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In english they are usually called folk costumes but also national costumes, folkdance costumes and even folkdress.

But those interested in the 'Folkdress' of Sweden are confronted by a number of confusing terms for what appears to be the same thing. In Sweden, Folk dress is varyingly referred to as "FOLKDRÄKT", "LANDSKAPSDRÄKT", "SOCKENDRÄKT", "BYGDE- or HEMBYGDS-DRÄKT", "HÄRADS-DRÄKT", (Folkdress' - National Costume - Provincial Costume - Parish Costume - District or Homedistrict Costume - the Costume of a 'Härad', an old jurisdictional 'county') or sometimes even as "FOLKDANSKOSTYMER" (Folkdance costumes).

"A DEAR CHILD HAS MANY NAMES" as the Swedish proverb says.

But what exactly is the difference between all these terms ? The Swedish Museums have decided that the term "FOLKDRÄKT" can only be used for costumes from areas with a well documented, locally distinctive form of dress. A district or area with natural boundaries, bodies of water, mountains, or forests, had good communications within the district itself but poorer connections with the outside world. Within some of these districts a distinctive form of dress developed. The supply of locally produced materials as well as those few goods which were bought was for the most part common for all inhabitants of an area. Each district had its own tailor.

The houses in the village were built tightly together and the intense day-to-day contact among villagers ensured that any new invention or practice from outside the district would be critically examined and often rejected. What we today often regard as a strong feeling of togetherness and identity within the old farming communities was often in fact a form of social control. It was often just as much group pressure as a respect for tradition that prevented the introduction of new designs.

Both the producer (the shoemaker and the tailor) as well as the customer could be fined by the parish if the 'wrong' model of clothing was produced. Sometime the customer who ordered some new version instead of a traditional one, could be punished by being placed in the stock outside the church, several Sundays in a row, as a warning to others. The form of dress used in such a district became, in the course of time, quite similar but never become exactly identical. Small differences could be tolerated. The crowded conditions in which people lived as well as human envy dictated that 'My neighbor cannot be more handsome than I, but I want to be more handsome than my neighbor'. Thus what we call 'Folkdräkt' in Swedish was the daily dress of the commoners- the peasants -until about 1850.

bildt1.JPG (31432 bytes) In certain areas such as the province of Dalarna, famous for its preserving old traditions, which have disappeared in other areas of Sweden, this form of dress was in use far into the present the 20th century. 'Folkdräkt' is the costume they used in church and on festive occasions. The term Folkdräkt  includes the clothing they used in their work in the fields and meadows, in the kitchen and barns, in winter as well as summer.


'Sockendräkt (parish costume) is another term used for Swedish folk dress. When the natural boundaries of an area coincided with the parish boundaries, then the local dress of that area became a parish costume ('Sockendräkt') as well as a 'Folkdräkt'. This is true of many parts of Dalarna.

Even a 'Häradsdräkt'_ (the 'Härad' is an old jurisdictional unit, composed of several parishes, perhaps most nearly equivalent in size to an American county) can also be a 'Folkdräkt', if the natural boundaries of an area coincided with the 'Härad's' boundaries.

This is common in the province of Skåne and the south of Sweden.

'FOLKLIG DRÄKT', it is impossible to give a short translation for 'FOLKLIG DRÄKT', the every day clothes of common people. This term can be used in much wider sense than 'Folkdräkt'. All clothing worn by the common people in both city and country can be called 'Folklig dräkt', even if it lacks the distinctive local character of the more pure-bred 'Folkdräkt'. clothing connected with certain trades, such as the blacksmith's shirt or the butcher's apron, are examples of 'Folklig dräkt'.

Those clothes used by simple burghers, the middle class, in town are also 'Folklig dräkt', as is that used by peasants living in the vicinity of towns and cities and which lacked a distinctive local character. 'Folkdräkt' is of course 'Folklig dräkt', but 'Folklig dräkt' does not have to be 'Folkdräkt', and it is still a valuable example of our folk culture.

'Bygdedräkt' and 'Hembygdsdräkt' (District or Home-District costume). In many areas of Sweden a distinctive, local manner of dress never developed. In and around cities and towns, market places, and other areas where trade and commerce were common, contact with new developments and external influence become so strong, that the local group was not able to control and standardize the clothing of individuals.


.Free-trade was legalized in the countryside. Land-holdings were redistributed and the compact villages were split up into individual farms. The distance between houses became greater, and it became more difficult to keep track of neighbors.

Peasants began to imitate the fashions used by the 'Better folk'. And ironically, during this national romantic era, thos "better folk" began to dress up as peasants.

gift1-ang.jpg (17891 bytes)At this time the upper classes began to recreate and reconstruct costumes from areas in which they were living, if there was not any locally distinctive costume. Sometimes several pieces of clothing were found which could be used to reconstruct a costume, at other times perhaps only a piece of headgear was used. A 'Frame-cap', a traditional piece of headgear, used in both the peasant 'Folkdräkt' as well as the clothing worn by the burghers in the towns, could set the tone for all the other pieces of clothing used in the newly created folk dress.

It was thus a 'Bygdedräkt' or 'Hembygdsdräkt' was born!

These creations are valuable as a symbol of the strong local feeling of identity within an area, and express something about the cultural history of the time. But it is seldom that they reflect our older style of dress!


During the national romantic period around the turn of the century, 'NATIONALDRÄKTER' (National Costumes) became popular. This is the name which was given to the 'Folkdräkt' (and even to newly created folk costumes) that the upper classes amused themselves by wearing. The term is incorrect. It would mean that all in Sweden had a uniform dress.

Nationalcostumes became a collective name for all the picturesque costumes that the upper classes appeared in. Even 'Landskapsdräkt' (provincial costume) is an absurd term which was often used at the time. Both terms are more romantic than correct.

BUT THE 'ALLMÄNNA SVENSKA NATIONALDRÄKTEN' (Common (?) Swedish National Costume), is it not a national costume? According to the nationalist and romantic usage of the term at the turn of the century, it is a National Costume.

SvDam2.jpg (89799 bytes)ALLMÄNNA SVENSKA NATIONALDRÄKTEN is not a new invention, but it took eighty years for it to be accepted as THE SWEDISH NATIONAL COSTUME ! It was another Swedish Queen, Victoria, (as Queen Silvia - also born in Germany), who unwittingly inspired ALLMÄNNA SVENSKA NATIONALDRÄKTEN (The Swedish National Costume). In 1900 a young gardening pupil came to the Royal Castle of Tullgarn in the province of Södermanland. Her Name was Märta Palme, a daughter of a wealthy merchant in Norrköping. She was dressed in the typical middle-class woman's fashion of the time - tight fitting at the waist and with long skirts which dragged in the dust of the street. At the Royal Castle of Tullgarn Märta Palme came into contact with the Folkdress that Crown Princess Victoria had introduced. This costume was both more romantic as well as more comfortable then her own middle-class clothes. Märta married the son of the gardener at Tullgarn and under her new name, MÄRTA JÖRGENSEN, they moved to the province of Dalarna. As a teacher in a rural domestic college at Falun she was forced back into her tightly laced middle-class clothes. But her experiences at the Royal Castle Of Tullgarn and the example of Crown Princess Victoria had awaken a strong feeling in Märta Jörgensen for Traditional Swedish Dress.

Together with a similarly inclined woman she started "SVENSKA KVINNLIGA NATIONALDRÄKTS-FÖRENINGEN" (The Swedish Woman's Society for National Costumes) in 1902 to further the use of traditional Swedish Folk Dress. But as many of the Society's woman, like Märta Jörgensen her self, came from parts of Sweden with no local or provincial costumes, (towns -) it became necessary to create a new one.

In 1903 Märta_ Jörgensen designed the first ALLMÄNNA SVENSKA NATIONALDRÄKTEN (The Swedish National Costume), a name she shortened to 'din SVENSKA DRÄKT' ('your SWEDISH COSTUME').

We quote from a series of articles from 1909 in which she describes her creation: "ALLMÄNNA SVENSKA NATIONALDRÄKTEN has been designed in accordance with the principle of granting as much room as possible to different tastes, naturally within reasonable limits. This means that the costume can be made in two different ways. The first way is the originally accepted design with the skirt and the bodice (laced vest) as separate pieces (LIVSTYCKE - KJOL) and the second way, accepted later, is for the (short) bodice and the skirt to be worn (and sewn) together (LIVKJOL), a design which originates from Vingåker in the province of Södermanland."

SvDr2st.jpg (142816 bytes)"The skirt and bodice can both be made of clothes in the now established 'Swedish' blue color, or with the skirt alone in this hue and the bodice in bright red". (Both the blue and the yellow must be in the more subdued tones of the turn of the century Swedish flag in wool, not the bright colors of today's flag in synthetic material.)

"In addition we need the bright colors of the peasant costumes. They have an invigorating effect on our senses that is all to often under-estimated and 'they are necessary as a contrast to the deep green pine forest and the white snow' as the great artist Carl Larsson writes in 'ETT HEM' (A Home)."

"There are two different headgears which can be worn."

"The Stockings should be black unless red is used in the costume in which case they should be red."

"Shoes, preferably with straps or laces, in black, never yellow."

Unfortunately, SVENSKA DRÄKTEN did not catch on, in spite of the patriotism of that time. After the First World War, nationalism declined and the idea of a national costume was forgotten, although Märta Jörgensen continued to use hers until her death in 1967.

In the last few years SVENSKA DRÄKTEN has experienced a renaissance which we wish Märta Jörgensen could have witnessed. It is becoming increasingly popular and will probably become the single most used form of folk dress in Sweden in the near future.

The woman's and the girl's costumes, available through material kits provided by BO SKRÄDDARE, are faithful copies of the oldest examples of SVENSKA DRÄKTEN we are aware of.


Several thousand woman have sewn or will sew their own SVENSKA DRÄKTEN. What will their escorts wear ?

After having written a number of articles in LAND (one of the largest weekly papers in Sweden) Bo Skräddare received so many questions that he created a SVENSKA DRÄKTEN for men (NYA SVENSKA MANSDRÄKTEN) in 1982. Bo Skräddare's (Bo ' the Tailor') guiding principle was to design a costume for men that would agree in both style and period with Märta Jörgensen's costume for woman.

The result was an embroidered vest in the some colors as the woman's bodice in 'Swedish blue' or bright red, with pants in navy blue or black wool or natural colored linen for summer use, and a silk kerchief to a stiff-collared shirt.

An elegant escort to a stylish woman in the beautiful SVENSKA DRÄKTEN. Costumes for boys (design Bo Skräddare) and girls (Design Märta_ Jörgensen) were presented in the Midsummer issue of LAND in 1982, and finally, coats to the costumes for outdoor wear in LAND January 1983. The coats are in gray or green for ladies and in navy blue for the gentlemen.

ryding.JPG (73080 bytes) Nationalism and fashion come and go. Now, both 'National costumes' and 'Folkdräkter' are more popular then ever, and our new Queen Silvia did what Queen Victoria never did, she wore SVENSKA DRÄKTEN on our first National Day, the sixth of june 1983, (and all National Days after1983 - as well).

And in August 1984 Sweden got a new Queen, the Queen of beauty, Miss Universe, former Miss Sweden, 21-year old Yvonne Ryding from Eskilstuna. Of course she wore SVENSKA DRÄKTEN, made by BO SKRÄDDARE. 'The beautiful smile and the National Costume gave her many extra points' as a Swedish paper wrote.

Bo Skräddare 2016.

 Ågestavägen 27, STUVSTA.

Phone 46 (0)8 711 4060
eller 072  - 711 40 72.

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This article may be copied freely, provided the source is given.
Writer: Bo Skräddare, SVENSKA DRÄKTEN, Stockholm.