DISCLAIMER: I HAVE NOT MADE THIS OUTFIT! Except for the jacket (see underneath).

In good ol' days "bunad" was a word used to describe a part of an outfit - kledebunad - clothing dress/gown, or "hodebunad" - the head dress. But in the last 100 years it has become the common expression for a festive attire based on what Norwegians wore at weddings and at church in the 18th and 19th century. Each county have their distinguished marks, although most bunads are "built" in the same way: a white linen or cotton shirt underneath (many with beautiful blackwork embroidery, some with white-on-white or multicoloured embroidery), and gown overneath. Many gowns have black or blue skirt, while the bodice often is of a rich and colourful material, for example silk brocade, or embroideried wool trimmed with ribbons. Many have lacing, some have hooks. Most bunads have a decorated belt, and there are various accessories: aprons, headscarfs, knitted socks, silver brooches (søljer), reticules, hoods, bridal accessories etc.

The work on the Åmli bunad started in the 1940s, but was haltered by the World War II. After the war many old outfits, or part of outfits, were collected, and the work of categorizing and preserve them started. The parish of Åmli used to include a number of rural settlements, namely Åmli, Tovdal, Gjøvdal and Mykland. Some also call it Aust Agder-bunad, after today's county name. As this costume is based on traditional folk dress material from these places, it is called the Åmli bunad. Both period depictions and surviving garbs were used to make a reconstruction, and the focus period were approximately the late 18th and early 19th century. In the gathered material there were a wide range of fabrics in the bodice (uppluten), as well as patterns in the apron and the headscarf. They've tried to keep that in todays bunads, which gives us a folk costume very adaptive to the individual wearer.

Period bodices (opplut) shows red, green, yellow, golden and black fabrics, preferably silks. You can choose from a number of fabrics today too, but red (either bright red or burgundy) seems to be the most common choice. The cut of the back is embellished with woven silver ribbons, some even in metal bobbin lace, while the front is closed with a silver chain under silver rings (eyelets) decorated with "leaf" (lauv). There are pipings of a solid woven ribbon which is cut into strips and applied. The high waisted bodice seems to be inspired by the Empire fashion, and should be low in the neck opening, and the skirt should be attached high in the waist - around one handbreadth over where the waist is at it's slimmest.

I suspected the everyday bodices weren't closed with a silver chain. My theory is that it was basically bodices meant from brides who had the silver lacing in front. I came to this conclution after browsing through numerous of photos of old bodices and outfits. The ones with lacing in front were bridal equippment, while the plainer, everyday ones were without lacing. Laceless versions also gives much more room for the big silver brooches. As seen in picture number 6, even a short bodice allows the brooches when the bodice is laceless, while modern bodices "squeeze" them together. After talking to an experienced seamstress in my hometown it seemed by idea was correct. She said that most preserved bodices don't have lacing, and they were much shorter. The bodices of today's Åmli-bunad is based on various bridal bodices, which would be more embellished than the everyday bodices. But the one they've mostly stuck to is the one who is easiest to adapt and fit to today's women, and although the bodice is longer, the general cut, fabrics and decorations are the same.

Not all folk costumes have original outer wear, but this one do. It's called "trøye" and it is not too unlike a Spencer jacket. It is made out of black hodden (sometimes even midnight blue cloth, after a newly discovered jacket ), and it's short. It ends where the belt starts, a bit above the natural waistline. The back of the jacket is slightly longer, and pleated, which seems to be a heritage from 18th century fashion. The collar and front is trimmed with green and red hodden fabrics, and embroidered with yellow and red wool thread. There are four or five blind eyeholes, and five or six silver buttons on each side. There are also two or three silver buttons on each sleeve. The jacket is closed by one or two brooches with hooks. There exist at least two different ways of decorating the jacket - Dølemo and Fiskevatn, named after where they were discovered -, but the basic design is the same. You can read more about it underneath.

1. Jacket and belt as worn today, but with solid black apron, and jacket without collar.
2. Similar to number one, but with (probably) silk headscarf.
3. White, embroidered headscarf like it's used today. In the 19th century it was usually worn over a silk headscarf.
4. Again a solid, black apron. Isn't that ermine edge just too funky? It's definitely not occurring in modern bunads...
5. A Flintoe depiction from "Omlie", 19th century. The headdress is worn similarly to the related "Iveland" one. She also wears a printed apron.
6. From 1935. A woman had inherited some old outfit parts, and wore it to display how her ancestors wore it. Again no lacing, but it might be because the silver eyelets had been removed. Belt is tied two times around the waist and tied.
7. A Flintoe sketch. It is unfinished, but you can clearly read what colours were intended. An interesting view of both the front and the back, and it's also nice to see documentation of the green colour being used in the bodice. Skirts are not finished, but instructions tells that the one with red bodice should have a white, floral apron, while the green bodice one should have a black skirt. Head scarf reminds of todays versions, but is tied under the chin, over silk headscarves.
8. A third Flintoe drawing, this one from the Royal Norwegian castle. It seems to be a finished version of the previous sketch. Note the narrow, blue strip on the hem and the floral apron.

(All pictures from Norsk folkemuseum in Oslo, except no. 8)

The skirt is made of black hodden with green and red wool decorations on the hem, to stiffen and decorate it. It is made in three-shaft material using wool from the Norwegian spælsau sheep. It is box pleated in the front waist, and in one of the pleatings, there are hidden an invicible nice, big pocket - very practical, as this bunad has no reticule. The back has cartridge pleats.

The bunad shirt is in white linen or cotton. Various white-work techniques are used to embroider the collar, the wrists and shoulders. Some shirts are very short, while others are normal lenght. It's a matter of taste today, but it seems elder shirts were on the shorter side. The cuffs (and neck) are closed using decorated silver cuff links. The sleeves should be rather full, and has additional width from the gussets under the arm.

The headscarf and apron are white handwowen linen with a red or white fringe - or no fringe at all. There are around 10 designs for both the headscarf and the apron. Still, all seem to have the same basic composition. They were probably embroidered without any pattern, which might explain the variations. The thread used to embroider the linen is always plant dyed wool thread. The technique used is special; on the backside there's barely any thread at all. This was probably done to economize. Existing apron patterns: Børtinghus, Eppeland, Gunnleikfjell, Mo, Ramse, Skjeggedal, Tovdal, Tverrstøyl, Vatne, Vehus. Existing head scarf patterns: Eikås, Gjøvland, Messel, Mykland, Oland, Ramse, Risdal, Øvre Skjeggedal. All these are names of the farms where they were found. As you can see, only Ramse has both apron and headscarf, while the neighbor farms Skjeggedal and Øvre Skjeggedal also has apron and headscarf. The tradition of using printed cotton fabrics has also come back the last couple of years; most of these show dark fabrics with red floral prints.

Beautiful silver is a part of most bunads. My home county (Aust-Agder), along with the neighbour county (Telemark), is known for stunning silver work, reflected in the bunad silver. For the Åmli bunad you'll need small cuff links and a larger one for closing the shirt in the neck. Two brooches are used in front, pinned to the shirt. Often a "bolesølje" is used under one with leaves (lauv). The bodice is laced in front with a silver chain fastened to decorative eyelets. Both the belt and the jacket is closed with ornamental silver clasps with hook and eye.

Married women are allowed to use a silver belt, while unmarried maidens prefereably uses a woven belt. Both belts are helt together by brooches with hooks. Folk costume silver, used sparingly or profusely, was an essential part of the attire and could be anything from the single brooch pin used for fastening the shirt in everyday wear, to rows and rows of dazzling filigree brooches; and anything from the button on a shirt collar to one or two dozen bright buttons on a waistcoat and/or jacket. The silver was a not only a way of telling how wealthy the family were - the farmers preferred silver jewellery and silver objects to money, so you could almost call the silver their "bank". For religious wear silver was also thought of protecting them against evil spirits.

One is supposed to use knitted kneehigh stockings to the bunad. The stockings, which are black or red and reach to the knee, are held up by garters, similar to the maiden belt. An underskirt is also recommended, to make the skirt flow nicer.

I try to use the bunad as faithful to the recommended use as possible. However, I have made some additions and changes. For example, my skirt is too short for me, so I've made an underskirt which is slightly longer, to give an impression of a longer skirt. It's not uncommon to wear underskirts, but the actual design is my own, and it should be shorter rather than longer than the main skirt. I wear a loose pocket underneath the main skirt, so I have a safe place to keep my mobile, credit card etc. This doesn't really belong to the Åmli bunad, but since I've grown accustomed to loose pockets under the skirt from my Renaissance dresses, I've adapted it to my folk costume. Very practical, and the concept of loose pockets is know from other folk costumes as well, even from the Iveland bunad from the same country as mine. I also lace the bodice differently in front, with spiral lacing rather than X lacing. Again a habit I have from Renaissance dresses. For the underskirt I tried a hemming technique from mid 1500 Florence. It's meant to both stiffen and decorate the hem, with very good result. Basically, stiff fabric was inserted between the outer fabric and a decorative one. The end of the decorative fabric was folded and clipped, sometimes piping was added too. I added green fabric on the black skirt, and it's rather decorative. See Janet Arnold's "Patterns of Fashion 4: 1560-1620" (Eleonora di Toledo's funeral dress) for a thorough description.

1. The basic layers, consisting of the white embroidered shirt and the underskirt. The underskirt is shaped after the dress skirt, but has is made of cotton and has box pleats all around. The hem is stiffened with two different fabrics and has a decorative green piping. I've also added a loose pocket.
2. The dress. The black skirt is sewn to the red bodice. The bodice is closed in front with silver lacing. Two big silver brooches should be added to the shirt front.
3. The full outfit (without headscarf and red stockings)
4. The spencer-ish jacket and the apron is added. On the head one also use an embroidered head scarf.
5. A closeup of the loose pocket, made of bodice lining fabric, with embroidery adapted from the apron. My grandmother did the embroidery, and it looks stunning.
6. A closeup of the shoulder decorations of the shirt
7. Full view of the apron with Ramse pattern
8. The headscarf, very decorative, in Ramse pattern
9. A side shot of the bodice
10. A front shot of the bodice (although this picture is old...)

The stiffened, clipped and piped hem of the underskirt.


This folk costume jacket is a Spencer jacket with a local twist. A noticeable feature in Regency fashion is the military inspiration in jackets and bodices, with elaborate cuffs, Hussar and Brandenburg pipings, closings and decorations, and also epaulettes and shoulder decorations echoing the male military uniforms. The Spencer jacket itself was originally a male garb, worn by Earl Spencer, but was soon enough adapted by Regency women in their flimsy, chilly dresses. It was fashionable in continental Europe from ca. 1790 to 1820 (a bit later in rural districts). It was a practical and warm addition, which might account for its immensely popularity. It soon spread to rural districts like my home county, and it was adapted into the folk costume.

The fabric of my jacket is a hodden trimmed with red and green wool, as well as some yellow and red embroidery and silver buttons. It is closed using one or two (mostly two) silver hooks. The lenght is supposed to be short, but still cover the belt (which is more or less the width of a hand over the waistline). My bodice is a tad too long, so alas! the jacket looks too short. But it's actually the jacket that has the right lenght. The jacket is lined with a black cotton twill, and though there are mock closing with those silver buttons, the actual closure consists of one or two big silver clasps with very ornamented filigran patters or an engraved pattern.

The decorative wool is for the most stitched down by the decorative embroidery, which is another great way of fusing economical and decorative desires.

1. The cuff of the Åmli bunadjakke
2. My jacket almost finished, lacking lining, second closing and decent cuffs 3. Birgit Vrålstad (Norsk folkemuseum)
4. Ingeborg Ivedotter (Norsk folkemuseum)
5. Woman with ermine trimmed apron (unknown)
6. Early 19th century jacket (from a book about the Åmli bunad)
7. and 8. Regency jackets with military details, from the Kyoto Costume Institute


Åmli bunad aprons
Åmli bunad head scarves
Åmli bunad bodices (a selection)
Åmli bunad jackets
Husfliden - makers of bunads
Arnold, Janet (1985) "Patterns of Fashion 4: 1560-1620", MacMillan, London
Fossnes, Heidi (1993) "Håndplagg til norske bunader og folkedrakter", Damm, Oslo
Fossnes, Heidi (1993) "Norske bunader og samiske folkedrakter", J.W. Cappelens Forlag, Oslo
Fossnes, Heidi (2010) "Åmlibunaden", in "Magasinet Bunad", 3/2010, Oslo
Nistov, Eli ++ (1998) "Norske bunader", Husfliden
Pedersen, Kari-Anne (1997) "Bunad og folkedrakt - Beltestakken før og nå", Teknologisk forlag, Oslo
Rusten, Ragnhild Bleken (2002) "Folkedrakt og bymote i Gudbrandsdalen 1650-1940"

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