Unia Europejska
Ochotnica Highlanders

Ochotnica Highlanders

The costume of Ochotnica Highlanders


The people inhabiting the villages of Tylmanowa, Ochotnica Dolna and Ochotnica Górna are referred to as Ochotnica Highlanders.

Tylmanowa, which is located in the Dunajec river valley, between the Gorce and Sącz Beskids slopes, was established in the 14th century, and settled by the ethnically Polish people, who used to work in agriculture. Ochotnica, which is located in the valley of the Ochotnica river, a right-bank tributary of Dunajec, and is on three sides surrounded with the Gorce range slopes, was the first village in Poland to be founded under the Wallachian law. This is certified by the foundation charter issued by King Władysław II Jagiełło to founder Dawid Wołoch in 1416.

The immediate vicinity of Ochotnica Highlanders is inhabited by Łącko Highlanders, Pieniny Highlanders, as well as people dwelling in villages under a strong influence of Podhale. In the past this small area remained under a significant cultural sway of these groups.

The physiographic conditions influenced the type of economy pursued here. Flax was grown here, as it was an important raw material used to produce homespun linen for domestic purposes. The cereals grown in Ochotnica Górna – oats and barley – yielded poor crops, and so animal husbandry was an important part of farming here, with particularly large numbers of sheep collectively pastured in mountain meadows. Ochotnica Dolna and Tylmanowa offered better conditions for cultivation, but herding played a crucial economic role here as well. In the end, it became an important source of culture for this region, having an effect on many of its fields of activity, including the local dress.

The Ochotnica Highland costume bears a close resemblance to the costumes worn by other ethnographic groups inhabiting the Carpathians. Men’s attire was composed of a linen shirt and linen trousers (worn in summer), cloth portki and a cloth outer garment called gurmana, as well as a felt hat. Pelts were used to make jerkins, sheepskins, belts and kierpce.

Women’s ancient outfits used to be made of locally-produced materials as well. Linen fabrics were used to make blouses with a kind of sewn-in petticoat called nadołek or spodek, as well as skirts, aprons, headscarves and shoulder wraps worn outside home. Garment elements made of hide included jerkins, sheepskins and kierpce.

The festive costume worn by Ochotnica Highlanders developed in respect of ornamentation and cuts in a particular manner in the period between the end of the 19th century and the Second World War. In it, one can distinguish two stages: the first one, when the whole area in question was dominated by the so-called “old ochotnicko fashion”, and the second one, when all of Ochotnica and most of Tylmanowa, particularly in the case of men’s attire, gave in to the Podhale fashion or – to a lesser degree – the influence of the Łącko Highland costume. The transitional period between the two stages spans the years between the end of the 1910s and the end of the First World War.

Men’s festive shirts used to be made of thin homespun linen, and sometimes of machinemade linen or cotton material. They had an oblong poncho cut and cuffless sleeves, the ends of which in time came to feature narrow trimmings, which also appeared around the neck. Shirts of the more ancient type were decorated with dainty geometrical patterns on the front, along the slit. Further changes in the shirt cut included an introduction of a yoke and a collar. At the beginning of the 20th century Ochotnica Highland shirts more and more closely resembled shirts worn by Podhale highlanders. On the chest they were fastened with Podhale-style brass clasps.

Ochotnica Highland trousers, called portki, were made of white homespun cloth. At the waist they featured a broad placket, through which threaded was a leather belt. Their original cut was such that the ankle-length legs were uniformly wide throughout the length. However, their appearance would change under the influence of the incoming fashions. The cut of the trousers worn by the highlanders of Tylmanowa and Ochotnica Dolna used to be patterned on the Pieniny variety, with loose-fitting legs and gussets at the back. Originally, Ochotnica Górna dwellers would wear wide-legged trousers, but under the influence of the Podhale fashion, they began making them narrower around the calf, and trim the bottom edges with the socalled kłapy – slits covering the instep.

The first portki embroideries were U-shaped and made around the przypory, that is the vertical slits running from the waist down to the groin. The embroideries were made in “janina” stitch (krokiewka – chevron), or they were motifs of little red circles with dots inside. They were also decorated with appliqués of red and blue twisted strings, which in time evolved into the so-called klucka, that is pętlica (a loopy pattern.) The side seams were covered with string stripes. The ones at the thighs were decorated with a motif that in Ochotnica Dolna was called “psie uszy” (dog’s ears) or kurnytki. In time, the little loop under the przypór took on the rhomboidal shape and the name śpic or śpicka. Under the Podhale influence, the colours of the decorative strings changed to navy blue or black. Of particular note is the motif of flower belonging to the genus cinqueofoil, which is regarded as the most characteristic of this region. At the beginning of the 1920s it was supplanted by the motif of the Podhale parzenica with rich flowery trimmings. At the same time, Tylmanowa saw the rising popularity of the socalled sercówka motif, which came from Łącko Highlanders and Pieniny Highlanders.

The local cloth outer garments, which were called here gurmanas, had an oblong poncho cut, with typical gussets sewn in in the bottom parts. Gurmanas were available in two colours. The older, white ones were trimmed with two, twisted strings, which in Ochotnica were red and navy blue, and in Tylmanowa – red and yellow. Under the influence of the Podhale fashion, they began to be decorated with a wide braid of green cloth, a broad band of which covering the back of the neck was colourfully embroidered. At the front, the chest featured realistic floral embroidery in the form of bunches of roses or other flowers, also including stemless carline thistles. Called “black,” brown gurmanas appeared as an element in men’s attire only at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries; they were decorated with border made of layered strips of thin, red cloth.

Under the influence of the Hungarian fashion, and later the Podhale one, jerkins and sheepskins were dyed different shades of brown. They were decorated with appliqués of saffian leather and wool embroideries. The outer edges of the jerkin and sheepskin were trimmed with fur, and some jerkins were embellished with coloured, woollen pompoms symmetrically fixed along both the halves of the jerkin. Men used to wear all manner of belts made of cowhide. A broad belt, which engirdled the lower back and belly, and was fastened with 3-4 buckles, was called sros in the local idiom. It was decorated with embossed-leather motifs and metal studs. Apart from the sros, the Ochotnica Highlanders would also wear medium-breadth belts decorated all over with metal buttons, fastened with hooks and eyes sewn on the inside of the belt. The most narrow type of belt was around 2 metres long. It was threaded through the trouser edging and wrapped around so that the part decorated with metal buttons or coins hung loosely on the hips. The customary type of footwear were kierpce, which were made of one piece of cowhide. The oldest way of making kierpce was by threading a narrow leather thong through slits in the leather in a manner creating an alternating check pattern called “w kostkę.” Kierpce leather thongs were wrapped around and over the trousers. At the beginning of the 20th century a fashion for Podhale-style kierpce appeared in Ochotnica. This type of footwear was worn over linen footwraps called onuce. Socks, hand-knitted or made of thin woollen cloth, were used interchangeably with onuce. Only well-off Ochotnica dwellers could afford boots with uppers.

As a complement to the festive attire, men used to wear black, felt hats decorated with little brass chain, red string with kistka (a tassel) or Podhale-style kostki, that is cowrie shells.

Like in the other regions, women’s attire would more easily give in to change. In the early 20th century, linen blouses, which around the neck and on the sleeves had narrow trimming, and under the chin were tied with a red ribbon, came to be enriched with ruffs or small collars. In time, the latter ones would grow so big as to cover the whole shoulders. The uncovered area of the blouse used to be all over decorated with broderie anglaise. The most characteristic decorative motifs included dziewięciorniki (bog-stars) and roses. White, linen petticoats called fartuchy were decorated in a similar manner. Over them, women used to put skirts, which were originally made of naturally-coloured homespun linen, while as of the mid-19th century the linen was dyed and decorated in the batik technique. The first decades of the 20th century saw a rising fashion of skirts made of monochromatic, cotton and woollen fabrics. They were long, very ample and richly gathered. They were often decorated with several horizontal tucks in the lower section, and lined with frayed binding called szczotka. The interwar period saw the advent of skirts made of tybet fabrics imprinted with dainty floral patterns. Until the 1920s a skirt used to be covered with an apron called zapaska. Young women would make zapaska aprons of white, machine-embroidered fabric, while older women would use navy-blue or black woollen cloths embroidered with colourful flowers.

It was only at the beginning of the 20th century that bodices came to be part of the Ochotnica costume. At first modestly decorated, in the 1920s, under the influence of the fashion coming in from the Sącz District and Podhale, they began to be decorated with embroidery of coloured thread or little beads.

Women used to cover their heads and shoulders with all manner of machine-made wraps. The popular type of footwear were kierpce, made in the same manner as ones worn by men. In summer, kierpce were worn on bare feet, while in winter – over hand-knitted woollen or cloth socks. Lace-up boots on Cuban heels were a costly type of footwear, which was customarily worn in towns.

After the Second World War Ochotnica Highlanders would more and more often replace traditional clothing with urban-style garments. In men’s attire portki and jerkins came to be complemented with waistcoats, jackets and shirts. As regards women’s attire, bodices and skirts persisted the longest, but they too came under the influence of urban trends. As complements to these garments, women would most often wear urban-style blouses and shoes.

Nowadays, in the area inhabited by Ochotnica Highlanders the folk costume is worn only on religious and public holidays, family occasions, during folk ensemble performances, and open-air folk culture events, which have recently become popular. There is not much difference between the Ochotnica costume and the Podhale costume. The latter one has exerted the greatest influence in Ochotnica Górna, while the costume worn in Ochotnica Dolna and Tylmanowa still features elements borrowed from Pieniny Highlanders and Łącko Highlanders.

Like in the other highland regions, the Ochotnica Highland costume, and especially its ornamentation, have become a source of manifold inspiration. Among others, liturgical vestments used in churches are designed on the basis of the traditional fabrics and ornaments.

Looking for things that one hundred years ago distinguished the local population from the Podhale inhabitants and other neighbours has become an interesting phenomenon. Local tailors more and more often draw on ancient ornamentation and cuts, which they reconstruct thanks to drawings and descriptions stored at museums. However, this is not a common practice, and such undertakings can more often than not be found only within narrow circles of local enthusiasts. Others are usually amazed and react with disbelief when they learn that such a fashion was predominant in their home region in days of yore.

Katarzyna Fiedler