Let’s go today to Bohemia. Are you confused? Ok, I mean Moravia. Still, didn’t understand? Czech Silesia. Yes, now you got it. I am talking about the landlocked but beautiful country from Europe, which is known today as the Czech Republic. The territories of this country were firstly inhabited by humans in the prehistoric era. Boii people were the first known immigrants to this part of the lovely planet and then this land witnessed the arrivals of Germanic and Slavic tribes.
The cultural history of the Czech Republic considerably starts from the era of Přemyslid dynasty in the 9th century. First proper crowning of the Bohemian king happened in 1085 and the era of the Bohemian kingdom started that lasted till middle ages. The 14th century is known in the Czech history as the reign of Charles IV (1342–78) which is the most significant for the cultural development of the Czech territory. It was a kingdom in the Holy Roman Empire, and the King was a Prince-Elector of the empire until its dissolution in 1806. After the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia became part of the Austrian Empire and it will not be wrong to say that dark period in the history of the Czech Republic was started. The population of the Czech lands was declined by a third through war, disease, famine and the expulsion of Protestant Czechs.
With the collapse of the Austrian monarchy at the end of World War I, the independent country of Czechoslovakia was formed. Czechoslovakia remained a parliamentary democracy till the Germanic invasion in the World War II, when it was established as a German Protectorate. The regions of Slovakia were already under the control of Germany. At the end of the World War II, Soviet troops overran all of Slovakia, Moravia, and much of Bohemia, including Prague and the Czechs and Slovaks were again reunited. For the next 41 years, Czechoslovakia was a Communist state within the Eastern Bloc. In the 1970’s the country faced the Soviet invasion that was followed by a harsh program of “Normalization“. In November 1989, Czechoslovakia returned to a liberal democracy through the peaceful “Velvet Revolution“. And, ultimately on 1 January 1993, the country peacefully split into the independent Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Traditional dress of the Czech Republic is the legacy of the Bohemian and Moravian cultures. It also carries the influences of the Christian and Pagan traditions. Generally the traditional outfits in the country are beautifully crafted and embellished with exquisite embroidery. There are variations in the designs and patterns of the traditional dresses as the Czech Republic is divided into a number of ethnographic regions and each of them has regional costume.
Czech people wear their traditional costumes on special events and celebrations. The prominent of which are the annual Christmas eve, Easter festivities, Happy new year and the Feast of Three Kings. The trend of wearing folkloric dresses was developed in the 1950’s by the efforts of the Communist regime. Many events were organized on a regular pattern to evoke patriotic traditions. Folk dancing was popularized and the performers began to showcase the traditional and regional costumes of the country.
The modern youth of the Czech Republic stand far behind from the traditional dresses but still some elder people have kept alive the custom of wearing the traditional outfits. In the eastern parts of the Czech Republic, the people prefer to wear the homemade and hand-stitched garbs including skirts, aprons and other outer garments. In the western parts, the traditional dress is more adorned with gorgeous headwear and other brilliant accessories. In some families, costumes are handed down from generation to generation as they wish to preserve the tradition.
There are plenty of folklore performing groups in the Czech Republic of almost every kind. They are encouraged by the Czech government to promote the cultural heritage of the country and also to promote tourism industry. The authorities are also sensitive about the preservation of the local traditions and folklore and to pass the heritage on to the following generations.
Members of the folklore groups are enthusiasts of all ages: from little children through adolescents to adults. They all enjoy building up folklore spirit with dances, music and showing off beautiful folklore dresses, as well as performing in front of audiences at folklore festivals. Children are encouraged to participate wearing traditional outfits in folklore ensembles from a very early age.
Kroje which should be pronounced as Kroye is a specialty of the Czech Republic and its colors and materials vary from region to region. It normally consists of skirt, blouse, vest, apron and hat for the women. The bonnets or caps are typically worn by the married women while the single girl keeps flowers in her hair.
Normally the Czech woman’s clothing is a white blouse with very full color. The skirt is a solid, dark color. The bodice vest will probably be black. All items are heavily embroidered with cutwork and trim. The cap has a very large bow in back.
The Moravian clothing for women is a white blouse with very full sleeves which may be pleated. The apron is a dark, and sometimes white, material which is heavily embroidered with colorful cutwork. Flowers are worn in the hair with very long ribbon streamers and the cap has colorful embroidery on it, with perhaps a brim.
On the other side long plumes of feathers in a man’s cap indicate he is single; but, if the feathers are short, then he has been ‘plucked’ and is married. The Czech men also wear the embroidered trousers, shirts, vests and hats in their traditional dress. The typical outfit for men from Hana region of the Czech Republic is having a lot of accessories and adorned with multiple elements and features.
Modern Czech women normally wear short skirts basically finishing over mid thigh or even higher and it means that women of every age in Czech Republic dress this way. Showing the cleavage is also part of the woman’s dress code in the Czech Republic. In the cold winters, the women are seen wearing spray-on jeans tucked into knee-high boots. And the boots are normally having high and narrow heels.
Traditional dress of the Czech Republic is truly the legacy of the Bohemian and Moravian cultures, which is nowadays a vanishing feature of the stunning folklore of the country. Young generation of this country is normally reluctant to participate in the folk customs as they deem them non-relevant or obsolete factors of their society. Economic constraint is also a key factor for the rapid elimination of such costumes as they’re very expensive to be made. The only hope for the survival is the folklore community in the country who take it as the source of their earnings.
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