Bunad – Traditional rural clothes and 20th century folk costumes of Norway

Today in things you know very little about, we delve into the traditional clothing of Norway called ‘Bunad’. While earlier known to describe tradition rural clothes that go back to the 18th or 19th century, it now also encompasses folk fashion in the 20th century. The name bunad originally means ”clothing”, but is used today to describe Norwegian national costumes, that differ from area to area, and comes with long and solid traditions. Which means that getting a bunad cannot be as simple as going to a store and asking for it. For starters, it is an umbrella term and there are over 200 styles of bunad. It is unique in a way that it is recognizable as Norway’s official dress, but it is individualized based on regional characteristics of color, pattern, style, and accessories.


Norway is one of few nations still using a national costume as clothing worn for festivities, among the majority of the people. The Bunad is worn at special events like baptisms, confirmations and weddings and also at representations and official celebrations. Among folk dancers and folk musicians, these costumes are extremely popular among both women and men.


The bunad movement began sometime around the  Norwegian Romantic Nationalism period and made steady headways during the folk dance movement at the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the bunads found are based on old local customs, even the contemporary bunad tradition has its roots in folk costumes from the 18th and 19th century.


In present day – fashion enthusiasts from all over the country are carrying forward the legacy of the bunad movement. Modern interpretations of these costumes have been modified with a more conventional sense of fashion and aesthetics. This has led to a debate between groups aptly called the bunad police who claim that the bunads need to adhere strictly to guidelines and people shouldn’t stray from the traditional rules. They also believe that women should avoid wearing sunglasses, earrings and heavy make-up when dressed in a bunad. Meanwhile, others advocate a counterpoint adopting a more lenient approach and allowing people to channel their creativity as to how they will adorn this important piece of clothing.


Bunads are nowadays often viewed as a status symbol, ranging in the price of $2,000−10,000, depending on the desired design, material, embroidery, gold, silver and accessories. The price also depends on whether the customer buys from a well-established company, from local sewers or decides to sew or do part of the embroidery themselves.  The outfits are often passed down in families and typically when adolescents go through confirmation or turn 16 they are given their own authentic bunad. Because of the hefty cost, it is important that costumes can be easily altered for a lifetime of use. The fabrics used to make a bunad typically consist of wool skirts for women and wool pants and jackets for men.


Over 50 percent women and 10 percent men in Norway own a bunad. Over the years wearing a Bunad has inculcated a sense of pride and nationalism amongst Norwegians. So if you Norwegian women and men dressed in beautiful costumes on their national day, parades and events, you now know what it’s all about.







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