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Folkdräkt 2.0: Re-inventing the national costume Posted by on Apr 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

The Scots have their kilts, the Japanese have the kimono, the Norwegians have their bunad and well, you get the picture. But the Swedes? What do the Swedes wear on special Swedish occasions? We have a traditional Swedish costume (Sverigedräkten) and we even have 25 different varieties of that one (one for each province) and we probably have hundreds of different varieties of those, depending on where in the province you are from… In other words, we don’t exactly lack national costumes. But what we do lack are a people wearing them.

Swedish traditional costumes are worn on rare occasions and by only a handful, most of them in the province of Dalarna around midsummer (picture). I can’ t even remember the last time I saw one and don’t even ask me what Bohuslän’s costume look like, I wouldn’t have a clue. Some of the provinces have a stronger tradition than others, but in other words, it’s not exactly a piece of clothing that every family have in their wardrobe. And, it’s not exactly a hip piece of clothing either.

But this of course, is all about to change! Svenska Turistföreningen (The Swedish Tourist Association) has decided that it’s time to re-invent our national costume (folkdräkt – the project is called Folkdräkt 2.0) and take it into the 21st century. 25 promising designers – one representing each province (landskap) – are handpicked to design a completely new costume representing their province. By the end of May, Sweden will have 25 new and exciting national costumes and out of the 25, the public together with an expert jury will pick one winner.

One of the chosen 25 designers is 29 year old Karin Granstrand. She was born and raised in a small place called Gnosjö in Småland but at the moment she lives in Dals Långed where she study Textile-Garment-Design. Drawing is one of her favourite doings but she also enjoys all the work in front of her sewing machines – a great combination when you are about to design a brand new and updated costume for the province of Småland!

Hi Karin, what is a national costume according to you?
-A national traditional costume is historically something you wear to look good. It is a piece of clothing that make you feel relaxed and comfortable. The costumes do not look the same in different parts of Sweden and that’s why the clothes tell a lot of who you are and where you come from. It makes people feel more like a group and belong to a certain area or society. Before the industrial revolution the national costume was worn like everyday clothing.

How do you bring the  slightly dated Swedish national costume into the 21st century? Jeans? Sneakers?
-Yes, it’s my job now to find out what could be a traditional costume for today, maybe it really is jeans and a t-shirt? Maybe it is something sustainable or something that is biodegradable? I’m going to do a lot of research about the clothes we wear today. For example, what is important with the clothes of today and why? Do we feel the urge to belong to a geographical area these days? Spontaneously my guess would be no but then I thought of all the soccer supporters – for them the geographical area is very important. I have a lot of research to do and then choose what path to walk.

You are representing the Swedish province of Småland, what is typical for Småland?
-Småland is covered with forest and lakes which makes the nature really beautiful. The province is also known for both small and big industries, for example IKEA was founded in Småland. There is also one part in south of Småland that is really known for glassworks. And of course – we also have the famous dessert, ostkaka. Next week I am going to Småland to do even more research.

Do you have any particular favorite national costume, Swedish or foreign?
-Before this project I didnt’t know much at all about national costumes in Sweden. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen a costume from Småland before I got to this point. I saw this project as a chance to learn more, and that was a very good idea.

If your costume wins, the Swedish crown princess Victoria will get it as a wedding gift. Will she make it justice?
-I would lie if I said that I am making my costume directly for Victoria. I mean, my intention is to design a new costume for the people of Småland. But if Victoria would try it on I’m sure both she and the costume would look gorgeous!

To read more about Karin and follow her work and travels around Småland, click here to get to her Folkdräkt 2.0 blog!
For more information about the Folkdräkt 2.0, click here! And remember, don’t forget to check back in a few weeks time to vote for your favorite Swedish costume.

Midsummer photo: Bo Lind/Sweden Image Bank
Photo of Karin Granstrand: Henrik Frenne

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  1. Luke (Sydney):

    Not as bad as a national flag crisis that we have in Australia.

  2. Megan Lynch:

    Interesting idea for a contest but sorta misses the point of these regional costumes. They were not the creations of one person but a cumulative creation of many people in a region. A folk tradition. And they certainly weren’t mass-produced like any proposed modern day national costume would be. The items would have been sewn and embroidered by the woman of the household that wore them.

    It makes me a bit sad that modern Swedes are largely unappreciative of folkdräkt (if what your blogpost says is true). They are some masterpieces of textile art and material folk culture.

  3. jennie:

    @Megan: I don’t think Swedes are unappreciative of the folkdräkt in general, it’s just not a the piece of garnment you own and wear, maybe because as you are saying, it’s a masterpiece! More like something you would find in a museum.
    I think the contest is just a fun way of updating it, not replacing it and shed some light on something that almost has been forgotten in our modern culture.
    How come you know so much about Swedish folkdräkter?

  4. Megan Lynch:

    I wouldn’t say I know all that much about folkdräkter… I just have an interest in historical costume and have always loved the various regional costumes especially of European countries. Folkdräkt can be found in the US because they are used by those who keep Swedish folkdance alive and also because traditional signifiers of ethnic identity remain very important to those who no longer live in their ethnic motherland

  5. Sharon Rosner:

    My great-grandmother who comes from Varmland had a needlepoint picture hanging in her room with the country of Sweden in the middle and around the edges of the rectangle were all girls from each province’s dress. It got lost or sold when the house was sold to put my grandparents in assisted living and I wish I had it. Does anyone know where I could get something similar or even pictures of each province’s dress.

  6. James Snowden:

    There are many books available, both historical, many reprinted as well as modern books with illustrations of all main districts.
    Try the following from your public library:
    Inga Arno-Berg and Gunnel Hazelius-Berg. Folk costumes of Sweden. English edition,1975. 239 pages, illustrated throughout and bibliography of further titles. See what else the library offers or try to buy second hand online.