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Bunad: Norwegian National Dress

bunad.jpg

Please scroll to bottom of post for answers to your comment questions!

The traditional costume of Norway is called “bunad.” There are about 200 different types, each one representing a different part of the country. The word “bunad” really covers two different types of dress: The first is the traditional garb of a particular location (some of which can be traced back a long, long time – the ones used today usually represent the “fanciest”, holiday version of the dress) and a sort of “party dress” developed in the early 1900s during Norwegian national romanticism. The last category was often put together using fabrics, weaves, and embroideries from the particular location.

Today, bunads are used for festive occasions: Weddings, baptism, May 17th (constitution/independence day), Christmas, anniversaries, or when performing traditional music. It is customary that a girl gets a bunad for her church confirmation, usually when she is 15. I didn’t, though, and my mom got her first at 50! They are very expensive so it is a rather big deal, but the good thing is that they last forever. I know many people who have the bunad of their grandmothers, for instance.

There is an unwritten rule that you should have a geographical connection to the bunad you chose. I, for instance, could get one from my mom’s town or my dad’s town, because I have a family connection there. However, many people don’t care and get the one they like! Some are more popular than others, and the ones from Telemark are the most popular. They have a long history and they are gorgeous so I guess with good reason! Click here to see some beautiful details from the Telemarksbunad.

The bunads or traditional dresses have some symbolism to them, for instance, a headscarf means that the woman is married.

Many Norwegian-Americans in the US Midwest treasure the bunad, but it is often not really the real thing - sometimes people put stuff together to a costume but to a Norwegian it can look really weird!

Answers to your comment questions:

Yes, they are VERY warm! Lots of wool and lots of layers.
Yes, brides wear them, but probably only something like 5% of brides. Mainly on the West Coast where the bunad tradition is very strong.
You can buy them in the US, I believe, but to get the "authentic" ones they should probably be purchased in Norway. There are online businesses I believe but they are usually sown to measure, so that might be a little hard!
They are not like kilts, really, because kilts "belong" to a clan/family/name, while these belong to a geographical area.

Comments (17)

I am really liking your Norwegian posts, keep 'em coming.

The Telemarksbunad are beautiful. My mom used to do cross stitching and embroidery.

Cool post! It is so interesting learning more about Norway through your blog. I loved looking at the photos of the details of the bunad. Are they warm?

Eden:

That looks beautiful and seem to have some intricate stitching. Can you purchase them here in the U.S.? It looks like something one would really treasure.

They are really beautiful! So I guess the geographical connection thing is kind of like kilts in Scotland, different designs for different clans?

And do brides wear them?

Thanks guys, I included the answers to your questions at the bottom of the post!

sandrac:

That really is a beautiful dress and quite ornate, I can imagine sewing it would be quite painstaking. Which would help to explain why it would be an expensive garmet.

The cross-stitching on the Telemarksbunad is lovely.

Anne:

What a gorgeous photo, I love the colours of that one. I too am really enjoying these Norwegian posts, so interesting to learn about the culture in such a fun way!

jgk:

The bunad is beautiful and so is the model.

Alf Refsum:

Hi,

Jeg har hoert/lest om at i en av de norske bunader, saa brukes det et 'bryststykke' som er laget av et klede med skotte-moenster som hvistnok er en overlevning av et mislykket invasjonsforsoek fra skotland en gang i aar 'groenkaal'

Med gode haap om bedre viden,
Alf.

ps jeg tror hovedfargen er gul.

Syrene Forsman:

Can you tell me where I may purchase a men's dress knife for a costume. {For a dance group}

Rhianna:

I have a very Scandinavian background, I'm about 50% Norweigan. My mom came from a small town in Iowa (huge Scandinavian settlment area)and every year around the end of July there's this huge festival celebrating all our heratige, I amean, EVERYONE in that town is Scandinavian, no joke.

We have a problem this year though, my old bunad doesn't fit anymore, we've already taken it out as much as possible, etc....any ideas, since you know so much about bunads, where I could buy one from? Obviously, I want one from Norway, but I need it shipped here, back to MN. All help is very appreciated :]

thank you!

KIM LIBERA:

I LOVE SCANDINAVIAN CULTURE, IN PARTICULAR THE BUNAD COSTUME. DO YOU KNOW OF ANY WEBSITE THAT STOCKS THEM (USED, CUSTOM, OR NEW) OR DO YOU KNOW WHO SELLS BUNAD DOLLS.

Hi Kim, thanks for your comment! I know Norway Shop sells them: http://www.norwayshop.com/default.asp?af_id=15

Here's another link with some info: http://www.eons.com/groups/topic/666724-Where-to-buy-a-Bunad-

hi
thank you for this site
i have been looking for my familys style of bunad
have you seen or know what
the telemarksbunad looks like for utsira or harstad?
my grandmothers family is from utsira and my grandfather is from harstad.
my grandmother tried to make a doll sized bunad here in canada
but had a hard to finding matiral a match they have both passed on and dont know . i think alot of my family members want to find a bunad from harstad, they maynot have a style of bunad and use the same style as a near by town or somthing even if you had any photos of something that would be great!
thanks again Andrea

Hi Andrea, thanks for your comment! As you might know, Telemarksbunad is one kind of bunad, from the region of Telemark, in south-east Norway. Harstad, on the other hand, is in the north, so they don't really have anything in common... In Harstad, the most used bunad is the Nordlandsbunad, which is for the region of Nordland. Here is a link to a store in Harstad that sells the bunad and the materials: http://www.bunadsstua-harstad.no/

Maybe they can get you the fabric! Here is a link to a photo of the bunad: http://www.bunadsstua-harstad.no/nordlandsbunad.htm

Loved your site. Plan on going to Norway in 2011 to visit my exchange student and her family.

julia :

hey! i have a norwegian bf and i live in US. i have been learning about norwegian culture alot. i wanna buy a bunad, where can i get it in NJ, US? i love reading your blog. and i also love norwegian culture even tho i m not norwegian and the only norwegian i know is my bf. haha :D

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