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Beautiful Bunads, Norwegian National Costume

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

When I first came to Norway I was fascinated by the national dress that is worn with such pride at celebrations. My first event here was Andre's niece's confirmation, which is a very special day and one on which everyone who has a bunad will wear it. So I was introduced to this beautiful tradition in the nicest possible way.

Bunads (Norwegian national costumes) come in a beautiful variety of patterns, each with it's own embroidery and accessories. Around 80% of Norwegian women own a bunad and 20% of men. There are more than 450 different types of bunad and every region has it's own particular style and variation of bunad with different colours, accessories and embellishments. But the principles are the same - a woven woollen skirt with simple cotton petticoats, an embroidered lace collared blouse and a bodice similar to a waistcoat for women and girls. For men, woven woollen three quarter length breeches, a white stand up collared shirt and a waistcoat. Often a jacket is also worn and many regions also have hats. Bunad shoes are black leather with a silver buckle.

There are small and significant details to each regional variation such as the colour of the brocade around the bottom of the skirt, or the details in the jewellery. For example, the jewellery and belt silver in my region (Vestfold) is tiny silver cockleshells to signify the close to ties to the coast and sea.

The jewellery is an accessory unlike any other and is almost always silver and filigree with a lot of intricate work and detail. There are belts, earrings, brooches and even little bunad knives that hang off the belt.

Bunads are something that one takes a huge amount of pride in. Many people joining classes to make their own from start to finish. The skills needed are extraordinary from basic sewing skills to learning how to make lace and do embroidery and make knitted socks that are specific for the bunad outfit. But the finished product is something to be cherished for ones entire life and probably passed down to the next generation. Of course there are many people who can't or don't want to make their own bunads and there are shops and artisans who specialise in nothing but bunads. Naturally this kind of skill and expertise comes at a price and particularly if you are looking for a bunad that is from a certain region. They are likely to set you back at least 30000NOK (US$3000). The price of course, has made them something of a status symbol.

In recent years they have gained a lot of popularity and I was surprised at first to see people of all ages wearing bunad. I would have expected it to be something that was only worn by older ladies, but everyone wears them from the youngest children (even babies) through to teenagers and beyond, from your next door neighbour to the royal family. They are such an important part of Norwegian cultural heritage that it is impossible to imagine a celebration in Norway without the beautiful bunad.

Thank you to my sisters in law and nieces for sharing their photos.

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