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White cucha jacket, in local dialect: cucha bioła — a kind of traditional outer clothing worn by men in Podhale. The cucha jacket on display constituted an element of the Sunday best outfit. It was sewn and most likely decorated in 1966 by Czesław Styrczula-Maśniak, a well-known folk tailor from Dzianisz. A year later it was purchased for the collections of the Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane.


White cucha jacket, in local dialect: cucha bioła — a kind of traditional outer clothing worn by men in Podhale. The cucha jacket on display constituted an element of the Sunday best outfit. It was sewn and most likely decorated in 1966 by Czesław Styrczula-Maśniak, a well-known folk tailor from Dzianisz. A year later it was purchased for the collections of the Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane. Here, in the rich collection of Podhale outfits, it is an interesting document of dressmaking and embroidery art characteristic of the period after World War II. The cucha jacket distinguishes itself with its careful completion, rich but not over-sumptuous decorations, and simple and tasteful colour scheme. It is an example of good local craftsmanship.
Cucha jackets, also known as gunia, were made of home-spun line — a fabric woven of sheep yarn in a home workshop, and later subjected to felting at the village fulling mill. From the 1st half of the 20th century, they were also sewn from factory-made cloth.
The traditional outfit of Podhale inhabitants included cucha jackets of wool in a brown colour, the so-called corne, and in the white colour, the so-called biołe.
Until the1st half of the 19th century, the gunia jackets of brown cloth were more popular. On ordinary days people wore short clothes without any decorations, while on holidays they wore longer clothes scalloped with red fabric stripes. Their cut and decorations did not undergo any substantial changes. The popularity of this type of outer garment decreased only after World War II.
Initially, the white cucha jackets were worn only on ordinary days by highlanders living closer to the Tatra Mountains. These clothes, with a length reaching below the hips, were not decorated. Over time they started to be sewn with a border of twisted yarn, including at the end of the 19th century when many appliqués of thin green cloth, known as ślak (pattern) were used. The pattern decorated the clothing’s edge, its sleeves, collar and pocket cut in the front left of the chest.
The fashion for decorating cucha jackets changed their previous function. Until then they were worn only on ordinary days, but later they became an element of the holiday outfit.
The beginning of the 20th century brought further development of ornaments in the form of colourful embroidery.
Apart from the linear motifs, plant decorations became hugely popular. Embroidery covered more and more extensive patterns, the surface between them, and the spaces on the back below the cloth welt at the neck. At the front of the cucha jackets were decorations in the form of embroidered edelweiss, tulips, Parnassia, styled flowers composed on the basis of a peacock’s eyes, or finally roses. This tendency to richly decorate the highlanders’ outfit was continued after World War II.
As an element of outdoor clothing, cucha jackets were worn mostly on cold days on a shirt, or over a shirt and a vest. In this way people benefitted from the good properties of the woollen material which protected them well from the cold, wind and humidity.
They were worn in the hajtas manner — thrown on the shoulders or worn on the sleeves. They were tied at the neck with a strap, chain, or sometimes a decorative ribbon (on the occasion of the holiday).
Tied up at the bottom, the cucha sleeve was used to carry necessary items, e.g., Kuba Gąsienica Kloryk (?–1904), the postman of Zakopane, carried letters there; and Jan Krzeptowski Sabała (1809–1894) carried his złóbcoki, traditional musical instrument of Podhale.
The white and brown cucha jackets had different cuts which had not considerably changed in the course of the years. They were sewn by tailors — always men, who could skilfully use the fabric assigned to such a jacket. They also decorated them with embroidery and, over time, they started to employ other persons to this end, frequently women.
Taking measurements for a cucha jacket involved measuring the length of outstretched arms, from hand to hand, and the length of the cucha jacket. The cloth stretch (length of outstretched arms of a man) with a width of about 70–80 cm (this was the maximum width to be achieved in the weaving workshop) was used to make the sleeves and the upper part of the front and back of the cucha jacket, whereas another similar cloth was used to make the front and back.
Cucha jackets were sewn manually with the use of linen threads. Two main stitches were used: the so-called great stitch or pick stitch — a stitch behind the needle, and the so-called small stitch, also known as a winding stitch. The first one was used to sew together the cucha jacket edges, like the sleeves, while the other joined the fabric in visible places.
The cucha jacket on display comes from a period when the outfit of the Podhale inhabitants lost its previous meaning following the transformation taking place after World War II. It was replaced by urban outfits. The traditional outfit in its richest and most decorative form was worn only on holidays, and this was still not a common practice. Difficulties with obtaining the necessary fabrics, and complex ornaments that bordered on excessive splendour affected its high cost. In the early 1970s the price of a full outfit amounted to five times the monthly salary.
The cucha jacket on display is tailored typically. It is basically made of five pieces of home-spun cloth. The sleeves, the upper part of the back and front form one whole, while the remaining fabric was used to cut out independent parts for the back, two fronts and a collar. What is more, the bottom parts of the sleeves have diagonal cloth strips attached and small triangular wedges that can also be found at the bottom of the cucha jacket connecting the front and back.
This exhibit was hand-tailored with linen threads using traditional stitches. When sewing the sleeves, the great stitch was used, while the small stitch joined the remaining parts. The last one was used to secure all rims of the jacket from fraying.
In many places the cucha jacket is decorated with the above-mentioned pattern with semi-circular teeth at the neck, sleeves and pocket. The majority of rims of this cloth appliqué is bordered with a red yarn, oblanka, sewn with a black cotton thread.
The embroidery decoration of the clothing consists of a whole range of local decorative motifs, most of them with their own traditional names.
Two wavy lines intersecting with one another, embroidered with an orange and green chain stitch, with intersection points cross-sewn with a black thread are called chains with pazdurki. This decorates the appliqué of the cucha collar.
Pazdurki are also short sections of straight lines coming out of one point and radiating in all directions. They appear on the cucha jacket in white and green at the patterned teeth and between them.
The motif comprised of wavy and spiral lines sewn with a chain stitch in red, green, black and maroon on the appliqué decorating the neck, sleeves and pockets is a winding gadzik.
Between the neck and sleeve appliqué teeth and individually at the top of the pockets and embroidered decoration on the front of the cucha jacket are embroidered red bubbles embedded between two green leaves. There are more than a hundred of them on the entire jacket.
The whole decoration of the cucha jacket attracts the viewer’s attention with its full styled flowers sewn at the front at the tying point of the cucha jacket. This motif made with a velvet stitch is known in the local terminology as powiki.
The whole decoration of the cucha jacket, despite being harmonious in colour and tasteful, is an example of the tendencies to expand (sometimes excessively) the decorative forms noticeable in the Podhale outfit after World War II. An interesting example here is the pretend pockets sewn onto both tails of the jacket.
In white cucha jackets they appeared only at the end of the 19th century. Initially, only one of such pockets was made on the left chest by cutting the fabric and sewing a rectangular piece of cloth in from the inside. At that time they were decorated with a green cloth appliqué. Over time, decorations became more numerous, the number of pockets rose to two, and they were usually “blind.”
In the cucha jacket on display the cloth appliqués pretending to be pockets are sumptuously decorated with a chain, gadzik, bubbles and pazdurki. They have no practical use, and serve as another field of decorative fantasies.

Elaborated by Anna Kozak (The Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane), © all rights reserved


White cucha jacket


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