Unia Europejska
Szczawnica Highlanders

Szczawnica Highlanders

The Festive and Casual Clothing of the Szczawnica Highlanders

In respect of its cut and design, the folk costume worn by the Szczawnica Highlanders is most similar to the Spiš costumes. At the end of the 19th century it was influenced by the Podhale fashion, and the ethnographic group of the Sącz Highlanders effected some changes in the portki embroidery.Men’s attire borrowed many elements from the Austro-Hungarian military uniforms. Given this manifold influence, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Szczawnica came to be a thriving centre of a new fashion based on Spiš, Podhale and Sącz (mainly embroidery) elements, thereby hindering the expansion of the Podhale style in the direction of the Pieniny mountains. The festive costume used to be worn for church, on holidays, while attending church fairs and family events. When it was old and tattered, it was worn for work around the farmstead.

Elements of women's costume

Chustka (a kerchief) - also called smatka, worn above all by married women, irrespective of the season of the year. The oldest kerchiefs were made of thin, homespun linen, which was rarely woven. They were called rąbkowe. They were worn over mob caps, to complement the festive costume. Dyed kerchiefs with hand-made batik prints appeared in the second half of the 19th century. Then, there appeared kerchiefs called tybetki (made of fine woollen fabric) and jedwabki (of silk) with or without tassels, with floral motifs. In winter or foul weather, thick, checked, woollen wraps were flung over the shoulders; they were called łodziwacki or kazimirkule.

Czepiec (a mob cap) - a kind of close-fitting cap covering the ears with a tooth-shaped flap over the forehead. It was secured with a ribbon wrapped around the head. It was made of dyed, hand-imprinted linen, and later on - of flowery tybet, percale, satin. It was decorated with haberdashery binding, sometimes with trzepiótki (spangles). The 1920s witnessed an advent of mobcaps with flat, circular tops, crocheted of cotton thread with white, red and green, crosswise pinstripes.

Fartuch - a woman's petticoat worn under the skirt, made of white linen.

Gorset (a bodice) - made of various textiles, the oldest ones were made of factory-made cloth called anglija, in two colours: red and green. They were fastened with brass buttons. Kaletki were overlapping, rectangular flaps. In the last decades of the 19th century, embroideries in the shape of horizontally arranged triple pętlice (loop-like patterns) appeared around the holes and buttons. At the beginning of the 20th century, bodices began to be made of plain silk and flowery, woollen tybet fabrics. The cut changed: kaletki got smaller, semi-circular and more densely placed; the place of buttons was taken by eyes through which threaded was a fastening ribbon. Before the First World War silk bodices began to be made; they were mainly black, decorated with colourful satin stitch with wild flower and rose motifs, additionally embellished with spangles and, along the seams, krepina (factory-made, zigzag tape).

Kaftan - (katanka) - an outer garment, a kind of loose-fitting, narrow-waisted, hip-length blouse with long sleeves, originally made of fabric covered with modry druk (cornflower-blue print), and later on - of shop materials, mainly percales. It used to be worn by well-off, married women.

Kamizelka - (lajbik) - a jerkin introduced into women’s costume in the interwar period. It was made of blue cloth; at the front it had a pointed cut, no collar, two little pockets in the front sections. Along the edges and on the pockets, it was decorated with embroidery, just like men’s waistcoats.                                                                                         
Coral beads (red, genuine) - strings of coral beads called wojki, made of large, almost round beads, had to tightly wrap around the neck. They were tied, at the back, with a ribbon of a colour matching the one used to lace up the bodice. A little cross or religious medallion was a distinctive ornament of the coral beads; customarily, it was a gift from the godmother and was suspended from the longest string of beads.                       

Koszula (a shirt) - the oldest shirts were made of white, homespun linen, densely tucked around the neck and on the cuffs. There was no collar. The shoulders and cuffs featured red smużki called przyrąbki, which were set in the linen while weaving on the loom, or they were woven separately and sewn onto the sleeves. The beginning of the 20th century witnessed an advent of fashion for shirts made of factory-made, cotton fabric, with ruffles around the neck and wrists, decorated with white damask stitch with floral motifs and edged with hemstitch.                                           

Kożuch (a skeepskin) - of white-tanned skins, knee-length, decorated with appliqués of colourful saffian leather (fine, soft, dyed goatskin). Seams were covered with white saffian leather interwoven with red and green thongs in a square pattern. The edges of the sleeves, the front part and the standing collar were trimmed with black fur called opryma. The 20th century brought a fashion for short sheepskins reaching below the hips, and serdaki (jerkins), which originally were white-tanned, and in time began to be dyed brown. They were decorated with appliqués of saffian leather and colourful embroidery.

Footwear - on a daily basis, in summer it was most usual to walk barefoot; in winter, kołcony - flat shoes - were worn; they were made of homespun cloth and laced up over bare feet.

Kierpce - were a type of footwear used on festive occasions, worn over a white, linen onucka (a footwrap), or a woollen stocking with white and black stripes.Kierpce of the more ancient type were made of one piece of leather stitched together with a thong running from the toe to the heel, in a technique called kostka (a square pattern made up by interwoven thong). They were secured on feet with nawłoki (thick cords twisted out of several woollen threads or a thong).

Leather, calf-length boots - of a Hungarian type, of black leather, with stiff uppers with two seams on the sides, at the top trimmed with a strip of red saffian leather. They were a bit looser around the ankle, had a small heel (3cm) with a metal sole and a pointed front end.

Calf-length cloth boots - called sukniaki, made of homespun cloth, white, brown, black or grey, with a flat, leather sole. The toe and the heel are finished with grain leather, fastened at the back with a row of leather straps with metal buckles arranged along the whole upper.

Rańtuch - also called płachta, a kind of shoulder wrap worn to complement the festive costume. It used to be made of homespun linen approx. 2 metres long, decorated at the ends with crosswise pinstripes of red kanafas. There were also rąbkowe rańtuchy (plural of rańtuch) made of homespun linen woven more thinly than tulle. The next years saw an introduction of rąbkowe (fine homespun) wraps made of tulle, decorated with factory-made patterns; the most highly prized ones were the ones featuring a “tree of life” (the paradisal tree with a motif of birds).

Skirt - originally made of homespun linen, long and ankle-length. Highland women would complement the festive outfit with striped kanafaski (skirts) made of homespun linen manufactured on four-harness looms. On the oldest ones there was a predominance of white with red and blue stripes; later on, the red colour became the dominant one with white pinstripes. Another type was represented by the navy farbanice (or tocenice) skirts, decorated with white-blue print, ankle-length, often trimmed at the bottom with binding, the so-called miotełkaszczoteczka, which was added to protect it from wearing through. At the beginning of the 20th century skirts of thin, woollen fabric called tybet began to be made.The length would in time get shorter and shorter, reaching the knees. On a daily basis, skirts of fabrics cheaper than tybet were worn, mainly daintily-patterned or plain percale.

Zapaska - a kind of apron worn at the front, over a skirt. The oldest ones were made of white, homespun linen; later on - of navy-dyed linens covered on both sides with cornflower-blue print. Later on, they were made of muslin, tulle, and for everyday use - of percale.

Elements of men’s costume

Bielizna (underwear) - in winter, gacie made of linen or hemp fabric were worn under cloth portki.They were loose-fitting. In summer, they were an element of everyday outfit, but they also served as a basic garment worn by little boys and adolescents.

Cuchagunia - an outer garment with sleeves, made of thick, fulled cloth. The original cuchy (plural of cucha) were in two colours: white and dark brown. They were loosely flung over the shoulders or on one arm only, after the fashion of Hungarian hussars. They had standing collars and a thigh-length, brass chain fastening. On the chest they were decorated with red, cloth appliqué, the so-called korona (a crown), and the edges featured insets. The collar was covered with blue cloth, which was trimmed with two-colour border. The turn of the 19th and 20th centuries saw an advent of short gunie (plural of gunia) called kurtki(jackets), which in length would sometimes reach the hips. They were decorated with colourful, horizontal, regularly spaced embroideries featuring various motifs of smrecek (a little spruce) and krzyżyk (a little cross), a border of red stitch called pasieka, placed on the right side of the slit and on the standing collar.   
Czapka (a cap) - a type of winter woollen headwear, made of lambskin covered with blue or red cloth. It had a circular dome with a woollen pompom, a black, fur border that could be lowered to cover the ears and the nape of the neck. Caps covered with red cloth, worn by commune leaders and wealthy farmsteaders, were particularly stately. Lejbik (a waistcoat) - made of factory-made cloth of a blue colour called by highlanders siwy (silver-grey). Old, sedate farmsteaders used to wear black waistcoats. The oldest ones were converted Austrian military uniforms or patterned thereon. Their distinctive feature were two rows of brass buttons sewn on the two front sections; the buttons were arranged in three groups, had horizontal tabs and a red inset running along all the waistcoat edges. Another old archetype was constituted by the waistcoats that were related to the Spiš costume; they were short, made of navy cloth, had a triple row of little metal buttons at the front and on the horizontal slash pockets, as they had crisscross links between the buttons; there was an embroidery running along the edges, featuring motifs of little crosses, a spiral-like ośminabaranie rogi(ram horns) in red and yellow; the back featured a floral motif. In time, the button fastening was replaced with hooks and eyes, the number of which was matched by the number of little, brass buttons sewn on for ornamental purposes only on either side of the fastening. The number of pockets was increased to four. Front embroidery was becoming richer and richer; the edges embroidered in chain stitch came to feature ośminapasieka patterns, loopy crosses, smrecki (little spruces), little hearts; later on, stylised, colourful flowers were added within szlaki z oknami (window-like patterns within the border) and all over the front and back sections. In addition, the whole of the waistcoat came to be covered with shiny spangles.

Hat - black, felt, stiff, in olden times it used to be saturated with grease, which made it waterproof. The earliest hats had circular and convex domes as well as broad, turned-up brims. They were decorated with several coils of red wool wrapped around the dome or raki, that is a broad, serrated leather strap studded with brass caps. Raki were preserved the longest on hats worn by senior shepherds (bacowie), and so this ornament came to be also known as korona bacowska (a senior shepherd's crown). At the end of the 19th century, hats began to feature a band with little, white, cut, cow bones sewn on a leather strap; at the beginning of the 20th century, under the influence of the Podhale fashion, the bones came to be replaced with cowrie shells from the Adriatic Sea.

Koszula (a shirt) - a festive shirt was made of thin, white homespun linen. It had a slit under the chin, fastened with a red ribbon. On the chest, the slit was held together with a brass clasp. The collar was vertical and turned down. The sleeves were gathered around the cuffs, decorated with a single, red stripe. On a daily basis, longer shirts were worn; they were thoroughly greased to be protected against wetness, and (as it was believed) against vermin (insects).

Kożuch (a sheepskin) - used to be made of white-tanned skins trimmed with black goatskin trimming called opryma, sometimes of alternating black and white. It was knee-length. It was decorated with saffian leather strips and colourful thongs along all the seams and the slit edge on the front, as well as appliqués of red saffian leather in the shape of tulips and rosettes. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries this type of sheepskins was superseded by short, unadorned, brown-tanned ones.


Buty z cholewami (calf-length boots) - made of black-tanned leather, with a Hungarian cut, were worn to complement the festive costume by well-off farmsteaders and farmhands. They were worn over trousers, with legs tucked inside the uppers.

Buty sukienne (cloth boots) - called sukniaki, or kapce, were worn in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. They were made of thick, black, grey, brown or white cloth on a flat, leather sole. They were flat, ankle-length and laced up at the front.

Kierpce - were originally made of cowhide or pigskin, the so-called kierpce spyrcane. They had rounded toes and were stitched over the toes with an interwoven thong (w kostkę), laced up with a nawłoka - a long, leather strap. The oldest type of kierpce was unadorned. At the beginning of the 20th century, soled, Podhale-style kierpce began to be worn; they were made of dark-dyed leather and had pointed toes. They were decorated with embossed patterns imprinted with a stamp, and additionally with brass buttons.  

Pasy (belts) - made of leather, two kinds: one served the purpose of supporting portki, the other was called opasek. The former one was 2 metres long and approx. 5 cm wide; it was threaded through the hem called zagibek - the upper edge of the trousers turned under and sewn - and the remaining part was wrapped around the hips so that it would loosely hang down to mid-buttocks; it was decorated with metal studs, which were often made of old coins or military uniform buttons.

Opaski (plural of opasek), which were also called bacowskie or zbójnickie pasy (senior shepherds’ or brigands’ belts) were made of double leather. They were up to 30 cm in width, fastened with 3 or more brass buckles, wrapped completely around the waist. Their function was to safeguard against danger, as well as to provide some place in which to hide money and documents, as they had pockets with covering flaps. They were covered with embossed embellishments, plaiting and studs. They were worn by well-off farmsteaders and senior shepherds (bacowie) as well as those who performed important functions in the village. 

Rękawice (gloves) - made of wool and leather. Both kinds of gloves were in fact mittens. The woollen ones had two or three, white and red, horizontal stripes.  

Serdak (a jerkin) - a short sheepskin without sleeves, worn both in summer and in winter. In summer and foul weather, it was worn with the fleece out, while in winter and on dry days - the other way round. It was made of light-coloured, undyed sheepskin, trimmed with black fur along the edges. It was decorated with strips of white saffian leather, interwoven with square-patterned colourful thongs. Along the edges of the front sections, the serdak was decorated with red or navy ośmina stitch, and sometimes pasieka. At the end of the 19th century a fashion for brown-dyed, Podhale-style sheepskins set in.

Spodnie (trousers) - called portki, were made of thick homespun and fulled cloth, had one przypór (a slit) above the right groin, covered with a cloth flap called zalatac. The oldest type of trousers would tightly fit around the legs, were quite short (ankle-length), scarcely adorned except for a thin, red border around the przypór and a red inset along the leg seams. In the second half of the 19th century trouser legs became much more loose-fitting, and the so-called przyporek, a slit in the bottom sections, appeared; a little pocket was added above the left-side groin. At first, embroidery was added around the przypora, in the form of little ornamentation called krzyżyk, in red or navy. In time, under the influence of the fashion borrowed from the Sącz Highlanders, the place of krzyżyk was taken by a heart-shaped ornament called sercówka. In the bottom sections of the trouser legs, embroidery concentrated around the przyporek. At first, only in one, front part, but later on in both parts. In time, a second pocket was added, and under both of them - embroidery of three, symmetrically placed and stylised flower buds. The side stripes along the seams were enlarged, the inset was doubled, and a red stitch called pasieka was added on either side of it.

Sukmana (an overcoat) - a kind of long, heavy, knee-length overcoat with long, straight sleeves. It was made of homespun in two colours: white and dark brown. It was fastened under the chin with a coloured ribbon, worn like a cucha - flung over the shoulders with no arms in the sleeves - decorated with appliqués of red cloth: the bottom sections of the sleeves featured flaps called chajtasy; on the right-hand section and above the waistline: a koronacomposed of 3 to 5 tooth-like flaps.

Zapiąstki (also napiąstki - wristbands) - a kind of additional, close-fitting wristbands worn over shirt wrists. The oldest ones were made of wool with black and white stripes. In time, they were replaced with zapiąstki made of cloth in the colour matching the one of the waistcoat, and covered with colourful embroidery. They were fastened with hooks and eyes. In the 1930s zapiąstki began to be knitted of multicoloured wool with horizontal pinstripes. 


Fajka (a pipe) - it had a short, bent stem and a clay bowl with a lid clad in brass or pakfong sheet with embossed ornamentation.

Juhaska - also called ciupaga - a cane with an iron head, which in the Pieniny Mountains was mainly carried by farmhands.

Kapciuch (a tobacco pouch) - a kind of bag made of a pig’s bladder (machorzyna).

Palica - a cane of juniper wood semi-circularly bent at the top and carried by old farmsteaders.

Spinka (a clasp) - originally made of brass and copper, was used to fasten the shirt under the chin. The oldest clasp types were rosette-shaped, later ones - polygonal with rounded edges, finally - heart-shaped.

Torba skórzana (a leather bag) - called a Liptov bag, decorated with embossed ornamentation, semicircular, with a long strap, with a flap fastened with metal buckles.

Torba z samodziałowego pasiaka (a bag of striped homespun) - made of striped linen, with a long strap, brown, grey or black, decorated with tassels twisted out of yarn.


Barbara Alina Węglarz


Roman ReinfussStrój Górali Szczawnickich [The Costume of the Szczawnica Highlanders], Atlas Polskich Strojów Ludowych [An Atlas of Polish Folk Costumes], Lublin 1949; Barbara A. WęglarzStrój [Costume], [in:] Kultura ludowa Górali Pienińskich [The Folk Culture of the Pieniny Highlanders], Kraków 2014