Friday, February 15, 2019

Folk Costume of the Lachy, part 1, Overview and Podegrodzie men. Malopolska, Poland

Hello all,
Today I will talk about the traditional attire of the Lachy. This is a Polish ethnic group which lives north of the Gorale, and south of the Krakow region.To the east of the Lachy live the Pogorzanie, and to the southeast was the land of the Lemkos. Here are two different maps showing the region of the Lachy and surrounding regions. Notice that the borders are not shown exactly the same in both maps.

The Lachy are divided into three groups; Lachy Szczyrzyckie in the northwest, Lachy Limanowski rather in the center, and Lachy Sądeckie in the east. The costume varies from region to region, and also within the Sącz region.
The image at the head of the article shows one version of the costume from the Sącz region. This is actually from the area around Podegrodzie, which lies in the southwest of the Sącz region, and looks as if someone decided to combine the most flamboyant parts of the Krakow and Goral costumes. This is the most elaborate and the best known version of the Lachy costume.

The word 'Lach' is an old word for the Polish people, but is not generally used as a self designation except in this area, and no one seems to know why. It is rather as if in a region of England some people continued to call themselves Angles. It may well have started as a nickname which the Gorale had for them, making fun of their boots.

Lachy Szczyrzyckie


Here is a children's group performing songs and dances of the Lachy Szczyryckie.

Lachy Limanowskie


This is the Polish National Folk Ensemble Mazowsze performing songs and dances from Limanowa, but they are wearing costumes from Szcyrzycie, for some reason.

I will focus more closely on the Sącz costume, and most especially on the Podegrodzie variant. 

Lachy Sądeckie 

In the north, and especially in the northeast of the Sącz region, the costume is simpler and more influenced by city fashion. This is sometimes referred to as the area of transition with the Pogórzanie. 




 This is the region closest to the Gorale, and most influenced by them. This is the costume which one most commonly sees on stage. 

 There is, however, more variation than one usually sees in the stage costumes, which often look like uniforms. 

For comparison, here is a photograph taken of men from this region in 1905.

The boy at right is wearing the basic everyday outfit, long linen shirt worn outside linen pants, high boots, plain  black vest buttoned down the front, round hat, narrow belt, and in this case, a city style jacket. You can see the resemblance with the images above. The rest of the men are wearing various versions of the costume. 

The shirt is traditionally of the shoulder inset cut. Everyday shirts were plain linen, but shirts for dress occasions had varying amounts of embroidery on the collar, cuffs, shoulder insets and fronts. 

Here is a man wearing the everyday shirt, linen pants polotnianky, and vest, while poling a boat along the Poprad.

Here is an old style men's shirt with exceptional embroidery.

Today you do not find the foldback cuffs, and the embroidery is usually done on one field that covers the front opening of the shirt. 

  There are old examples of shirts embroidered in red and blue. 

But today the embroidery is generally either red, or white. 

The following shirts are commercially available at the website Etnoszafa


Men, especially young men would often wear a semicircular ornament called ciosek tied with ribbons around the neck. This was of stiffened cloth, and had trim, ribbon, and other ornaments. At other times the shirt collar would just be tied with a red ribbon.

In some places along the Goral region, they wear the same pants as the Lacky Gorals.

For the most part, if they are wearing dress pants, they are made from commercially blue wool. These are called błękicie. 

They have a straight cut and two openings in front like Goral pants. The openings are edged with red cloth, and in the north that is all the embellishment which they have. Around Podegrogzie, they are embroidered in a similar manner to the local Goral pants. 

Besides the edgings on the front openings, there are two red wool strips appliqued to the sides of the legs and a heart shaped patch under each opening. Embroidery is also done over the applique. The bottoms are not finished because they are tucked into boots. When this type of pants is worn, the shirt is worn tucked in. 

Over the shirt, at times, is worn a vest, kamizelka. Similar vests are worn by the Lemki, the Pogorzanie, and the Gorals which live to the south of the Lachy. In the north of this region, these vests are unadorned, or only have red binding and metal buttons. In the Podegrodzie area, vests for festive dress are embroidered in the same way as the pants. 

The cut is simple. 


There is a stand up collar, and usually a notch in the center back at the bottom. They are made of dark blue or black wool. Embroidery is done around the edges, on the pocket flaps [which do not include an actual pocket] and also the center back. 

In these lasts couple of images you can see an example of a common mistake which I do not understand. For some reason, people who make costumes for stage, as opposed to those who partake of a living tradition, want to round off the corners of vests. This is surprisingly common in many countries, and I do not understand the reasoning. The traditional vests never have this feature, only those which are made for stage performances. Compare the cut and the first few images with the last two. Avoid this. The vest should also have buttons and be able to be closed.

The most famous and distinctive garment of this region is the kaftan, or Waffenroki. This garment is not of Polish origin, and it shows in the cut, which is not one traditionally used in Poland. 

The top is cut separate from the bottom, the sleeves are set in, and the skirt of the coat is separated into tails. None of these are characteristics of Polish costume. 

The men of Podegrodzie and the surrounding district claim that they are the only ones who should wear this garment. They maintain that King Jan Kazimierz, in recognition of their valorous battle against the Swedish invaders, granted them the right to wear uniforms captured from the Swedish soldiers. This explains the cut of the garment, the blue color, and also why the pants are blue. Through the centuries since, the garment has had more ornamentation added to it. Waffenrock is a German / Swedish word for military jacket. 

The kaftan of the Krakow region has a similar cut, only lacking sleeves; but it also has a military origin. 

The top has many metal buttons and tassels along the edge, while the tails have red applique and abundant embroidery around the edges.

While the vest or kamizelka is worn with some outer garments, it is never worn with the waffenroki.

An outer garment which is used in relatively warm weather is the Płótnianka. This is common in southeast Poland and western Ukraine, where it is called polotnianka. This is a long jacket made of linen which is worn in spring and summer. Often it is completely unadorned, but of course, this is not the case in Podegrodzie.

Notice that in the museum piece above, the sleeves are set in at right angles to the body, but the garments which the boys below are wearing have set in sleeves. This is a modern influence. Personally I think that it should be avoided because it restrains freedom of movement.


The Gurmana is a native Polish overcoat made of heavy home woven wool. The Lachy share this garment with the Gorals and other groups. Variants of this garment are widespread in eastern Europe. Both the Goral and the Podegrodzie versions may be heavily embroidered. The Sącz version is made of natural colored wool, sometimes white, but more commonly brown. 

 Here is a tailor from this region posing with a waffenrok on his knees and a gurmana hanging on the wall.


As you can see here, the vest, or kamizelka can be worn with the gurmana. Take another look at the old photo above at the beginning of the Podegrodzie text, and also this one. Vests are being worn with the gurmana but not the waffenrok.

Another more sober overgarment is called Żupan. This term is often used to refer to the fancy overcoats of the aristocracy, and also of the cossaks, but here it refers to a rather plain garment of city cut which is typically worn by middle aged men or older.  Here is a family portrait in which we see the son wearing a waffenrok, and the father wearing a  Żupan. This garment is seldom seen on stage today, as it is plain and similar to contemporary clothing.

In cold weather, there is one more overgarment which is worn in this area, as it is over all of eastern Europe. It is a coat made of sheepskin called kożuch. This garment can be rather utilitarian, or can be heavily ornamented.

 Three kinds of belts are worn in this region. 

The first is the pas wąski, or narrow belt. This looks much like a modern belt but is very long, wrapping around the waist two or three times, and sometimes being threaded through the front placket of the pants. It may be plain leather, or ornamented with metal studs and grommets.


 The second is called sros. This is a belt of medium width, and is similar to belts which are worn in the Krakow region, being made of a doubled width of leather with reverse applique and other ornament on one end. It is relatively short, not quite reaching all the way around the waist and is secured with a strap and buckle.


The third kind is called pas szeroki or pas Goralski. This kind of belt varies from medium to very wide, and is also made of a doubled length of leather with a pocket in front . It overlaps in front and is secured by three or more straps and buckles. This kind of belt is also worn by Gorals and other mountain peoples in the Carpathians. In the image above, the man in the center is wearing a Goral belt, while the two men on either side are wearing sros. 


Old photographs show this belt being worn very high, as we can see in this image above, but today it is usually seen being worn much lower. 



High boots with embossed ornament and accordian pleated ankles are typical for this costume. They are called karbiaki.

Various sorts of hats are worn, mostly round felt hats with bands, ornaments, and often tassels.

The four cornered hat so typical of Poland, the rogatywka, is also worn here, often embellished with the typical local embroidery. 

 This article has gone on long enough. I will cover the womens' costume in my next article.

Just a few more images of this incredible costume for today.


This is the Nationa Polish Ensemble doing dances from Podegrodzie. The boys come out and do a good job of the athletic horsing around so typical of Polish mountaineers. They all start wearing waffenroki, but bend the rules for staging purposes, so when they shed the jackets they finish in the kamizelki. They are wearing the narrow belts. All are dressed exactly alike.

A group from the region of varying ages and wearing many different outfits. They are the first act in some festival, so the video goes on to show Silesians and others. A bit amateurish, but worth watching.

A group from Poligrodzie, costumes similar, but well done.

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

Roman K.


Source Material:
Z Szewczyk and M Brylak-Zaluska, 'Stroj Lachow Sadeckich', Nowy Sacz, 2004
Elzbieta Piskorz-Branekowa, 'Polskie Stroje Ludowe', Warsaw, 2013
Aleksander Blachowski, 'Haft Polskie Szycie', Lublin, 2004
Stanislaw Gadomski, 'Stroj Ludowe w Polsce', Warsaw,
Elzbieta Krokikowska, 'The Polish Folk Dress', Warsaw, 2000
Jan Wielek, 'Stroj Lachow Limanowskich', Warsaw, 1988

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness, this is such a FANTASTIC resource. I can tell a lot of work and love went into this and you have NO idea how much I truly appreciate it. Bookmarked, & I will be sharing/returning to your blog again and again I can already tell. Thank you SO much for this! ��