In Blekinge the usage of local traditional clothes faded out quite early, already in the beginning of the 1800’s. But a national romantic wave came over the region in the 1920’s and 30’s and traditional costumes were sewn up again to wear for parades and festivities.
And so did my grand-mother. I remember that she wore it once a year, every midsummer’s eve, and after that my mother did the same. Now me and my daughter, Agnes, share the costume. I wear the vest, she the skirt. My skirt is a copy of another old skirt found in the family wardrobes and so is Agnes’ vest. My apron is newly woven but with traditional techniques, while the apron Agnes is wearing was found at a yard sale for 40 crowns and is a typical traditional local apron probably made in the middle of the 19th century.
In some parts of Sweden this would definitely be seen as blasphemy, to mix old and new, not wearing proper stockings or anything on our heads. But, the break in the Blekinge tradition has sort of given us the freedom to “be traditional” again. We take what we have, sew new pieces and wear what will make us look good. This should not be seen as disrespectful, but rather as going back to how it probably was. At least here by the coast, where the sailors brought in varieties of silk brocade which were then sewn into vests and aprons. And the museal collections show shirts with a broad spectrum of embroideries from this small region, although today’s models for sewing new ones are handpicked and very limited.
So, are we traditional? When we wear an exact copy of the last model that was worn right before it was put away? Or are we traditional when we have found a set of characteristics that holds for a longer period; the variety of fabrics with wool, cotton, silk and linnen in the same costume, the cut of the vest with the little “tail” in the back, the usage of imported silk scarves, the aim to use colours that are bright and preferably enhance each other wildly? All these are traits that would be described as “typical” for the traditional costume in Blekinge.
The importance to us is that it makes us feel traditional and that it serves the purpose to carry on Agnes’ great grand-mother’s, grand-mother’s and mother’s tradition to wear a traditional costume as hostess for the early Midsummer celebration at the farm that has been in the family for some generations.