Seaming Together A Region: The Trønder Bunad
Words by Jennifer Wold
Fun fact: The first 17th of May parade was started right here in Trondheim. It took place in Ilevollen in 1827 with a little over 1000 participants.
The word bunad most frequently conjures up images of women and men seen in their national dress at confirmations, parades and events on the 17th of May. The lively colours of embroidered hems, men’s vests tucked under darker jackets and gleaming silver are hard to miss.
It doesn’t take more than a glance to see that they are beautiful and come in many styles. But from the exterior one may never guess, unless one knows, just how complex each is or how much work goes into them. The concept of bunads is much like one’s hands; we all have them, although each a bit different. But when you really look into each individual bunad you realise they are more like fingerprints; unique to the wearer in every way. They are custom fit and, at Husfliden, completely hand-sewn. Each region is responsible for producing their particular bunad. You will not find a bunad from Oppland made here, as much as you would not find a Trønder bunad made there.
In Trøndelag way back in 1920, Ragna Rytter, Kaspara Kyllingstad and Ingebord Krokstad set out to create a unified Trønderbunad. They never found a full bunad, but they used drawings and paintings done by Dreyer in 1775 to gain a better understanding of the materials and styles they would need. They gathered samples of embroidery, linen shirts, trousers and skirts, and the fabrics common to the area of the time and those inherited over the years. These pieces of local folk costumes were the starting points. Traditions in wool, weaving and embroidery were carefully considered.
Three years after starting their project they collected enough to start sewing the first Trønderbunad. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the Rococo and Trøndelag-wide inspired garment we know today emerged.
One of the biggest trademarks of the women’s bunad is the rose pattern damask brocade bodice. The layers are carefully pressed, pinned and stitched by the hands of skilled artisans. They are trained in their craft and when watching their nimble fingers create delicate inner seams with a peek of brocade or taking a close look at the cuff of a shirt to see tiny pleats and smaller, fine embroidery quietly reveals this is more than making a garment. The construction of this bodice is nothing short of spectacular and all hand sewn, be it the panels of the peplum or the cording into the contrasting wool edging. Many of the embroidered pieces are done by the hands of local women who add their expertise and talents to every bunad.
In quick passing one might never see the details on the white undershirt or white linen headscarf. Stitch placement is carefully counted to form the intricate patterns that one could mistake for being woven. Particularly on the Skautet, or head scarf, the border is intricately done to create an open lacework. In contrast to the tight and fine stitches gracing the
crisp linen shirts, bold and richly dyed wool make up the embroidery that embosses the black silk bonnets, waist purses and shawl. Patterns from Kosberg, Selbu and Singsås grace the bonnets. Gauldal, Soknedal and Tidal are on show on the waist purses.
Men’s bunads are no less intricate than their female counterparts. Just on the inside of the jacket you can see a perfectly spaced whip stitch, a strip of soft leather supporting the buttons and button holes both strengthened and embellished by stitches wrapping tight the edges of the fine wool. The waistcoat is bold with woven details in contrasting colours and gleaming buttons bearing the Trøndersk rose. At the neck, a silk scarf with bright colours shows off its damask pattern.
One might think that black knickers would be a rather simple garment, but again the same details of fine stitching lead down to hand-knit wool socks deftly held up by woven garters. Even the knitted hat has a tradition all its own. The young should only be seen in all red, the young man in a red hat with a black cuff and the married man in a black hat with a red cuff. Also, these hats should only be combined with a dark outer jacket. Every piece is carefully considered to give a dapper and polished air.
In contrast to the rich wools, silks and fine linen is the shining polish of crisp silver. Adorning the collars, waist coasts, bodices, ears and purses are locally made symbols of Trøndelag. Engraving and styles speak more to north or south, as do the rings, the spoked wheel effect and the intricate clasps. The slightest movement causes a little tinkle as the delicate components touch. In the sun, they glimmer and sparkle to make their presence known. Often these are handed down, but whether a family heirloom or a newer piece, these pieces of jewellery are closely looked after.
Whether you are a curious visitor or transplant to Norway, or as Norwegian as the day is long, find the time to closely examine these perfect examples of what it truly means to be ‘Made in Trøndelag”.