Women’s Kraków attire from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries
Women’s Kraków attire was exceptionally diverse, and it would be difficult to carry out, on the basis of any of its parts, as in the case of men’s attire, a clear division into western and eastern Cracovians. The main elements that distinguished the women’s attire, were, first of all, the embellishment and cut of the corsets and the manner of tying the headscarves. However, also at this level, we can notice significant differences between neighbouring parishes and even villages. The richest attires occurred in the wealthy villages on the northeastern and northern outskirts of 19th-century Kraków – in Mogiła, Pleszów, Bieńczyce, Branice, and Bronowice, which today are mostly within the city borders. In addition, the cut, embellishment, colouring, and material from which the corsets were sewn, had changed over time. An interesting example here is the older and newer corset type from Bronowice, which, for some time at the turn of the century, coexisted in the same area.
|Women’s costume from Bronowice, beginning of 20th century|
The presented women’s attire from Bronowice dates back to the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and was a festive dress, worn to church and during ceremonies. The corset was the most characteristic and also the most distinctive element of women’s attire (see photos above). In the villages to the west of Kraków, among others in Bronowice, the older types of corsets, sewn from navy-blue cloth, ending at the waist, with overlapping pieces of cloth called kaletki, were widespread. The whole was lined and trimmed with red cloth, and, on the fronts, decorated with braiding and buttons made of nacre or brass. Corsets with kaletki appeared in Bronowice in the 2nd half of the 19th and early 20th century. This corset was mostly worn with square-cut shirts with a collar, which were later replaced by shirts with a yoke without a collar. Shirts were sewn from white factory homespun linen and were decorated on the yoke, along the cut at the front, and on the cuffs with embroidery of geometric and floral motifs. The padding and, at the same time, the clasp of the shirt was a clip with a coral or a red ribbon, put through the buttonholes. When wearing festive attire, women also put on coral necklaces (most often in the number of three), crowned with a brass isosceles cross. Real corals — not available to everyone because of the high price — were replaced with artificial ones, mostly made of bread. Feminine rings with a coral gem set directly on the wedding ring or with a coral set on a plate, surrounded by little decorative stones, were a beautiful complement to the jewellery. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, large, ankle-length, sewn from linen chintz, printed in small floral patterns, satin, smooth wool, and silk damask skirts were worn. Skirts with flowered tibet (thin worsted wool fabric of sheep or Tibetan goats made with twill weave) had become popular in feminine Kraków costumeat the end of 19th century and are one of its most characteristic elements. For the skirts, mainly green, black, or white materials were used, the most popular of which was tibet printed in motifs of carmine roses. Usually, several skirts were worn one on another, especially in winter. Underneath, a bottom skirt (petticoat) was worn, made of white linen, trimmed at the bottom with lace or with embroidered notched cloth. On the skirt, a zapaska (apron), made of various materials, which patterns and colours usually correlated with the skirt, was put on. Mostly, it was made of tibet, white linen, or tulle. The Kraków aprons were long and loose, covering the front, sides, and also some part of the back of the skirt. Richer housewives wore leather pouches hanging on a strap under the aprons. As a cover coat, large shoulder shawls were commonly worn. The most popular type in the 2nd half of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century were woollen scarves called oknowate from the chequered pattern. Scarves had a chequered pattern in red, white, green, and navy blue. On colder days, women also put on kaftaniki (katanki) or navy-blue folk jackets. The headdress of married women was a headscarf tied in a bonnet, and for every day attire:red or white patterned chintz scarves; and for special occasion: white, linen, or tulle, with intricate embroidery. Since the end of the 19th century, colourful head scarfs, usually tied at the back of the head, have become popular in the attire of married women and girls. Footwear consisted of black boots with Hungarian uppers, densely ribbed at the ankle, decorated with lockstitch, and sometimes red safique leather.
|Women’s shoes hungarian style , 20th century|
The unique beauty of Bronowice women’s costumes, manifested in their colours, rich ornamentation, and unique form, were appreciated by the artists of Young Poland. During the 1880s, a group of painters dealing with painting connected with rural life emerged in Kraków. Among them were Włodzimierz Tetmajer, Wincenty Wodzianowski, Kasper Żelichowski, Stanisław Radziejowski, and Ludwik De Laveaux, who, in their paintings, portrayed events from the life of the village and residents in festive costumes. The popularity of the subject has been recorded by Stanisław Wyspiański in his drama The Wedding, inspired by the authentic wedding of the poet Lucjan Rydel with the daughter of a wealthy peasant from Bronowice: Jadwiga Mikołajczykówna. The artists’ recognition of the Bronowice costume among the great diversity of Kraków costumes can be connected, on the one hand, with the direct proximity of the village itself to Kraków, and, on the other, with the fact that it belongs to the parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Therefore, every day, people from Bronowice were seen in Kraków characteristic attire, arriving at the market, and on Sundays and holidays dressed more festively, hurrying to the church on the Market Square. The most inspiring spectacle, however, had to be weddings, when, as Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński describes:
“People of Bronowice (...) go along the long Karmelicka street, through the entire Kraków Market, they drive up to the St. Mary’s church in those peasant wagons loaded with white sukamnas, fabulously colourful corsets, kerseys, wreaths, caps in the assistance of boisterous groomsmen on horses, creating a picture gripping with its game of colours and the vibrant fantasy”.
Paintings of this kind could not be neutral to painters who were studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, located near the market, or others which were cooperating with it. At the beginning of the 20th century, “Kraków fashion” also appeared in the folk costumes of other Polish regions, in the meaning: colourful, decorative, rich, and, at the same time, equally frequent became the participation of so-called male or Kraków’s female celebrating church and state celebrations. In the inter-war period, corsets from the stalls in Kraków’s Sukiennice, made of black velvet and decorated with multi-coloured sequins, became widespread throughout the country. Although they did not have an equivalent in traditional clothes from Kraków, they were known as “Kraków’s.” At that time, the model of the girls’ ”Kraków costume”, being a free adaptation of traditional patterns, was shaped and continues to this day. Next to a black corset with sequins and ribbons on the shoulders, there were: a white blouse with a ruffle, a flowery skirt, a tulle apron sewn with ribbons, colourful glass beads, and a wreath made of artificial flowers. In the 20th century, Kraków’s costume became an occasionally used costume; as a national and ceremonial costume it was worn during state, church, and folk festivities. In turn, for Polish emigrants it was and still is a symbol of attachment to their homeland. Nowadays, a Kraków women’s outfit basically appears as a costume and often deviates substantially from the authentic costume. Nowadays, the children’s version is the most popular in culture, worn by girls during state and religious celebrations, as well as being a carnival costume across Poland.
Regarding the example of a women’s outfit from Bronowice, we can follow the functions of clothing in the rural community, and then their transformation and shifts. The most important in the context of the festive outfit were: a festive or formal function, then aesthetic one, thanks to which it was noticed widely outside the rural community, and ceremonial, in the case of such celebrations as weddings, when the distinctive elements were added to the festive outfit, to mark out individual persons, such as the groom and the bride or best man. Other functions were associated with the manifestation of national or regional identity, and, in some cases – with emphasizing their local identity related to a given parish or village. In addition, the costumes reflected state affiliation, because their completion required large financial outlay, and not everyone could afford richly decorated and original elements. In the case of a festive outfit, the practical function was of the least importance, and, in some cases, the individual parts of the outfit had no practical significance. Over time, we could observe the passing of certain elements from everyday to festive outfits, and then to a ceremonial one. In the broader historical context, using the example of the Kraków costume, we can trace the transformations of the function of the entire outfit, which changed from regional to national dress, changing the function from ceremonial to representative and devoid of the symbolism attributed to it in the context of the rural community.
Elaborated by Ewa Rossal (The Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved