Norwegian national costumes

The 17th of May is Norway‘s national day, or constitution day. Every year there are parades, the main parade in Oslo consists of around one hundred schools, often with marching bands, who walk past the Parliament but also the Castle, where the royal family watches and waves to the kids. This tradition had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the Corvid-19 pandemic raging through the entire world, and people are practicing social distancing. To celebrate the day, I decided to draw a series of Norwegian national costumes.

A national dress, or a national costume is actually one of the nicest piece of clothing a Norwegian can have. They’re often worn during special occasions such as weddings, christenings, confirmations, but also used for other celebrations such as the national day, and some wear them at Christmas time as well. The national costumes are also used during galas and when are meeting royals, the latter are especially common during planned events. When I mentioned that people wear them for weddings, it isn’t always just the guests wearing them, but the bride and even the groom may wear them as well.

The bunads are usually specific to the region the person grew up, or where their family comes from. They are quite expensive due to the workmanship going into them, which is sometimes done by family if you’re lucky. On top of that cost there is also the jewellery to go with the bunad, which is also specific to the individual bunads and area.

I should also stress, that there are also male bunads, though none of them have been pictured here. My choice of bunads to draw, as there are quite a lot of them, was based on the national dress of people I know.

A digital painting of a woman twirling around in her Beltestakk. The skirt of this national costume is a circle skirt, which has several bands of inlaid ribbon at the bottom of it. The blouse is embroidered with colourful thread around the cuffs, collar and down the front of the blouse. The bunad is worn with a wide, long, and colourful woven belt at the waist, with another thinner belt tied around it, as well as an dark apron with different inlaid fabric at the bottom. The hair is put up with woven colourful ribbons twisted around the hair.
Media: Digital.

The Beltestakk stems from Telemark, and is named after the long woven belt. This belt is usually around 160cm long, meaning it has to be wrapped around the wearer’s waist several times.

This is actually one of my favourite national costumes. I find it to be one of the most colourful ones, and comes in a ton of different colours, both the embroidery on the shirt and the colour of the belts.

A digital painting of a woman wearing a Hardangerbunad. The bunad has a red bodice, black woolen skirt with a white apron, which is worn with a white shirt with fine white embroidery on the cuffs and collar.
Media: Digital.

The next Norwegian national costume is the Hardangerbunad. This might be the most well known national costume, and has been very popular, to the point where it was viewed as a national symbol of Norway.

A woman really happily showing off her skjælingsdrakt from Upper Numedal. This is an empire waist bunad, worn with a blouse with colourful embroidery, and a hat. This particular bunad, has a brown and black patterned apron, which matches the brown band at the bottom of the skirt. The bodice of the bunad is black with silver buttons, and is worn with a colourful scarf tied around the neck.
Media: Digital.

This National costume, called Skjælingsdrakt, is based on the dress traditions found in Øvre Numeral (Upper Numedal) during the second half of the 1800s. The bunad gets its name from the stiffened and wavy hem in the waist of the dress, which isn’t pictured in this painting.

This type of costume is highly customisable with choice of ribbons and patterns, and of course the colours of these which the wearer can choose. This one is based on the costume of a friend of mine, who actually got married in her beautiful national costume.

A painting woman wearing her Rogalandsbunad, which is has a golden brocade bodice, with a black skirt. The black shawl and apron are both embroidered, as is the bag which goes with the bunad. The bunad is worn with a white linen blouse with white embroidery on the cuffs, collar and the box plate which hides the sown in buttons.
Media: Digital.

Rogaland has several bunads, which all are embroidered. This particular Rogalandsbunad has the pattern stemming from Tjelmeland, and might be this one of the less known ones. At least it seems less known as I’ve bought lots of magazines featuring lots of National costumes, hoping they’ll show photos of this one, without any luck.

To be fair, the main reason I painted this particular Rogalandbunad is because this is the one I have. It was actually made by my paternal grandmother, who also owned one just like it.

A digital painting of woman wearing a Sognebunad, with a yellow bodice, black skirt with a green hem with red embroideries. Under the bunad is a white linen blouse with white embroidery on the cuff, collar and the box plate which hides the sown in buttons. The bag fastened to the belt is of the same fabric as the bodice. The apron of this bunad is black and woven with a green and red striped pattern at the bottom and sides.
Media: Digital.

This type of bunad is called Sognebunad, and comes from the county Sogn and Fjordane. This image depicts the bunad
my cousins have. I believe it was our grandmother who made the bunads for all of my cousins, but they’ve chosen to have different coloured bodices and bags, which sets them apart from each other.

A woman the light blue bunad featuring a grey inlay at the bottom of the skirt which is embroidered with flowers. The bunad was originally worn with a grey blouse, but these days it a white blouse with flowery embroidery on the cuffs and collar is more common.
Media: Digital.

Most bunads and other Norwegian national costumes are based on traditions of the area they’re from. The Oslobunad, on the other hand, was designed in 1947, and was originally created for the 150 year jubilee of the city’s first department store. In 2007 it was given national costume status.

The colours of is costume was based on the Oslo’s crest, and the bag even features St. Harvard, the patron saint of Oslo. It also features several wildflowers found in the region. As late as 2013 the costume was made available in a dark blue as well.