Unia Europejska


The Festive and Everyday Attire of the Lemkos (western subregion)

Until the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the festive costume commonly worn in western Lemkivshchyna, which is located within the present-day Małopolska Province (Nowy Sącz and Gorlice Counties), was predominantly based on homespun linens and cloths in natural colours (white and dark-brown), sheepskins (used to make jackets, coats, jerkins and caps) as well as cowhide, and less frequently pigskin (used to make shoes and belts). Its style showed Slovakian, Hungarian and Spiš influence, and in the northwestern part also the Sącz influence. It should be noted that, within the region in question, the inhabitants of Leluchów and Dubne - the two border villages located to the south of Muszyna - who used to be called Wengrini were culturally closer to the Ruthenians living in the Slovakian region of Šariš, and their outfits were visibly distinct from the ones worn in Lemko villages. Ethnographers used to view them as a separate subregion.

Men’s festive costume

Men’s costume was characterised by thick, cloth chołośnie (trousers), originally mainly white, and as of the beginning of the 20th century, more and more often brown. They were made just like the traditional trousers worn by Carpathian highlanders, with buttock seams and two przypory (slits) at the front, but with quite wide legs with slits at the bottom. They were modestly trimmed with wool cord around the slits, and cloth insets along the leg seams and at the back. The colour schemes of the ornamentation were subject to local fashions (e.g. in the Poprad river villages, they were red, in the Biała river basin – blue, in the areas enclosed by the Ropa and Zdynia rivers - navy blue with serration, etc.). In summer, linen nohałky (trousers) were worn; they had one slit on the right, and wide legs. Unmarried men used to support their trousers with long belts wrapped around the waist at least two times, whereas richer farmstead owners used to wear broader czeresy (trzosy), fastened with 4 buckles, crafted from double leather, with an inside pocket, and embossed embellishments.

On special occasions, over white, linen shirts, which used to be very short, navy bruśliki (also druszlaki - waistcoats) of factory-made cloth were worn; they were short and had one or two rows of convex, metal buttons at the front, sometimes decorated with modest, red-yellow chain stitch. White, cloth hunie(jackets) were used as outer garments; there were two varieties of hunia (singular of hunie) – an archaic, longer one, gusset-flared at the hips, and a more contemporary, shorter one with three kłaputy (tacki – loose flaps) at the back, and a loopy fastening of wool cord. Newer hunie (more or less as of the First World War) were commonly made of brown sheep cloth in the Lemko Poprad villages. The white, short hunie worn by the Wengrini had slits on the right-hand side, and on the chest - a horizontal, cloth appliqué.

A special role in the Lemko attire was played by the formal czucha (a jacket), which was a required garment at, say, a wedding ceremony. It was long, ample, had an oblong poncho cut, and was made of dark-coloured, homespun cloth, with a large, rectangular collar trailing down the back. It was often flung over the shoulders, with sleeves dangling loosely (they used to be sewn at the bottom and thus served as moneybags). The shape of the czucha collar and its ornamentation were the telltale signs of where the wearer came from. In western Lemkivshchyna, the collar featured three, white, horizontal, embroidered stripes, and the bottom edge was trimmed with white, narrow cords called toroki. In addition, toroki and white strips embellished the sleeve ends. A czuchavariant with brown, zigzag ornamentation on two white stripes was worn in the Szczawnik district. In the villages near the eastern border of the Gorlice county, there appeared czuchy (plural of czucha) of the central-Lemkivshchyna type, which at the front had an oval cape which morphed into a rectangular collar with thin straps. The Slovakian halena, or a cuwa worn by Pogórze highlanders, both of which were somewhat differently decorated, were garments similar to the Lemko czucha. In winter, rich farmsteaders used to wear white-tanned sheepskins with large, black collars, sometimes decorated with saffian leather. They were usually bought in towns on the Hungarian side of the Carpathians. The Wengrini (in Leluchów and Dubne) used to wear richly decorated sheepskins. In winter, thick, woollen gloves were worn; they were hand-woven on a simple, wooden mould.

The oldest type of headwear  the so-called uherskie kapeluchy (uhersky hats); they were black, had cupolaed domes and quite tall, turned-up brims. Originally, the brims used to be very large, but at the end of the 19th century they got substantially smaller. The hats used to be manufactured in northern Slovakian towns; the most famous ones - in Michalovce. In winter, worn were caps made of sheepskin, or covered with navy-blue cloth (cut into four gores), with fur borders, or quite tall caps of black sheepskin (called baranek - a lamb) shaped like a stack. Leather kyrpci (kierpce) were a common type of footwear; they were laced up around the leg with a woollen nawołoka (a piece of twisted cord). Kyrpci were worn over linen or cloth footwraps. Rich farmstead owners also wore leather calf-length skirni (boots) with hard uppers.

Women’s festive costume

On holidays, women used to wear white, przyramkowy-cut (made of square pieces of fabric called przyramki), linen blouses with ruffles at the neck and cuffs; sometimes, blouses featured modest whitework, and were complemented by long, wide and billowy skirts (kabaty), which used to be made of white, homespun linen as well. Later on, they were superseded by the so-called farbanky of fabrics manually imprinted with dainty, bright-coloured patterns on a navy background. They were manufactured in a number of workshops in Slovakian towns, but also in Muszyna, at the Buszek family’s fabric-imprinting workshop. In the villages on the Ropa river, skirts were finely pleated, just like in central and eastern Lemkivshchyna, and sometimes were decorated with a printed border at the bottom. Festive skirts were trimmed with several narrow, colourful ribbons at the bottom. Apart from farbanky, skirts of factory-made fabrics, e.g. percale or woollen fabric, were worn in western Lemkivshchyna; for instance, at the beginning of the 20th century, debetowe (made of tybet – a fabric originally made of wool of Tibetan sheep or goats, hence the name) kabaty skirts which were machine-imprinted and featured dainty flowers. They were worn by rich, married women (just like in the neighbouring Pogórze highland region)

Ample, pleated, loose-fitting zapaski (aprons), which were slightly shorter than skirts, in the north of the region were often made of white, fine linen and decorated with white large floral embroidery (just like in the Pogórze highland region). In the Ropa river valley, imprinted farbanky aprons with wider pleats than the ones featuring on skirts were worn. The bottom section featured a broad, imprinted border of characteristic, floral ornaments. The Wengrini women commonly used to wear narrowed zapaski of dyed linen; they were trapezoidal and had a broad strip of fabric around the waist. In the 1920s and 1930s, Lemko housewives took to wearing dark, woollen or klot, flounced zapaski decorated with coloured, flowery borders embroidered in flatlock; this fashion came from the north.

Festive lajbiki (bodices) with an oval neckline and small flaps (kaletki) at the bottom, fastened with buttons, were made of dark cloth or tybet (plain or flowery), and – in the 20th century – most often of black or navy velvet. They were modestly decorated with wool or tape trimmings; and the velvet ones were decorated with silver siutaź (soutache) and spangles. Bead embroidery and spangles appeared in the north of the region (the environs of Grybów) in the 1920s and 1930s under the influence of the Sącz Lach fashion. In the east of the region, flowery, tybet lajbiki were worn; they were decorated with coloured backstitch. Over the blouse, elderly or poorer women would wear zahortky (cropped jackets) with sleeves, made of various shop fabrics. Zahortky were close-fitting around the waist, flared at the hips (with folds or a basque), with a narrow standing collar, fastened with buttons. They were decorated with appliqué, or trimmed with haberdashery binding. In the Ropa river valley, there also appeared (commonly worn in Central Lemkivshchyna) women’s jackets - hunie of homespun cloth - trimmed with woollen cord, resembling men's counterparts in form. Well-off Lemko women also used to wear such festive garments as a żupan (a cloth overcoat), which was popular with many Małopolska ethnographic groups (Pogórze Highlanders - melizonkaprzyjaciółka), sometimes lined with fur. In winter, rich farm women used to wear white-tanned sheepskins decorated with colourful saffian leather or coloured embroidery with floral motifs. Under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, they were bought across the Carpathians. 

A long, linen sheet called obrus or port, worn over the shoulders like a shawl, was an important part of the traditional, festive attire. It was made of homespun linen, drill or shop damask. In the Wengrini border villages of Leluchów and Dubne, portoky of red-white, striped drill. As of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, obrus shoulder shawls began to be superseded by a variety of factory-made shoulder shawls.



Married women always used to cover their heads. They pinned up their hair around a hymla (a wooden or wire disc) into a flat bun, and covered it with a linen bonnet shaped like a low cap girded around with ribbon. On top of that, they put linen, silk or woollen headscarves, which on major holidays were flowery and trimmed with tassels. The headscarves were tied under the chin. Well-off Wengrini women used to wear characteristic, Slovakian, hood-shaped mob caps with a white, starched, heart-shaped ruff around the face; along the edge, the ruff was decorated with buttonhole stitched holes.

 In Lemkivshchyna, white, linen facełyki - decorated with multicoloured, plant-motif embroidery (chain stitch) in the back corner and lace-trimmed - were counterparts of mob caps. They were meticulously arranged in folds around the face. In the villages east of Ropa, long facełyki were worn, often under a lejbikor a hunia, so that the embroidered end stuck out from beneath. Even though unmarried women were allowed to have their heads bare, they were inclined to wear colourful headscarves, in summer - made of percale, and in winter - warm, woollen ones. Single women would plait their hair, sometimes entwining ribbons, most willingly - red, but also white and bright pink ones.

Genuine coral beads used to be the most valuable decorative element of women’s attire; only the richest could afford them. Because of their high price, they used to be worn on short strings, tightly wrapped around the neck. Glass beads - imitation pearls or crystals - were worn as well; in the 20th century - brittle dętki (little baubles of blown glass), threaded on longer strings, were worn as well.

In the interwar period, through the agency of the writings published by Proświta Education Society, stylised, Ukrainian, cross-stitch embroidery became fashionable among the Lemkos who considered themselves Ukrainians; this type of embroidery was used to decorate festive costume parts, especially men’s shirts and women’s blouses, as well as women’s narrow aprons (zapaski) with tassels at the bottom.

Casual clothing  

Just like in the other Carpathian and Subcarpathian groups, in Lemkivshchyna, on a daily basis worn were old, shabby, repeatedly mended or altered festive garments - especially ones made of thicker fabrics (cloth). Linen clothes were also handmade by women from worse-quality (coarse, unbleached) homespun. In summer, for field work and household chores, men used to wear linen and linen-hemp trousers of homespun, coarse linen; long, linen shirts with narrow trimming around the neck, which were sometimes left outside (after the laska, that is Lach, fashion) the linen gacie (trousers) and girded around with twine. Even in summer, old men would often wear old, cloth, repeatedly patched chołośnie (trousers). From the beginning of the 20th century, dark-coloured, shabby waistcoats were frequently worn; they were made of cajg, had V-necks, were fastened with buttons, and were bought in town. In summer, in the farmyard it was customary to walk barefoot, in the field - kierpce were worn. In the north of the region, straw hats were quite often worn, while in other parts, old, shabby, felt hats were used. In winter, on a daily basis, old hunieczuchy and chołośnie, sheepskin serdaczki (jerkins) and coats were worn. For work in the forest, patched, hand-woven, woollen rukawycie z jednym paluchem (mittens) were worn.

In summer, on a daily basis, women would wear homemade, linen blouses, and dark-dyed, linen skirts and zapaski. For work in the field, they would wear white, linen kerchiefs. In cold weather, they used to wrap up in old shoulder wraps. In winter, they would wear old huńki of dark-coloured, homespun cloth or sheepskin jerkins (serdaki) put on top of katanki (cropped jackets). They would also dress in cheaper, woollen shawls, sometimes two of them at a time, the bottom one covering the head, with the ends crossed on the bosom and tied at the back. The top one was folded into a triangle, flung over the shoulders and secured at the front with hands. In summer, on a daily basis, women would commonly walk barefoot, while in winter, if they were leaving home, they would put on old kyrpci over woollen footwraps.


Maria Brylak-Załuska


Maria Brylak-ZałuskaDawna Sądecczyzna – Łemkowie (wybrane zagadnienia z kultury materialnej) [The Old Sącz District – the Lemkos (A Selection of Material Culture Issues)], Nowy Sącz 2010; Do cerkwi, do miasta, na tańce – tradycyjny strój Łemków, rusińskich górali karpackich [For Orthodox Church, For a Visit to the Town, For Dancing – Traditional Attire of Lemkos, Ruthenian Carpathian Highlanders], Nowy Sącz 2002; Maziarska wieś Łosie [The Tar-Making Village of Łosie], Kraków 1984; Michał OleśniewiczDola Łemka –wspomniena [The Fate of the Lemko - Reminiscences]Legnica 2009; Roman ReinfussŚladami Łemków [The Lemko Traces], Warszawa 1990; Łemkowie jako grupa etnograficzna [The Lemkos As an Ethnographic Group], Sanok 1998; Zarys kultury materialnej ludności łemkowskiej dawnego „kresu muszyńskiego” [An Outline of the Material Culture of the Lemko People on the Former “Muszyna Edge”], Materiały Muzeum Budownictwa Ludowego w Sanoku [Materials of the Museum of Folk Architecture in Sanok], no. 34, Sanok 1998.