How to fake a Swedish traditional folk costume

I have this little game each midsummer. In Sweden we have a tradition of wearing traditional folk costumes when dancing around the maypole, at least all the old ladies are. And my game is to fake a folk dress so that the old ladies asks me “were are your dress from”.

I would really like to have a “real folk costume” but the costume from the area where I am from is not that exiting and I mostly have not taken the time to make it, for that reason, I would like something a bit more elaborate or special.
There are so many varieties, all from super elaborate to very simple.

So in stead, I have aimed to make a national romanticised version of a traditional costume. What would a person living in the early 20th century have worn to look “traditional”.

There are some things that are typical for folk costumes in general, so here comes my guide on “how to fake traditional Swedish folk wear”.

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A white linen or cotton blouse, this is often embroidered, either in white or with colour. The shape is almost always a historical shape. It is almost always long sleeved, but this year it was so warm so I opted on a 1910ish blouse.

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The dress echoes the rural 18th century, often sleeveless and have a pleated skirt attached. It is very often striped, there are endless varieties. Often it is also two separate parts, bodice and skirt; the bodice laced in the front often with decorative metal eyelets. The more rich parts have more silver attached to the dress, the poorer parts have regular sewn eyelets or just hooks and eyes.
The skirt length varies, but they are never full length.
I made my dress in a blue striped cotton fabric, with cartridge pleated skirt and lace up front. A simple round neckline and no sleeves.

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You really need to have a apron, very often embroidered, or striped and some times printed as the 18th century aprons. I used a white cotton voile apron that I have thrifted, it is perfect as it is only “for show” with its fragile fabric and narrow width. Many folk costumes have two aprons to the costume, one for more everyday wear, and one fine for party and church, the same thing goes for the shawls.

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Over your shoulders you wear a scarf or shawl. Embroidered or perhaps a fancy silk. I have a small collection of black silk ones, all in different patterns and with different fringes.

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To close it up you need some silver, the brooch I am wearing is very classical, mine is not in silver but a silver coloured metal, these can go very fancy, I am also wearing a silver brooch of another type at my neck.

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Red socks and 18th century:ish shoes, a typical folk wear look. Mine are in silk but very often they are in wool, white and grey are also common.

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Here is when I add the national romantic vibe. For a traditional costume only very young girls wear their hair loose. You should really put your hair in braids or wear it with a traditional small silk hat, lace or veils.
I wear my hair loose and top it with the midsummers flower crown. I like mine big and made out of wild flowers, not cultivated but found by the side of the road. The week before midsummer I scout the ditches on the way home from work.

So that is what I do, my quick guide on how to fake a traditional Swedish folk costume.

5 thoughts on “How to fake a Swedish traditional folk costume

  1. Hi, I love your site!! Have learned a few hand sewing stitches. Also think you make amazing outfits. Aside from that I really LOVE the color of your hair!! Simply BEAUTIFUL!!

  2. What a lot of fun! I thoroughly enjoyed your take on Swedish traditional costume, and your indepth knowledge of what is typical, versus what you choose to do, is brilliant. Thank you!

  3. Thank you for sharing this! When I was young, we were often in Sweden and I always wanted to have a local (Mora) folk costume for myself. It sort of stuck and I now wear Bavarian or Austrian costume on some occasions. It is where part of my family comes from. The traditional bodice fronts are very similar to yours but also often buttoned with metal or horn buttons. And we also have the fringed silk shawls and I also own two bright wool ones with paisley patterns, one was my grandmother’s. This is a very interesting subject to talk about! :)

  4. Vad roligt att du delar med dig,, världen runt om våra traditioner, samt att du förklarar att man kan faktiskt klä sig på sitt eget sätt och ändå vara rätt. Du är så kreativ och pedagogisk. Med vänlig hälsning Loretta Willander

  5. This is a great idea! The combination you present in your pictures could easily fool me. And also, I prefer your creativity over the costume police. :)

    I’ve been thinking of doing something similar but pick and choose favorites from existing costumes to combine as a new unique one.

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