The traditional folk costume of Bohemia is called Kroje.
I heard everyone call it /kroy/. But technically, it’s:
- Kroje plural /kro-yeh/
- Kroj singular /kroy/
Residents of the highlands dressed simply.
Until the latter part of the nineteenth century, most families made their own clothes. They needed readily available materials. So in the highlands they grew flax for linen, and sheep for wool.
And like many cultures, some colorful folk dress also evolved.
From sheep to wool
Highland families raised sheep for wool. Highland winters are cold, and wool clothing was needed.
From flax to linen
Linen is made from the fibers of the flax plant.
Flax is laborious to grow and harvest.
Flax fiber is extracted from beneath the stem of the flax plant.
It’s very time consuming and requires several processing steps.
Here are tools to extract the fibers. They look like instruments of torture.
Linen is cooler than wool. So it’s just right for laboring in warmer seasons.
Weaving and sewing
Once the flax has been spun into thread, it is woven the same as wool.
Many houses had their own loom. Often the responsibility for spinning and weaving belonged to the “vyminkar”, the retired older generation that were living in the house.
Young girls were taught to weave and sew from a very young age.
Kroje can be simple; the clothing worn in everyday life. Or it can be decorated and colorful, used for ceremonies like weddings.
In the peasant cultures of Europe, local costumes helped identify a locality, sometimes even a village.
One difference was the natural environment. In the highlands was found homespun linen and blueprinted fabric.
Another influence was religious. The Bohemian Reformation brought a wave of interest in protestant areas like the highlands, and a simpler taste in fashion like dark colors and stark whites with simple details.
I had the pleasure of attending a Kroje fashion show. I thought it would be squirrely, but I really enjoyed it.
Here are some of the regional costumes. The blue and white pattern (top row, third from left) is from Polička region. So it might look familiar to a Teply of yore.
Nibbles Extra Credit
Anna Sophia Tombazzi is Miss Czech-Slovak US 2019-2020.
It’s not a beauty contest, but a cultural representation.
She is quite an accomplished person. She’s a mechanical engineer and works in California for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space flight company.
She has Czech heritage and also Rusyn. Not Russian, but Rusyn.
Nope, I didn’t know what it was. I’ve heard the term Carpatho-Rusyn, but didn’t know what that was either.
The Carpatho-Rusyns are a distinct Eastern Slavic people who lived for more than a thousand years in remote villages scattered along the foothills and valleys of the Carpathian Mountains of East Central Europe.
Just like Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia, Rusyns have a native homeland. The Rusyn lands are contained within Ukraine. Rusyns continue to strive for an independent homeland, but it doesn’t seem likely.
- Western Franternal Life – http://www.wflains.org/about-western/recent-news/2018/03/all-about-kroje/
- Carpatho-Rusyn Society – https://c-rs.org/
- De vlasoogst (1904) (“The flax harvest”) painting by Emile Claus, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium
- Girl in traditional costume – Antoš Frolka – 1917
- Girl with sheep – WikiCommons
- Photos – Mark Jarvis – October 2019