Contestant Kroj (Folk-Wear) Guidelines
May 20, 2010
by Jaroslav Koželuha
guidelines were 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 ).
following should be reviewed to help guide pageant contests
and contestants in the selection or creation of a kroj for their
competition or as an outline for the judges. Pageant officials
recognize that not all contestants have access to an original
authentic kroj from the Czech Republic or Slovakia. (Even if
you have an opportunity to travel there and seek one for purchase,
they are becoming increasingly scarce and those you do find
may or may not be complete.)
guidelines are also available as an Adobe
General kroj information:
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
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
is pronounced kroy. Plural is kroje, pronounced kroy-eh.
note that because of the variation between kroje in each village
and region, there are exceptions to nearly everything!)
should I wear?
that there are two schools of thought on what makes an acceptable
The first abides by very strict rules that the only real/authentic
kroj is a completely original kroj from the old country. These
are the kroje you might find on exhibit in museums or worn by
individuals participating in festivals in the Czech Republic
2. In the United States, there is growing acceptance
of Czech American kroje and Slovak American kroje. These are
designed and worn as a reflection of an individual s pride in
his/her Czech or Slovak heritage. This includes altered authentic
kroje or those made completely "from scratch."
If you are lucky enough to have a kroj that fits definition
#1 above, then you may wear it for the pageant. Be prepared
to explain your kroj to the judges. You should know as much
as possible about the history of the kroj and what village/region
it represents. The type of information you should seek includes:
Who made and/or wore it? How was it acquired? Who brought
it to the U.S.? Does it represent the area that your ancestors
came from? (It is ideal, but not mandatory that your kroj
represents your ancestral village or area) Are there any other
interesting facts about the kroj or those who wore it before
you? If you are asked to explain your kroj, consider which
of following answers would by more impressive to the judges:
The kroj I am wearing today was brought to the US by my great-grandmother.
It has been handed down to the women in her family until I
inherited it this summer.
b. The kroj I am wearing today was brought to the US
in about 1908 by my grandmother, Anna Novaková. I have been
doing research on our family genealogy and I think she was
from Western Bohemia. The kroj substantiates this as it represents
a typical kroj of Domazlice. Anna gave the kroj to my aunt
(Maria Novak) who wore it to several festivals and picnics.
Aunt Maria gave it to me. There have been a few size alterations
to the original kroj and several repairs, but overall it is
an original kroj that has been a part of my family's history
for nearly a century.
the judges will appreciate answer #b. as it illustrates the
contestant did her research! Even if you can't find all the
answers you seek, do your best and explain how you tried to
find information and what you were able to find. At the very
least, you must know what village or region your kroj represents!
Most contestants will likely have to make their own kroj
or make significant repairs, alterations, or replacement
pieces for an authentic kroj. If you are starting with elements
from an authentic kroj, research how the original kroj would
have appeared and do your best to duplicate the missing
pieces. You want your kroj to appear as close to the original
as possible. Be prepared to explain to the judges what you
had to make/repair and what steps you took to make sure
it was as accurate as possible. As above, be prepared to
answer questions about the history of your kroj.
are starting from scratch, consider the following: Do you
want to make a kroj that resembles your family's ancestral
village/region? Can you find photos and/or patterns of a
kroj from that area or any other areas? Will you be able
to find the correct fabric, lace, and ribbons? These may
all be tough questions, so do your best. Consider the list
of sources at the bottom of this document and at least find
images of authentic kroje. You may also be able to find
books at your local library or through interlibrary loan.
Once you find your photo or pattern, do your best. From
the image you should at least be able to determine fabric
color or any patterns on the fabric and the overall form
of the finished kroj (full skirt? short or long skirt? full
or loose sleeves? etc.).
As you go
through your resource material, note that kroje are divided
into three areas: Bohemia (western Czech Republic), Moravia
(eastern Czech Republic), or Slovakia. Generally speaking, you
will notice the following about each of the three regions:
(Western half of Czech Republic):
( generally richer fabrics, more muted colors )
White with roomy sleeves (but not pleated or full like in
Moravia). No embroidery on the blouse sleeves. Usually no
fabric below the elbow.
Vest: Relatively simple
(except those from Chod region where woman's vests are beaded).
May be laced in front as opposed to buttons or frog clasps.
Some East Bohemian vests are laced in the back and front.
Skirt: Relatively simple,
not full of rick-rack, just a few lines on the bottom of the
skirt. Often softer colors and richer fabrics.
Apron: Often most of the
handwork was done to the apron, which could be embroidery
(colored or white on white) or even beadwork as in kroje from
the Blata region of South Bohemia.
Head Covering: Head coverings
vary greatly in Bohemia. If you don t have the correct cap,
you may wear a floral wreath. Keep in mind that the head covering
usually indicates marital status.
Footwear: Often red stockings/tights
and black shoes. ( sometimes white stockings.)
* In the
United States, there is a tradition of representing a Bohemian
kroj with a red skirt, white blouse, and black vest. You may
consider this as a last resort, but keep in mind that it doesn't
represent a specific village or town. Think of this as the
blue jeans of its day, something to do the field work it,
or slop the pigs!
(Eastern half of Czech Republic): ( generally nice
or rich fabrics, more colorful then Bohemia )
White with full sleeves, some even heavily pleated and starched.
May have handwork at the shoulder, collar, and cuffs.
Vest: Often elaborate
with red or multicolored handwork.
Skirt: Wide range of colors
and patterns, some floral. Range of skirt lengths.
Apron: Again, a wide variety
of aprons from simple to the colorful and elaborately embroidered
Head covering: Head coverings
may be a dark red or brownish headscarf, beaded cap, or a
Scarf: If you opt for
the scarf, remember that each village has a different method
for tying them! Also, scarves usually indicate that the woman
dark stockings/tights and black shoes or mid-calf boots.(
just below the knee )
( generally nice to common
fabrics, a riot of color )
variations between kroje in Slovakia are too variable to generalize.
Do keep in mind that Slovakia is generally poorer than the
Czech Republic, so you are less likely to find kroje made
from silk and other expensive fabrics. Slovaks had much more
time then money, so much more embroidery. Slovaks kept the
tradition of wearing kroje until 40 or so years ago, and still
do in some places for weddings, etc.
find out what area/village your family is from. Although best
to wear a kroj representing your ancestral village, it is
not mandatory, but at least something from the general region.
Regardless of the area your kroj represents, judges will expect
you to know where your family roots are, or to demonstrate
that you attempted the research.
A couple places to start include:
Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International
( CGSI ) PO Box 16225 St. Paul MN 55116 web site : www.cgsi.org.
2. Web site of the National Czech
& Slovak Museum & Library. The NCSML librarian
maintains a good list of relevant genealogy links on their
web site: www.ncsml.org.
blend current fashion trends with your traditional kroj. For
Short skirts may seem cute, but don't wear a short skirt unless
the region you are representing has short skirts.
2. Lacy/fancy tights or pantyhose are not traditional
leg wear and sandals are not traditional footwear.
Where to Seek Guidance
the Directors of the National Czech/Slovak Pageant, for pictures
of former contestants and what they wore. *** Or some of the
state pageants may have photos ???
National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (NCSML)
30 - 16th Ave. SW
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52404
Phone # ( 319 ) 362 - 8500 Fax ( 319 ) 363 2209
Web site: www.ncsml.org
(The NCSML always has a dozen or more full kroje on exhibit.
Their library also has a number of reference books and a set
of full sized patterns for Czech kroje.)
122 W. 22 St.
Oakbrook, IL 60521
(They also have a large number of kroje on display plus reference
Genealogical Society International
PO Box 16225 St. Paul, MN 55116
web site : www.cgsi.org
(They have some reference books and a large number of full
mostly of Czech / Bohemian, and some Moravian. )
3rd St. Wilber, NE 68465
(They have some reference books and some full sized Czech
be able to find individuals who can help you make your kroj.
If you can't find someone, ask representatives from the above
institutions for suggestions.