Unia Europejska
Pieniny Highlanders

Pieniny Highlanders

Festive and Everyday Attire of the Pieniny Highlanders

Given the proximity of Spiš, the costume worn by the inhabitants of the Pieniny villages of Sromowce Wyżne and Sromowce Niżne is recognised as the Kacwin variety of the same type; in the interwar period, it yielded to the influence of the fashion coming from the thriving Szczawnica centre, and so it features many elements typical of the Szczawnica Highland costume. The folk costume has always been the element of the traditional peasant culture that distinguished the people of a given region from the ones of other ethnographic groups; that was the case of the Pieniny Highlanders as well. The clothes worn used to point to the wearer’s financial standing (e.g. black, calf-length boots were only worn by wealthy farmsteaders) as well as to the trade plied; they also helped establish whether they were being worn on the occasion of some holiday, rite or a wedding, when the groom and the best men would adorn their hats with ribbons and bunches of artificial flowers. The outfit also helped tell what liturgical season it was: during Lent and Advent single women would entwine black ribbons in their plaits, and men would remove all kinds of ornamentation from their hats, while during the Easter and Christmas time, women would put on white smatki (kerchiefs). In the olden days, attempts were also made to adjust the colours of kerchiefs to the colours of chasubles in keeping with the liturgical season. On holidays the festive costume was worn, while on a daily basis - an old and shabby one, which had ceased to be the festive one; everyday use also included kerchiefs, zapaski (aprons), skirts made of cheap textiles, e.g. cretonne, and footwraps.  The period of the greatest development of the folk costume came in the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Until the mid-19th century, outfits used to be made at households of all manner of available resources, mainly linen, wool and leather, and only in small measure - of factory-made materials. In time, this proportion began to change. Flax, which was commonly grown in this area, was used by highlanders to make plain-weave homespun linen. First, flax was processed on special deices called rafy, seeds were combed away, then for three weeks the stems were soaked in moczydło (a stream, a hollow filled with water), taken out and laid out to dry in the sun for another three weeks; in this way flax got wet and dry alternately. Stems were then broken in międlice to separate the woody cores from fibres, which were later on combed in szczecia. The raw material thus prepared was used to make thread on a spindle, and in later times - on the spinning wheel. For the linen thread to be white it had to be boiled in water with alder (alder mill) ash.  The thread which had been coiled into łokietki was then used to weave fabric on looms. A loom was to be found at almost every household. Finer, softer and impeccably bleached linen was used to make festive garments, while thicker linen was used to make work clothes. The latter type of clothes was supposed to protect the wearer from cold and give long service. Linen bleaching consisted in dousing it with water and turning it to expose it to the sun. More often than not, the activity was performed on stream banks. Linen was used to make skirts, zapaski, kerchiefs, underclothes, women’s, men's and children’s shirts and bedlinen. The fabrics to be used for skirts, zapaskiand kerchiefs was handed over to the dyeworks in Krościenko and Spiš. It was there that they were dyed and covered in the so-called cornflower-blue prints. This method, also known as batik, consisted in pressing wax-covered stamps all over the fabric and dyeing it with a natural indigo (dark blue) or dark green colorant. Depending on the concentration, the effect ranged from various shades of blue to navy blue with brigh-coloured patterns in places where the stamp had been pressed. In this manner fabrics were imprinted with geometrical and floral patterns, including a variety of petals, leaves, etc. The activity of dyeing linen with patterns was called tocenie, and skirts made of such linen were called tocenice or farbianki.

Another material used for clothing was wool, which was obtained from sheep, customarily sheared two times a year. It was used to make homespun cloth. The first kind of treatment that was given to wool was carding, that is combing out wool on carding brushes (called gręple), and then spinning thread. The next stage involved weaving the thread into fine cloth, which was later on fulled. The job was done by fulling workshops operating on the streams in Biała Woda and Czarna Woda, as well as in Grywałd - Kąty. The process of fulling (called spilśnianie or folowanie) consisted in soaking the fabric in hot water and beating it with stępory, as a result of which the fibres would tighten and contract, becoming covered with a felt film. Thus, cloth was becoming compact and dense. To make it thicker, it was fulled twice or even thrice. Only then was the fabric used to make portki (trousers), kurtki - short cuchy (jackets) and long sukmany(overcoats), as well as men’s and women's winter footwear. Felt (fulled wool) was used to make hats, and wool yarn - to make mittens.

Other important materials included sheep- and pigskin, which was tanned using household methods. Sheepskin was used to make serdaki (jerkins) as well as jackets and coats, while pigskin was used to make kierpceoposki (belts) and bags. In the 19th century white-tanned sheepskins came from Spiš. After the First World War, when a new national border was established, the inhabitants of the Polish part of the Pieniny were cut off from the Spiš towns, and as a result sheepskin production was undertaken by local producers, and in time sheepskins also began to be bought from Nowy Targ craftsmen. Kanafas played an important role in the traditional Pieniny costume; it was a red- and blue-coloured cotton yarn that constituted the weft of fabric. It was used to make transverse strips while weaving homespun linen to be used to sew skirts called kanafaski.Striped fabric was made on four-harness looms. On the oldest Pieniny striped clothes the predominant colour was white, while red stripes were much narrower, and the blue ones were mere pinstripes. In time, the order became reversed - the red weft became predominant, and the blue one disappeared. Kanafas used to be bought in Spiš towns and - just like in the case of white sheepskins - the moment a Polish-Czechoslovak border was established in 1920, kanafaski production was discontinued. In the period following the Second World War, the Pieniny costume - just like other traditional costumes - was quickly abandoned, the reason being easy access to urban outfits, as well as the difficulty in coming by materials necessary to produce the folk costume elements, which was caused by the decline of local crafts. Replaced by machine-made garments, everyday outfits disappeared completely, and the festive attire survived mainly owing to folk ensembles, for which particular costume elements were still sewn and embroidered. The only element of the Pieniny costume which stood firm against manifold adversity was the men’s waistcoat, which therefor became its most recognisable part. More often than not, it was the only garment that the bargees (called flisacy) offering tourists raft trips down the Dunajec would put on, casting aside the whole costume, which before the war was a prerequisite for being admitted to the Pieniny bargees’ circle. A similar condition is to be met by the bargees today, but they try to circumvent it by wearing only waistcoats and hats. However, recently wearing the complete costume has become fashionable again. In the village of Sromowce embroiderers are mainly employed in sewing and embroidering bodices, waistcoats and portki (trousers). These garments are commissioned by bargees, members of folk music bands who play for tourists at a number of inns, where the staff are obliged to wear the traditional local costumes as well. More and more often, old, modest patterns are used again; cloth bodices are sewn and decorated with loop embroidery; long skirts are making a comeback. Embroidery overload and overly shortened skirts in the period 1950s-1980s are being abandoned these days. A novel practice is to wear large shoulder shawls (today Turkish ones), which serve as a complement not only to the costume, but also to the machine-made garments.

The women's attire was composed of a short, linen, waist-length blouse with wide sleeves with ruffled ends and trimmings; the blouses used to have smużkiset in on the sleeves and cuffs, and later on edged with lace (broad - young girls; narrow - older women). A lajbik was worn over the blouse; it was a kind of bodice edged with black trimming. The turn of the 19th and 20th centuries witnessed introduction of katany, or kabatki, which in Sromowce were called reliki; they partially replaced lajbik bodices, or were worn over the lajbik. A relik is a kind of close-fitting blouse made of black velvet, and fastened with buttons. A skirt was another element of the costume; kanafoski (skirts) were worn; they were made of striped linen, and depending on the arrangement and kind of the stripes - red, blue or white ones - were called ogrodzonatęczowa or biała. In Sromowce Niżne, a well-off, single woman was allowed to get married once she had the three kinds of kanafoska. The front of the kanafoska skirt was called przodek; it was a strip of linen. Kanafoski were worn only on holidays; they were in use until the First World War. At the beginning of the 20th century there appeared monochromatic skirts made of thin wool, the so-called śtofki, which were striped or checked, as well as made of cretonne - the so-called kartonki. Skirts of coloured, flowery tybet appeared in the interwar period.

Lajbiki (plural of lajbik) were often sewn onto skirts, which as a whole were called suknia (a dress). 

zapaska (an apron) used to be worn over the skirt; it was called zakładka. Married women would wear black zakładki (plural of zakładka) rimmed with machine-made lace, the zakładki worn by unmarried women were light-coloured. On holidays, white rąbek (fine homespun linen) zapaski were worn; they were made of rarely woven linen with geometrical patterns.

rańtuch, which was a kind of shawl worn as a festive-costume complement common in the neighbouring regions, fell into disuse in Sromowce as early as the mid-19th century.

Single women used to have their heads bare and wear their plaits tied at the bottom with a coloured ribbon. Married women would pin up their plaits around a disc of wire wrapped in fabric; on their heads they wore mob caps of satin, and later on of floral tybet fabrics, trimmed with red, silk ribbon. A thin woollen kerchief called śtofka was tied over the mob cap; later on worn were kerchiefs called tybetki and kartonki. The latter ones were used most commonly, on a daily basis and for work in the field. They were tied at the back of the head. The festive śtofki and tybetki were tied after the Spiš manner called kokoska - over the forehead a protruding fold was made, the whole being folded into a triangle so that the floral motif would point downwards and the ends, having been tied, would visibly stick outwards. In cold months, older women would wrap up in checked, woollen shawls called łodziywacki; they were made of fabric called kaźmirek. At the beginning of the 20th century, it began to be used to make matching blouses and wide-pleated skirts.

The 1930s witnessed emergence of an outfit patterned on the Szczawnica fashion: black, velvet bodices with flaps, colourful embroidery with three, large bunches of flowers on the front sections and on the back; a hook and eye fastening with red ribbons. A multicoloured, floral skirt of tybet fabric - white, red, claret or green - was worn as a complement. 

Kierpce with cords of sheepskin were worn over footwraps, and on festive occasions - leather, calf-length boots with medium-sized heels. Originally, they were of the Hungarian type, with stiff uppers, later on they were laced up at the front. In winter, kołcony, or papucie, were the common type of footwear; they were flat shoes of homespun cloth, sewn on a shoemaker’s last made of wood or mangold; however, like in summer, it was customary to walk barefoot.

Men’s attire comprised a linen shirt; homespun trousers and a waistcoat, the older version of which was most often navy and decorated with only little, flat, metal buttons, while the newer version was blue and embellished with floral embroidery after the Szczawnica fashion; a brown or white sukmana (an overcoat), which was hardly embellished except for cloth trimming; a jerkin called serdak; a hat and kierpcePortki (trousers) with wide legs and a slit at the bottom (the so-called przyporek); the seams had an inset - a little piece of red cloth, which later on was enlarged and assumed the form of red-yellow-red arrangement. The trousers had one przypór - a slit above the right groin trimmed with narrow, red or navy border, which sometimes was accompanied with a loopy embellishment. In the interwar period, because of the Szczawnica fashion, embroideries around the przyporki (slits) began to be extended; the loopy embellishment close to the przypór began to disappear; two little pockets with horizontal openings appeared above the left and right groins; in time, underneath them an embroidered motif of carline thistle was introduced. The carline thistle motif appeared on zalatac, and on the sides of the side-stripe inset on the legs, below the hip. The trousers were girded around with a 2-metre-long, leather belt and broad Liptov-style belts, which were embossed and fastened with 3-4 brass buckles. With the establishment of the Polish Association of the Pieniny Bargees on the Dunajec River (1934) and the Pieniny National Park (1932), the Sromowce men employed in rafting came to be obliged to wear the traditional local costume: the blue, overly-embellished waistcoats and cloth trousers on which the embroidered motif of carline thistle became an indicator of the Sromowce variant. 

Dark-coloured jackets called kaboty began to be worn instead of sukmany.

As headwear, black, felt, Spiš-style hats were worn; they had rounded, convex domes and brims turned up high (like in Spiš). This kind of hat would often double as a handy vessel; in it, highlanders would carry spring water while working in the field, in a clearing, while hunting or travelling. Sometimes it was used as a dish for food. In winter, sheepskin caps called baranice were worn. Along with the Szczawnica fashion, little, round, Podhale-style hats appeared. Sromowce highlanders used to wear long hair slicked down with flaxseed oil.

Kierpce and kałcuny, which were often made of old, tattered trousers, were worn.

Barbara Alina Węglarz


Stanisław GóreckiWojciech GóreckiOcalić od zapomnienia Sromowce Wyżne na starej fotografii [To Save from Oblivion. Old Photographs of Sromowce Wyżne], Sromowce Wyżne 2013; Sromowce Niżne – pieniński klejnot w potrójnej koronie [Sromowce Niżne. A Pieniny Gem in the Triple Crown], ed. E MajerK. TrzońskiZ. Zając, Sromowce Niżne 1999 Edyta StarekStrój spiski [The Spiš Costume], Atlas Polskich Strojów Ludowych [An Atlas of the Polish Folk Costumes], Lublin 1949; Barbara A. WęglarzStrój [Costume], [in:] Kultura ludowa Górali Pienińskich [The Folk Culture of the Pieniny Highlanders], Kraków 2014.