Unia Europejska
Szczyrzyc Lachs

Szczyrzyc Lachs

The costume of the Szczyrzyc Lachs

The attire worn by the Szczyrzyc Lachs, which developed its most ornate form in the last quarter of the 19th century (as of the 1870s), in its character was earlier quite an archaic, modestly decorated Lach costume from the Małopolska District; its development was influenced by the interface of the Highland and Cracow cultures. For a long time, the traditional costume was chiefly made of white, homespun fabrics, mainly of hemp (which the Szczyrzyc people grew the most of because of good soil conditions), and later on also of linen, as well as homespun and factory-made cloth bought at fairs. Inspiration for ornamentation, which gave the Szczyrzyc costume recognisability and original character, came from the Cracow region, and was creatively developed by local tailors and embroiderers.


Men’s festive attire

Men's festive shirts were commonly made of thinner, well-bleached homespun linen; they were quite long, of more or less mid-hip length. They were made by professional seamstresses. They usually had an oblong poncho cut, with additional przyramki (square pieces of fabric) sewn on to reinforce the shoulders (also called a pseudo-przyramkowy cut). Quite wide, gathered sleeves had simple cuffs; a rectangular, turndown collar was tied with a red ribbon, or fastened with a homemade, thread button. On major holidays and family occasions (e.g. weddings), shirts decorated with dainty whitework and cutwork floral motifs, arranged along zanodrze (the slit on the chest), on the collar and the cuffs, were worn. Bachelor's shirts used to bear particularly beautiful ornamentation.

The oldest type of trousers - simple, wide-legged (with strząpki - tassels made of threads pulled out of the weft) ones - were worn as part of the summer festive costume; they were made of somewhat thicker hemp linen. They were complemented by shirts worn na wypust (outside the trousers), girded around with a narrow, leather belt with one buckle, the legs being tucked into the boot uppers. Fashion for such a costume, including the linen górnica worn on top and a straw hat, was preserved the longest (well into the Second Polish Republic) by old farmsteaders who, dressing like this for church, would adhere to the ancient tradition. From the 1870s, rich, married men took to wearing corne portki (navy-blue or black trousers) made of factory-made cloth and with the urban cut. They and the linen górnica (without the ornamental waistcoat) were complemented by a shirt worn outside the trousers and girded around with a belt. Men who had been released from the Austrian army would often wear siwe (greyish-blue) army cloth trousers. At the end of the 19th century the so-called dymki (trousers of white, shop drill) became popular with unmarried men living in Szczyrzyc, and later on the surrounding villages; at the front they had two przypory (slits) and a broad flap in the middle (fastened with buttons), and were decorated with modest red-thread embroidery. The shirt complementing dymkiwas always tucked in. In time, dymki caught on throughout the region, forming - along with the richly decorated kaftan (a tunic) and the waistcoat - a bachelor’s costume. In the 20th century, dymki, the Szczyrzyc drill trousers, made their way to the Lach villages in the environs of Limanowa.

Festive waistcoats worn by the Szczyrzyc Lachs, made of navy kramne (bought at kramy - fair stalls) cloth, originally used to resemble Highland and Lach waistcoats. They reached slightly below the waist, had an oval neckline and two horizontal slash pockets on the sides, covered with narrow, rectangular flaps. They were fastened with a row of convex, metal buttons, and their only ornamentation was a horizontal flap of red cloth, placed right under the neckline, fastened with two smaller buttons. They were worn over white shirts, to complement linen górnice or sukmany (overcoats).

At the end of the 19th century, in the Szczyrzyc region, along with the Cracow-style kaftany, there appeared waistcoats with a new cut, where the front parts were fashioned out of navy, kramne cloth, while the back part - out of indigo, homespun linen. After the urban fashion, the back had a short belt and a buckle; the belt was used to adjust the width. New waistcoats had semicircular, turndown collars and oblong lapels, and were fastened with densely arranged, rounded, nacre buttons. On bachelor’s outfits, the slash pocket flaps, and sometimes the lapels and collars were trimmed with red cloth, and on married men’s costumes the trimming was made of navy cloth. They also served as rich people’s clothing. Since waistcoats were worn as part of the festive attire (e.g. at weddings) to complement the Szczyrzyc kaftany (tunics), at the same time both the parts began to be richly decorated with the aid of similar techniques. The waistcoats began to feature silk thread embroidery - janina (kratka) cross stitch, chain stitch and flatlock, with additional beads and brass spangles (called szelążki). Dainty pearl buttons were sewn on for ornamental purposes as well. Decorative borders predominantly featured on the collar, the lapels (kratka, often in yellow and red), along the front slit (kratkaząbkirapkijodełka, rows of pearl buttons) and around the pocket flaps (a border in the shape of a three-pronged crown with a loop at the top; inside a jodełka with a flower). Always buttoned up, the richly embellished waistcoats would be worn under unfastened kaftany or (more seldom) under górnice.

Navy-blue, cloth kaftany of the Cracow type, without sleeves and with long, loose, overlapping flaps at the back, were introduced into the Szczyrzyc costume around the 1870s-1880s. The first tailor who began sewing them for the Szczyrzyc inhabitants and the surrounding villages was Wawrzyniec Stachowicz (who learnt his trade in Cracow), and who had been brought over by the Cistercians to work for the Szczyrzyc monastery. This “novelty” caught on and soon similar kaftan tunics began to be made for rich peasants by other tailors. Back then, the Szczyrzyc kaftany were much longer, and their ornamentation - a more modest and direct reference to the Cracow patterns. It was concentrated on both sides of the front slit (from the top to the waist), with double rows of convex, metal buttons paired up with strips of navy-blue, silk cord, thus making a spectacular “framework.” The front of the kaftan and the three-pronged pocket flaps were also decorated with coloured, silk chwościki (tassels), and all the edges were trimmed with red cloth. Most probably, it was Maciej Węgrzyn, a tailor from the village of Stróża, who had settled and worked in Wadzyń, a hamlet of Szczyrzyc, who originated some multicoloured ornamentation of richer technique and more individual character on the Szczyrzyc kaftany. His work was continued by his children - son Franciszek and daughter Helena. In time, the kaftan ornamentation was entrusted to bodice embroiderers, who enriched it with new floral motifs. Already the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries witnessed an elaborate and recognisable style of the Szczyrzyc kaftan ornamentation, which spread throughout the region, in a way becoming its showpiece. It combined - just like the waistcoats - multicoloured embroidery using silk thread (janina, flatlock, chain stitches), beads and spangles with brass buttons and nacre, buttonhole stitch trimmings with red thread, and red cloth edging. Use was made of geometrical, ornamental motifs (kratka, straight line, wave, zigzag, arches, ośminy, etc.), floral motifs (twigs, herringbone, flowers, ears of corn, etc.), as well as stars, hearts, suns. Geometrical borders of buttons, thread and bead embroidery ran around the collar, the front slit, the bottom edge and the waist. Parallel to them arranged were sometimes loose, wavy floral borders. A characteristic highlight featuring in the corners were large, hexagonal stars (more seldom flowers), at the back, under the collar - the famous Szczyrzyc serduszko (a little heart, usually bi-coloured), and at the back around the waist, over the flap ends - three, vertical, triangular drzewka (little trees) or twigs with a flower. Lavish embroidery would also run around the three-pronged pocket flaps.

The Szczyrzyc-style kaftany, along with the richly decorated waistcoat worn over the whitework shirt, dymkikarbioki (boots) and brusek (a hat), soon became a formal outfit worn by young men (as well as a festive costume worn by the groom and the best men) in the Góra św. Jana parish, and in time also the whole region, spreading to the neighbouring areas (e.g. Lachs from Dobra, Limanowa County).

płótnianka (górnica) used to be the most common festive outer garment worn by the Szczyrzyc Lachs in warm seasons of the year. It continued to be popularly worn at least until the beginning of the Second Polish Republic. It was worn even by a wedding master of ceremonies (as a complement to the kaftan) if the event was in summer. It was a kind of long coat reaching below the knees, made of homespun pacześne (of average thickness) hemp linen on a coarse lining. In Góra św. Jana, festive górnice (plural of górnica) were lined with white cloth from old sukmany (plural of sukmana) for stiffening. Płótnianki, with the oblong poncho cut (with no seams on the sleeves) had narrow waistlines, were loose-fitting from the waist down, flared with triangular gussets forming distinct folds. They had hooks and eyes sewn on at the waistline. 

At the front, on the sides, there were two vertical pocket openings trimmed with red cloth, just like all the other garment edges. The same cloth was used to line the facings of the front slit, the inside part of the standing collar and the small sleeve flaps over the hands. A sophisticated ornament of the festive górnicewere narrow borders of red janina stitch running along the top edge of the standing collar (on the outside) and a few rows of the same kind of stitch alternating with dainty appliqués of red cloth (slanting squares, serration, etc.) - by the shorter edges of the collar. Płótnianki used to be worn hanging loosely, or fastened and girded around with a decorative sros (trzos) belt.

Well-off peasants living in the Szczyrzyc Lach region, especially married, sedate farmsteaders would typically complement a świętalny (festive) and elegant outfit (e.g. the one worn by a wedding master of ceremonies) with white sukmany, which had been derived from the tradition of the Krakowiak costume. In the region in question, there were three variants of the sukmana: 1. In the central part (around Góra św. Jana) and the southwestern part a Cracow-style sukmana of the Dobczyce type used to be worn; it was decorated with black braid with a characteristic, recurrent motif of a cross. 2. In the southeastern part (e.g. in Stróża, Wilkowisko or Kostrza) widespread were above all sukmany from Dobra, decorated with red cord and dainty embroideries (janina stitch and chain stitch) in the red-blue colour scheme (with a predominance of red). 3. The third type of sukmana which caught on among the Szczyrzyc Lachs the latest (around the turn of the 19th and) was mainly dominant in the western part (but not only there) - the Cracow sukmana called chrzanówka (after the town of Chrzanów), and its variant with decorations made of black cord and black, silk chwościki (tassels).

All the white sukmany worn in the Szczyrzyc region had narrow waistlines, and from the waist down were flared with gussets, had separately-cut front and back parts, long, set-in sleeves with flaps above the hands, vertical pocket openings on the sides and quite a tall standing collar. The front parts overlapped each other in the bottom sections. The outer edges and pocket openings on all the types of the sukmana were trimmed with red cloth, which was also used to line the inside of the collar, the front facings and sleeve flaps.

Another formal outer garment worn by Szczyrzyc Lach men was a dark-coloured frock coat with sleeves called surgut in the local idiom. It was a garment of urban derivation, which appeared in the region in the second half of the 19th century. A surgut, which was long enough to reach below the knees, was made of wool called sieraczek, in the navy blue or black colour, and was wholly lined with colourful, checked fustian. The narrow, back part was cut out of a single piece of fabric, while the front parts had a broad, cut-off spodnica (a bottom section) making up two ample folds at the back, which were decorated with little buttons at the top. A surgut had a turndown collar with quite short lapels, and was fastened (only down to the waist) with two rows of horn buttons. On the sides, below the waistline, there were two, slightly slanting slash pockets. At first, a surgut was a “novelty” worn by young men, but in time it grew to be popular with older farmsteaders as well.

A sheepskin served as the winter outer garment worn by well-off men. Until the end of the 19th century, it was customary to wear long, quite loose, white-tanned sheepskins with black, ample collars hanging down the back, fastened with hide buttons and loops. Around the waist and the side seams they were decorated with appliqués of saffian plaiting in green and red, as well as coloured chwościki (tassels). They were chiefly made by furriers from Dobczyce. From the beginning of the 20th century they were gradually supplanted by a variety of shorter, yellow sheepskins.


Felt hats called bruski were the most popular type of headwear included in the traditional, festive Szczyrzyc costume; they were black, had hard, round domes and small, turned-up brims. Resembling Highland hats, they used to be worn throughout the whole belt of the Lach groups, up to the Sącz district. The Szczyrzyc Lachs would wrap around the bottom part of the dome woollen cord with red or white kutasy (tassels) at the end, later on - a black velvet ribbon. They were most ornately decorated for weddings - small, colourful rosettes (kokosiepukardki) of pleated ribbons were attached to the dome surface. Wedding best men would additionally adorn the left side of the brusek with puse, that is plumes of long rooster feathers with bunches of colourful, spangled ribbons. At the beginning of the 20th century, the old-fashioned bruski were superseded by urban-style hats, which were frequently snuff-coloured. Worn by wedding best men, they were similarly ornamented.

A traditional Szczyrzyc Lach type of headwear worn in summer, which was used by older farmsteaders as a complement to the festive costume the longest, were straw hats with quite tall domes with slightly convex or flat crowns and a bit turned-up brims. They were usually adorned with dark-coloured ribbons. In winter, it was customary to wear black sheepskin caps (called baranice) with cupolaed (of the Dobczyce type) or flat domes (of the Limanowa type).

There were three kinds of belts worn to complement the świętalny (festive) Szczyrzyc Lach costume: 
1. The most festive ones - broad, old-fashioned belts (syrokie) made of double cowhide, ornate and embellished with embossment, fastened with four thongs and circular buckles. At the top, they had a money pocket opening covered with a rounded flap (called przyklapka). They were most often worn by well-to-do, married farmsteaders (to complement dark-coloured trousers, and under an unfastened kaftan, or over a płótnianka). 2. Opaski were narrower, also made of double leather, with a pocket inside, but the pocket opening was placed by the fastening. At the tapering, stiffened ends, they were ornately decorated with brass caps, buttons and embossment. 3. Long, narrow belts called poski were worn mainly by young farmhands - bachelors. They were fastened with a rectangular, brass buckle, and the long end - hanging loosely dla parady (on formal occasions) - was studded with metal caps arranged in an ośmina pattern (a border of shapes resembling number eight), just like in the Sącz Lach region. These belts would most often complement shirts worn outside the trousers (na wypust) in the summer variety of the costume, or with dymki trousers under an unfastened kaftan.


In the Szczyrzyc Lach region it was not an uncommon occurrence, especially in summer, to be walking barefoot, even if one was clothed in festive costume. This is evidenced by a 19th-century painting depicting Saint Isidore, which can be found in the Dobra church. The saint is wearing linen trousers, a linen shirt and a navy-blue, ornate, sleeveless kaftan, while his feet are bare! In the Lach (as well as Highland) villages, boots used to be the best looked after and best-spared part of costume. Accounts of people carrying their boots to church to put them on only at the church door are galore.

The oldest type of footwear worn in the region were handmade wywrotki with wide, soft uppers and no heels; they had thick horseshoes nailed to the counters and soles. As from the end of the 19th century, the so-called węgierskie (Hungarian-style) boots were becoming popular with less well-to-do peasants in the Szczyrzyc region; they had two side seams on quite soft uppers and were worn to complement the festive costume. Rich peasants would wear elegant, ornate polskie (Polish-style) boots called karbiaki; they had stiff, calf-length uppers with seams at the back, meticulously shaped corrugation above the ankle, and were worn to complement the festive costume. The karbiaki counters were sometimes studded with little, silver nails. A more recent variety of the Polish-style boots were the so-called spuscoki - with no corrugation, but only with leather folded above the ankles; it was possible to roll it down or up to the knees.

Women’s festive attire

Ancient festive outfits worn by Szczyrzyc Lach women were of a “linen” type, as they were almost entirely made of white, homespun linen.

A blouse with long sleeves was white (originally of an oblong poncho cut, later on with a yoke); under the chin it was finished with upright serration (just like on the Cracow-style blouses), had rounded, turndown collar or a gathered ruff. The sleeves were wide, gathered around the shoulders and at the bottom, where they were set in the cuffs. The most festive blouses were decorated (at the front, on the collar and the cuffs) with elaborate, dainty, white cutwork and flatlock. The syta skirt (of the fartuch type) was the oldest type of skirt; it was almost ankle-length, wide (5-7 loom widths - półek) and richly gathered. It was decorated with white, handmade cutwork, at the bottom finished with serration with buttonhole stitch. A large, white shoulder wrap - a sheet of homespun linen flung over the shoulders - the so-called łoktusa. Married women would cover their heads with a white, tulle chusta wiązana (a tie-up kerchief), that is a mob cap decorated with floral-motif whitework.

The only colourful highlights of the ancient costume included a short, green or purple, damask bodice embroidered with floral patterns, with a narrow, box-pleat (dróbka) flounce around the waist, as well as genuine red coral beads, which used to be tied around the neck on short strings (because of their high price). The richest women used to suspend a decorative, silver cross at the bottom of the string of coral beads. A sukionka, which resembled the Cracow-style żupan (an overcoat), used to be an ancient, colourful, winter garment worn by well-to-do women to complement the festive attire. It was long, had sleeves, was made of navy-blue or dark-green cloth, padded (down to the mid-hip section) with baranek (fur), close-fitting in the upper part, flared with a number of folds in the lower part. A sukionka was fastened with cord loops and buttons; side seams, the bottom parts of the sleeves and the front sections were sometimes decorated with red appliqués or gold braid.

From the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, women would begin to wear more modern and colourful clothes. These included, inter alia, skirts of dyed fabrics (navy blue, dark blue, indigo) and hand imprinted with dainty, light-coloured patterns (the so-called durki). They were often complemented by magnificently contrasting, white, linen zapaski (aprons also called przedsobki); they were broad, hip-covering, richly tucked and decorated with white broderie anglaise. Tybetki (skirts), made of mainly green, factory-made woollen fabrics imprinted with colourful flowers, became widely popular with well-off single and young married women. It was the Krakowiaks who spread this fashion in the region. Older women were more inclined to wear plain skirts of coarse woollen fabrics. A couple of “worse-quality” skirts would still be worn underneath, but for major festive occasions (specially to complement tybetki), the serration (zęby) of the old, white syta skirt, which was worn as a petticoat, would stick out at the bottom (as decoration). Bodices would most often be made of black velvet. Instead of dróbki, they had dainty, rounded flaps sewn onto the waistline; in time they grew in size and their ends became pointed. At first, newer bodices were trimmed with szych (metal thread) or haberdashery binding; in time, colourful, flowery flatlock appeared, which during the Second Polish Republic was more and more often enriched with spangles and beads. The former sukionki (plural of sukionka) were replaced by a warm, velvet or cloth katanka (a cropped jacket); it was close-fitting down to the waist, and flared from the waist down, had sleeves, was fastened with buttons, decorated with appliqués, and later on also with bead or thread embroidery. In summer, older women used to wear claret-coloured or navy blue wizytki (cropped jackets); they were looser, made of ryps or thin, woollen fabric, decorated mainly with velvet, serrated (w zęby) appliqués.Linen łoktuse (wraps) were superseded by factory-made shoulder shawls in a variety of colours and patterns; various headscarves made of percale, sateen or wool were worn; they were often finished with tassels (strząpki). Girls would still wear their hair uncovered, plaited with an entwined ribbon; the festive costume would always be complemented with a bodice; the skirts were most commonly green- or cream-coloured, tybetkowe w róze (of tybet fabric with rose patterns). At weddings, for quite a long time, it was obligatory to wear a white, syta skirt with whitework (worn over a number of light-coloured, bottom skirts) and a white blouse with lavish whitework; instead of the ancient, damask bodice, now it was customary to wear a black, velvet, embroidered bodice and red coral beads with a flowery, Cracow-style ribbon hanging down the back. The bare head used to be adorned with rue, and later on - myrtle; the plait was entwined with a white ribbon. The bride was obliged to wear boots, at first - calf-length ones, later on - lace-up boots.

In the Szczyrzyc Lach region, both men and women would look after their boots and wear them only on special occasions. It was uncommon for any household to have enough boots to go round with everybody. Even well-off women would walk to church barefoot, carrying their shoes in their hands, and put them on only at the church gate. Outside of church and apart from any special occasion such as a family wedding, it was customary to go around barefoot on holidays. A woman who had boots would wear them mainly in winter. More often than not, they were Hungarian-style boots with soft uppers, similar to the ones worn by men. Only in very rich peasant families, housewives had festive karbiaki, with counters decorated with nails. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, thanks to seasonal workers leaving the Szczyrzyc district for Prussia, a fashion for black, Prussian, Cuban-heeled, calf-length, women's boots with uppers laced up at the front set in.

Casual clothing

For a long time, in the Szczyrzyc Lach region, clothes worn on a daily basis and for work used to be made of homespun fabrics of worse quality, mainly from natural-coloured hemp, often coarse and unbleached linens. For a long time, ordinary, linen clothing was commonly handmade by women at home (just like long kosuliny for little children). Frequently, old clothes were used for that purpose; they were altered, made and patched together of any old pieces. On a daily basis worn-out parts of the festive costume too were commonly worn . Children would wear hand-me-downs, which were altered in a makeshift manner.

Men's shirts worn for work were made of thicker, hardly bleached, homespun hemp linen; their cut was the same as the one of festive clothes. They would reach slightly above the knees; they were commonly worn na wypust (outside the trousers), were girded around with a narrow thong belt or twine. Around the neck, they had only trimming, which was tied byle skrowkiem (with any old scrap of cloth). The sleeves on work shirts were loose (and cuffless) and hemmed along the edges. They were complemented with zgrzebne portki (coarse trousers) of hemp, with wide, straight legs, originally with one przypór(a slit) on the right. In winter, poor peasants would put on two or even three pairs of coarse trousers one on top of another; well-off peasants would wear worn-out cloth trousers on top. In cold weather, a simple, dark-coloured, waist-length waistcoats sometimes used to be worn over a shirt; it was fastened with buttons, had an oval or triangular neckline, no collar or lapels. They were made of cheaper, factory fabrics (e.g. worse quality cloth called cajg). In winter, for household chores or work in the forest, padded waistcoats were worn; they had fronts overlapping each other and were fastened high under the chin. Wealthy farmsteaders would also wear short, unadorned baranie serdaczki (sheepskin jerkins). As an everyday outer garment used all year round, the most popular were linen górnice made of worse-quality homespun linen, which until the end of the 19th century was mainly hemp. In cold weather, the fronts of a górnicawere put one on top of the other, and then the górnica was girded around with a narrow, leather belt. In winter, sometimes two płótnianki (if available) were worn at one time. While taking into consideration the season of the year, on weekdays worn were also shabby sukmanysurguty, sheepskins, etc. In summer, especially for work in the field (particularly while harvesting) commonly worn were old straw hats. In winter, shabby sheepskin caps were worn. In very freezing weather, for outdoor work worn were thick mittens (rokowice z jednym paluchem), which were made of old sheepskin, pieces of cloth, or handmade of wool on wooden moulds. In summer, on a daily basis, it was customary to walk barefoot, while rich farmsteaders would sometimes wear poor-quality boots (wywrotki or węgierskie, that is Hungarian-style ones); in winter, they would pad them out with a bunch of straw. 

Women’s everyday outfit - above all included a simple, short, linen blouse with elbow-length sleeves and a linen skirt, which was narrower than the top skirts and served to hold the blouse in place around the waist. The above set of clothes was often used for sleeping too. During the day, at least two more skirts of thicker linen were worn on top; they were either light-coloured (in a natural, greyish colour) or dark-dyed by hand, and more seldom imprinted with dainty patterns (durki). For household chores, commonly worn were linen, and later on percale zapaski (aprons) in natural or dark colours (greyish, silver-grey, brownish-grey), sometimes pinstriped, spotted, etc. In the bustle around the house and farmyard, a zapaska would often serve as a dishcloth, an oven glove, and when its bottom edge was tucked behind the skirt trimming, it could double as a “pocket” called podołek. Simple stoniki (little bras) were usually worn over a blouse; they were made of grey or dyed linen on a thicker lining. For colder days, they were made of fustian or flannel. They resembled bodices, but had higher necklines, a straight edge around the waist and were fastened with “any old” buttons. In winter, thicker katanki (cropped jackets) with sleeves (originally also padded) were worn; additionally, simple, unadorned sheepskin serdaki (jerkins) were also worn on top. A thicker, woollen wrap called derówka would be worn on top. In summer, for work, white, linen kerchiefs were commonly tied around the head, while in winter - thicker, woollen ones which were crossed under the chin and tied at the back of the head. On a daily basis, women (and children) would typically walk barefoot. In winter, on weekdays, only well-off housewives would wear Hungarian-style calf-length boots. In winter, in the south of the region, leather kierpce were worn over thick footwraps.

Maria Brylak-Załuska



Elżbieta Piskorz-BranekovaPolskie stroje ludowe [Polish Folk Costumes], Part 3, Warszawa 2007; Szczyrzyc. Osiem wieków nad Stradomką [Szczyrzyc. The Eight Centuries on the Stradomka River], a collective work, Szczyrzyc 2014; Zdzisław SzewczykStrój Lachów Szczyrzyckich [The Costume of the Szczyrzyc Lachs], Atlas Polskich Strojów Ludowych [An Atlas of the Polish Folk Costumes], Kraków 2007.