Czech and Slovak kroje* (traditional folk costumes) represent
some of the world’s finest folk art and most exquisite dress. They
reflect centuries of evolution and refinement. Kroje are also very diverse; each
region and village has a distinct kroj. Each varies in fabrics, colors,
embellishments, and overall form. All are traditionally handmade.
Women’s kroje are usually more elaborate than men’s kroje. The head covering
may be a cap, scarf, headband, ribbons, or even a floral wreath. A married
woman usually covers her hair with a cap or scarf. Blouses are often embellished
with embroidery, beadwork, sequins, and/or lace. In parts of Moravia, the sleeves
are very full and may be tightly pleated. A vest is worn over the blouse. Skirts
may appear full, lie close to the body, and/or be tightly pleated. An apron,
sometimes elaborately embellished, completes the kroj. There are also
appropriate stockings and footwear for each region.
The manner in which a kroj is prepared and worn is as important as the individual
elements. In Moravia, for example, the women of each village tie their
headscarves in a unique style. Blouse sleeves may hang naturally, are starched, or
may be pleated for fullness. Often, lace collars and aprons are starched for a
stiff and crisp effect. Heavily pleated sleeves or skirts must not appear crushed or
distorted; skirt fullness is achieved with petticoat layers. Overall, the kroj must
appear clean, fresh, and unwrinkled.
Occasion is a final consideration. Traditionally, there was a specific kroj for
church events and one for dancing and festivals. Kroje for wedding and mourning
ceremonies were especially complicated. For example, in the Chod region of
western Bohemia, the relationship of the mourners to the deceased could be
determined according to the composition of the kroj. At a wedding, the bride
would dress differently than her bridesmaids; a godmother attending a baby’s
christening ceremony would not dress the same as the baby’s mother.
Kroj is pronounced kroy. Plural is kroje, pronounced kroy-eh.
(Please note that because of the variation between kroje in each village and
region, there are exceptions to nearly everything!)
-exerpt from Folk Guidelines prepared in 2002 by Carmen Langel, Curator of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and Mark Vasko-Bigaouette, Czech and Slovak Heritage Tours Inc. and Founder of the CzechoSlovak Genealogical Society International ( CGSI )