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How to spot a Trønderbunad

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

For Norway’s National Day on May 17th, textile designer and recent Trønder Saranya S. looks into what defines Trøndelag’s version of bunad — Norway’s national dress.

Trønderbunad, Norwegian national dress
The gorgeus Trønderbunad (Photos: Kanum Hovland, Model: Emelie Hove)

Are you ready to become a bunad spotting expert this year's Norway's national day?

Every year on May 17th you’ll see the streets of Trondheim flooded with men and women donning the beautiful traditional dress of Norway. The bunad is worn by Norwegians, not only on National Day but on any special occasion — like weddings and confirmations — and allows them to show their pride and heritage in a fashionable way.

Trønderbunad, Norway's national dress
Trønderbunad - This bunad (Norway's national dress) has certain characteristics that are unique to the Trøndelag region.

While both the men’s and women’s bunads are gorgeous, I’m especially infatuated with the women’s bunad. Each region of Norway has its own spin on it, so the versions are in the hundreds! The bunad from Trøndelag is among the most popular in Norway and its creation began in the 1920s and took final shape in the 1960s. During this time, enthusiasts all around the country began researching traditional garments from each region to find their own unique approach to the bunad.

VEST: Elegant wool damask vest with a linen warp and woollen weft. This vest has the ‘rose with a wave’ pattern, but traditional Trønderbunads can also feature ‘simple roses’ or ‘roses with stems’.

Bunads are usually inspired by the old traditional local garments, rose patterns, and other decorative elements found in that specific region. In the case of the Trøndelag region, they were heavily influenced by 18th-century Rococo fashions and the damask weaving traditions in Trøndelag's villages. The telltale signs you should look out for when spotting a Trønderbunad are the four main colours: red, blue, black, and green… which doesn’t narrow it down much. And just to make it more confusing, there are also three different patterns to choose from. So keep an eye out for the main colours with different types of roses; simple roses, roses with stems, and roses with waves!

HEADGEAR: Many wear simple hairbands, but a rose-embroidered cap is also a traditional part of Trønderbunads. The cap comes in three variations with designs from Selbu, Kosberg, and Singsås, now made with black silk instead of velvet.

The people of Trondheim are just as excited about bunads now as they were last century — you’ll see, they really go all out on National Day. Our first year here, my husband and I were so excited to celebrate and thought we looked pretty good in our ‘dressy’ clothes. But, as soon as we stepped out of the house, we realised just how wrong we were! The women looked like they had been plucked straight from a fairytale, with their intricate bunads and shimmering silver jewels.

SHIRT: The white shirt features intricate embroidery on its cuffs, neckline, and shoulder pieces.

The men were looking sharp in their suits making it clear they had put a lot of effort into their outfits. Meanwhile, my husband and I stuck out like sore thumbs in our 'normal clothes.' It's safe to say, we were not prepared for the fashion show that was Trondheim on National Day. But, lesson learned and we'll definitely be better prepared this year! But are we allowed to join in on the bunad fun?

PURSE: Bunad is traditionally accompanied by a waist-hanging purse. The front panel is made from black wool fabric featuring multicolour embroidery, while the back is crafted from leather. The purse is available in various embroidery styles, including those from Soknedal (photo), Gauldal, and Tydal. It’s common to engrave the plate with the owner’s name.

I talked to Astrid Sliper who runs Drakt og Bunadsøm and she said she’s delighted when she sees people from other cultures wearing their own national costumes on May 17th, such as Indian saree or Japanese kimono. But what about wearing a Norwegian bunad as a foreigner? It’s a complex question, but in essence, it’s fine. Everyone I spoke to was absolutely okay with it, and the same went for discussions I found online. The most important thing is doing it respectfully and you have a connection to the place it represents.

SKIRT: The woollen plain skirt is one of the most identifiable features. In addition to the rust red, Trønderbunads can also have blue, green, or black skirts. The apron is in a pattern called vakre and is either grey/white (as you see here) or green/white.

The first step is to get to know the rich tradition — so are you ready to take on a bunad spotting challenge on May 17th? I know I am! You can even make a game of it, whoever spots the most Trønderbunads wins! Just remember, look for the blue, black, rust red, and green damask with rose patterns, and you'll be a Trønderbunad spotting expert in no time!

This article originally appeared in The List Spring Magazine 2023.


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