folk dance costumes

Oh, what a couple of weeks it’s been. I’ve been hard at work with costumes for the opening night of “Mellom rutene -det første trekket avgjør ofte det siste” (the link is to a news article). I travelled up and spent last weekend there to make sure they were all in order – and to see the performance of course! Following that I went straight into a monster work week, and now I’m home sick. I’m sure they’re related. But! That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the costumes I made!

bd6Photo by Ina Cyrus

I’ve been working for this pretty cool project: This traditional folk dance foundation does a three-year project in a municipality, ending in a final project performance. It’s very much shaped by the folk music and dance material traditional to each municipality, so every project takes on a unique life and progression. I got involved to make costumes for one of these final performances, and it was a really nice experience!


The setting for the performance was a chess-game, and the concept revolved around what happens if the pieces starts breaking the rules. This show is an expansion of the version they did last year, and part of my job was to expand on the costumes they had used. This meant I was making a lot of pieces that needed to supplement the tunics they already had in place. It also meant that the silhouette was more or less already given, but anything I added also needed to be very dance-friendly.

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The main pieces I worked on were the vests for the kings and the queens. They already had beautiful hand crocheted crowns, but they needed something to make them more visibly different. I gave them vests with exaggerated collars (they queens more so than the kings, as you can see), and to make sure they were dance-friendly, the closures were made up of elastics in the front.


I also made four skirts for the rooks. I really wanted a straight, column-like shape in the skirts for the stoic rooks, but you can’t dance and roll around on the floor in a pencil skirt! The solution was to use stiffer and heavier fabric for the main portion of the skirt, and to insert cheese-cloth-like thin fabric in between the panels. When the dancer moved and twirled and stuff, the panels opened up to full skirt shape, in line with how the other skirts were moving on stage.

bd3bd5Photo by Ina Cyrus

There were of course more chess-pieces to identify, and we used hats and collars to do so. The pawns had simple tunics and hats, the knights had flat shoulder-collars, and the bishops were given neck ruffles. And, being costumes, lots of velcro as closures!



A recurrent inspiration was the medieval times, for several reasons: The previous performance was based on the old norse royal game of chess, so the existing tunics were very much medieval in style, and also – with my background in medieval studies I do jump at a chance to draw source material from the era. Several of the patterns were even based on medieval clothing, and I think it does show! In a good way, of course. For instance, the late medieval period saw a lot of collars attached to the bodice in the back with a diagonal seamline. It’s not really done much anymore, but it makes attaching the collar much easier, and I think, also more stable.

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In addition to working with costumes and getting a lot of freedom in picking fun fabric combinations, I got to meet a great group of kids who did a wonderful job on stage. They were a dedicated and fun bunch, and I’m glad to have met them!

SONY DSCPhoto by Ina Cyrus

10 thoughts on “folk dance costumes”

  1. Wow, really impressive. What I like the most are your fabric choices which make the pieces look rich in closeup, the suede, leather, linen, and I believe pique(?). Too bad all of that detail could not be seen from the audience. Great job!

    1. Ooh, I’m so glad you noticed and appreciated that! I had such a fun time picking out and balancing fabrics – matte, shiny, textured, smooth, patterned. I was a little sad that a lot of details were lost from afar, but I’d like to think there was a subtle variety from the fabrics not all being the same. Thanks for your compliments!

    1. Thank you! Hehe, “all about collars”. It really did strike me as an effective way to differentiate the characters. Yep, I worked on the black collars too – I actually made two each in black and white of everything I showed, so in total I made 4 vests, 4 panelled skirts, 4 priest collars, and 4 flat collars. I also made two circle skirts, but they looked better in the action pictures so I left them out. It was quite a production for my one-woman-enterprise! ;)

  2. Congratulations on the great costumes! They look great! I especially like the mediaeval inspiration. Like the “priest”collar and the collar-vest. They look great! Can I put it on my Christmas-wishlist? ;-)

    1. Thank you Janne! It’s funny, the priest collar picture is especially for you, since we talked about it! And of course they can go on your Christmas wishlist, haha! Just remind me when it draws near… ;)

    1. Thanks Donna! I’ve probably stared myself blind on these, working on them for so long, but you’re right – they are cool!

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