Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Costume and Embroidery of Setesdal, East Agder, Norway, part 1 women

Hello all, 
Today I will take a break from Asia. It is fascinating, but difficult to research. Setesdal is one of the regions of Norway which has an unbroken folk costume tradition to this day. The costume is iconic of Norway, even though it is far from typical. It is worn today on special occasions and has changed little over the last couple hundred years.

Setesdal is in the south, part of the province of East Agder. It borders Telemark on the east and Rogaland on the west.

In actual fact, I should refer to this as the bunad of upper Setesdal, as it is native to the three municipalities of Bykle, Valle and Bygland, and is not traditional for the lower parts of the valley.

It appears that traditionally, no foundation garments were worn. I have been told that this is the reason that the traditional dance moves of the area are so restrained for the women, with no fast spinning.

The first garment put on is the shirt, skjorte. The shirt is identical for men and women.
Many of these images are from the Norwegian Digataltmuseum website, available for perusal by all.

The shirt was originally made of linen, but today is much more likely to be cotton. It has shoulder insets, or yokes on either side, then the body and the shoulder pieces are gathered into the collar. There are gussets under the arms for freedom of movement. The shoulder seams, like for most traditional shirts, fall on the upper arms.

There is a wide collar and cuffs, which are fastened by collar buttons and cuff buttons. For dress, they are edged with lace or tatting.


Here is a cut which is common today.

Here is a closeup of the buttons used to secure the collar and cuffs.

The front opening of the shirt is secured by one or more silver pins, as is typical for Norway.

The basic garment which is always the first garment to be worn over the shirt is the kveitestakk, or 'white skirt'.

For everyday, this was the only garment worn. It is basically a jumper of white wool, with straps over the shoulders. It is gathered into a black wool band with embroidery on the front. There is a green wool edge binding. There is an opening with a clasp in the center front.

In the back, the band is black wool, and there is a very abbreviated bodice added to the top in the rear, to which the straps are attached. 

The embroidery, Loyesaum, varies quite a bit, which is unusual for Norway, but typical for a living tradition.

The embroidery in front is generally of a geometric design.



 In this image above, you can see the inside of the 'liv', or bodice. The bodice has vertical stripes which are embroidered, usually with a curvilinear design. The band on top of the bodice and the straps are usually embroidered as well. Notice the variety in the embroidery. The design is drawn on the wool with a sliver of soap.


The body of the kveitestakk is made of several pieces of wool. Here is a layout.

The garment has a triple hem, each is sewn separately, and then they are sewn together, and attached to the hem of the white skirt. This is a very old detail, here is a museum piece.

Today each hem starts as a stiff band, then is wrapped in white wool and has a band of black wool sewn to the outside of it. On the lowest one, the black wool wraps around to the inside.

Here is a photo of the finished hem from the front side and the back.

Cording is couched to the back of each hem, I am not certain what function it serves, but it can be seen on the finished garment. The composite hem is sewn to the bottom of the white skirt, but the ends are sewn into the front seam. This, together with the stiff hem, gives a distinctive shape to the garment, forming a fold in front, which makes it resemble culottes.

On this woman, the seam between the skirt and the hem is distinctly visible.

A couple more images showing the distinctive shape of this garment.

When worn alone, the kveitestakk is cinched either with a leather belt that has a buckle, or a patterned woven sash. The sash is often attached to a metal clasp, but occasionally is just tied into a knot.

When worn for work, an apron, blåtyforkle, may be worn with the kveitestakk. It may hang from the waist, or be attached to the top of the garment.

Today it is usually of blue gingham, but it may be plaid, plain white, or of  blue printed material.

Knee socks krotasokkar, are worn. They are identical for men and women. They are knit with textured patterns from white or natural wool yarn.

Men wear them like this, women dye them black. They are held up by garters. Sometimes these are fingerwoven wool sokkebande, as in other parts of Norway. They are tied around the leg above the calf.

More commonly, however, they use leather straps with buckles, which look like miniature belts. These are called sprette og sprote.

Generelly, leather shoes are worn, unless they are going barefoot, which, like country people everywhere, was often. The woman above is wearing regular black pumps, and the woman further above is wearing standard Norwegian bunad shoes. For special occasions, however, fancy shoes in local style can be worn.

For dress occasions, a second skirt is worn over the kveitestakk. This is called svortestakk, or 'black skirt', and is very similar to the first one, except for color. It has the same abbreviated bodice, which is often red, the band into which the skirt is gathered is green, and both, along with the straps, are embroidered. When put on over the kveitestakk, the top band of the svortestakk lays lower, so that both are visible. Likewise the triple hem is shorter, so that again, both show. The svortestakk's uppermost hem is green, and the lower two are red.

Again, the embroidery varies, and silver galoon is usually incorporated.

Here is the layout for the svortestakk, which varies somewhat from the kveitestakk.

You will notice that the outer two fields of the skirt, which lie in the front, are labelled glatt, which means smooth. The remaining three are traditionally pleated. This pleating is very fine, done like smock gathering on the wool which has lines woven in as guides.

After the entire piece of cloth is gathered, it is then wrapped around a rolling pin, and rolled on a board to flatten the pleats, laid aside for a year for the pleats to set, then boiled, mordanted, dyed, and set aside for another year to set. If you want to read more about this, Here is a website which translated and printed Aagot Noss's description of the process.

Here you can see the pleating, if you look carefully.

Occasionally, the lowest hem of the svortestakk is not plain red, but embroidered, or pattern woven. This may be how the stiffened hem got started.

For some especially formal occasions, the svortestakk is replaced by the bstakk, or 'blue skirt'. This is actually also black, and the only significant difference is that the colored wool on the two upper hems is replaced by silver galloon, and the background of the middle hem is red instead of also being black. Here is  a woman dressed up to have her child christened. Not only is she wearing a blåstakk, but her kerchief is silk and she is wearing embroidered half gloves and a churching shawl.

Short jackets are worn with this outfit. They come in three variations. The plainest and least formal is the gråkupte, or gray jacket.

This is made of natural colored dark wool, brown or charcoal gray, with the cuffs, front, and collar trimmed in black wool. The embroidery is minimal, by Setesdal standards. The cuffs and front may be closed with buttons. It is usually worn with the kveitestakk.

 The back is plain.

It can also be worn by men, in  a slightly different form.

here are some more examples of the gray jacket.

When wearing the svortestakke or bstakke, a more formal jacket is usually worn, the blåkupte. This means 'blue jacket', but it is in fact black, like the blåstakke.

It has more extensive embroidery on the front, shoulders and cuffs, and is trimmed with green and red wool and silver galloons.

Here is the layout of the blåkupte.

Although the exact design may vary, the placement of the embroidery remains much the same. It is secured in front by a silver chain threaded through eyelets on either side. See above. Sometimes the chain is attached to the eyelets, fancy dangles are added, and it closes on  hooks, as here.

The third type of jacket is worn by brides, and I will not talk about it today. here are some examples of jacket embroidery.

The hair is divided into two, and the two parts are wrapped with a pattern woven band, similar to the sash, but narrower.

Girls often stop there, but women will cover it with a kerchief, tied either behind the neck, or
on the forehead.

Shawls are worn when attending Church. There are two types; the first is older and woven in three narrow pieces which are then sewn together, these are called kyrkjekjeld. The newer ones are woven in one piece, and are called kyrkjetaepe. Here are a couple examples of each.

A regular part of the more formal outfit are gloves fingrevottar, or half-gloves muflar, depending on the season. These are hand knitted and embroidered, often given as gifts, and either worn or tucked into the belt to show them off. Mittens are worn in extremely cold weather, but are strictly utilitarian.

One item of dress is conspicuously absent, and that is the formal apron, which is almost ubiquitous throughout both Norway and Europe in general. A formal apron in fact exists, made of fine linen and ornamented with either lace or Hardanger type embroidery, but today it is only worn by brides and Confirmation candidates.

And I think that is enough for one article. I will continue in the next one.

Here is a husflid which specializes in Setesdal costumes. If you wish, you can order one through this website.

Here is a video which shows scenery, music and dance from Setesdal. The dancing starts at the 1:45 mark.

Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. You might try some of this embroidery for yourself.

Roman K.

 email: rkozakand@aol.com

Source Material:
Norske Digitaltmuseum 
Aagot Noss, 'Stakkeklede i Setesdal', Oslo, 2008
Laila Duran, 'Bunader og Tradisjoner fra Setesdal', 2015
Bjorn Sverre hol Haugen, 'Norsk Bunadleksikon' Oslo, 2009
Kjersti Skavhaug et al, 'Norwegian Bunads', Oslo, 1991
Heidi Fossnes, 'Norges Bunader og Samiske Folkedrakter', Oslo, 1993
Ellen Scheel et al, 'Bunad-Brodering', Oslo, 1997
Janice Stewart, 'The Folk Arts of Norway', University of Wisconsin, 1953
Guvnor Traetteberg, 'Folk Costumes of Norway', Oslo, 1966, 1976
Thorbjorg Ugland, 'A Sampler of Norway's Folk Costumes', Oslo, 1996
Laila Duran, 'Scandinavian Folklore vol I - III', Sweden, 2011-2013


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