest as it was in the 19th cent. One is the painting found at the head of this article, decorated with buttons and cord. This is notably similar to Lemko vests found further east. The buttons were purely decorative, as the vest was closed with hooks. These were likely always made by professional tailors.

Another example shows that there was variety in the details of the ornament and cut. This one includes some embroidery as well. The more highly decorated ones came to be called kamizelka.

At the beginning of the 20th cent. the most common vest had a row of modest embroidery on either side of the front opening as well as on the pocket flaps and around the openings at times.

As the 20th cent. progressed, the two rows of embroidery got more elaborate, at first being of chain stitch and various border stitches, and later on taking on floral motifs in satin stitch.

Those who could not afford to buy the commercial blue cloth would use black home woven wool. Here are two extraordinary examples from the Shliakhtova Lemko village of Bila Voda.
At first the embroidery was limited to the edges of the vest and the two pockets. Later the pockets became four, and embroidery spread to the rest of the vest.

As you can see, while the basic composition is the same, there is a great deal of variety in detail.

Here are a few old photos of young men wearing this vest.

Here are a couple of examples from the Szczawnica area.

These are contemporary examples which can be bought commercially. 

The ones currently worn by the Dunajec boatmen are usually commercially made.

Cuffs are often worn with this costume, either knitted in stripes, as you can see in some of the old photos above, or made of the same cloth as the vest with similar embroidery.

The vest worn in the cross-border regions of Trybsz, Kacwin, Matiašovce and Hanušovce is distinct.
It is green, has more of a princess cut with short tails, and is decorated with buttons, tassels and chain stitch embroidery which somewhat resembles that of the women's bodices in the Shliakhtova - Szczawnica area. It has an elaborate decoration around the tails in back. Here is the cut; in the first image, it is the one on the left. The one on the right is a simpler vest worn in the same area.

Here are some images of this vest.

Here are a couple of contemporary examples which are available commercially.

A couple of examples from the Slovak side.

This type of vest is unknown further west. It does not form a part of the costumes of Jurgow, Osturňa, Ždiar, Podhale, etc. They will sometimes wear vests of  sheepskin in cold weather, however.

The typical footwear of this area are moccasins generally known as kierpce or krpce. These are worn over footcloths or knitted stockings.

In warmer weather a round black felt hat is worn, originally this had a band of leather with points on it. Later this was superceded by the Podhale hat with cowries on the band.


These hats are adorned with eagle feathers, hair tufts from the chamois, flowers, pins and other items. 

In the Shliakhtova / Szczawnica area, short woolen jackets made of sukno are worn. These are similar to other jackets worn by both Gorals and Lemkos, but have the typical embroidery which are found on the pants. Unlike most Goral and Lemko regions, these jackets can be made of either whitish or dark natural wool.

a couple of Polish examples.

Some Lemko examples

This museum display has mistakenly put a man's vest on the woman's mannequin.

The man in the center is an itenerant worker from Bila Voda.

This man is also from Bila Voda.

In a  couple of the images you can see that there was also a larger version of this jacket for colder weather.

This will conclude this article. I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. The embroidery on this costume is extraordinary, and I encourage you to keep it alive. Make yourself a vest or pair of cuffs, or adapt it to another use. Keep this important piece of our cultural heritage remembered. 


Roman K

Here is a video of a local group from Kroscienko performing in Lesnica In Slovakia.
One woman on the left side is wearing this older costume, the rest are wearing costumes more influenced by Podhale. There is an introduction in Slovak which takes about 3 min.


  1. Wow! So much work you went to in documenting this! I would love to get your posts by email, but you don't have the widget installed for that. You should be able to get it on the back end from Blogger's options. If you set it up, please let me know as I would definitely follow your posts.

  2. Da..! Spaacebo.! Thank you for helping preserve "Our People's" heritage, as much seems lost already, this is good encouragement. Z Bohom +++