Celebrating Heritage with Kroje

Celebrating Heritage with Kroje

Mar 05, 2018

Enthusiasm for kroje is strong in the United States as people continue to celebrate their Czech and Slovak heritage. We asked our members to share their stories about their kroj.

Preserving Kroje
Courtesy of Diane Bradley, No. 225, Bannister, MI

Erica Cooper and Marques Horak wearing the kroje that Diane Bradley restored and created.

Last August, visitors to Bannister's Dožínky Harvest Festival were delighted by the sights and sounds of Czech celebration, including a soon-to-wed Marques Horak and Erica Cooper dancing in wedding kroje.

This couple was able to wear this unique ensemble due to interesting circumstances. Diane Bradley has been working with the dance group for a long time, and has helped make the kroje costumes as a skilled seamstress. Over time, some people have come to know about her interest in kroje and donated their outfits to the cause. Years ago, a bridal kroj was dropped off at her driveway by Mr. and Mrs. Ed Minarik. It was obviously a bridal kroj because of the ornate headdress, and other elements that reminded Diane of what she had seen before. But, the pieces weren't all together, and it wasn't clear how they all fit.

Diane put the kroj away for safe keeping and did her homework. She has many books about kroje, and was able to find examples of similar outfits in order to identify that this one was from Dolní Bojanovice, in the Southern Moravian region of the Czech Republic. From there, she was able to pull on the drawstrings and do a bit of sewing to complete the bride's outfit. The opportunity came to showcase the effort some time later with this dancing couple.

Diane had the bride's outfit, and pieces for the gentleman, but to make him a groom, she made a hat and musla. It closely follows the kroj she had researched for a gentleman to wear on the occasion. Diane has a skilled neighbor work on the embroidery.

With the costumes complete, Diane and her husband Tom recalled seeing a dance when they visited Strážnice in the Czech Republic for a festival featuring dancers from various countries. They had video-taped it, and were able to use it to help with the final dance the couple would use at the Dožínky Harvest Festival.

Diane has created other costumes for the dancing group. She noted that the fabrics available here in the United States aren't exactly the same, but she makes do with what she has. Over time, authentic kroje might wear out, and she has created new similar pieces to replace it. Once she has an idea of what she wants to create, she goes about figuring how to make it and really enjoys the challenge. Commenting on maintaining the sleeves and freshness of the final look, Diane uses of a lot of starch and ironing. She uses netting under the sleeves to keep them full, but has seen others use cardboard covered in fabric, or had paper to fill them out. When possible, she used pieces from the Czech Republic such as ribbons and embroidery.

Carrying On Family Heritage
Courtesy of Barbara Wright, Caldwell, KS

169-altered-on-Facebook-Photo--Restorers.jpg 224-Sumner-Co-Fair-1970--Mike,BarBara,Jennie,Cindy.jpg
Deborah Volavka wearing the dress Antonia brought to America. Barbara with her three children on Czech Day, 1970. The other two are unidentified.

As a young girl, Barbara Wright grew up with Czech parents, and her grandparents were immigrants from Czechoslovakia. She married a Czech husband, George Volavka, and had three children. George was tragically taken in a farm accident, and in later years, she married Mr. Wright.

George's mother, Antonia, was born in Velka-Lhota and immigrated to America in 1913. When Antonia came to America she brought a kroj dress. This dress remained well-preserved and was eventually given to Barbara's daughter-in-law, Deborah Volavka. Deborah has become very interested in genealogy and uncovered many interesting facts about her ancestors.

Barbara used to help with Czech costumes at our Czech Day celebration in Caldwell, KS. She made kroje for herself, husband, and her children.

Gift From an Exchange Student
Courtesy of JoAnn Parks, No. 141

An antique kroj from Čičmany village was given to JoAnn Parks after forming a special friendship with a young woman from Slovakia. Her name is Lada Suskova, and in 2002, she was an exchange student that lived with JoAnn and formed friendships in the community. She even extended her visa to stay the summer before returning home. In 2008, Lada sent the kroj to JoAnn as a gift.

It was a priceless gift to receive! JoAnn also has a book describing the patterns and symbols on the kroj and the homes in the village of Čičmany. Čičmany design is distinctive from others because of its inclination to use red, yellow, and orange-based tints nearly exclusively, lending to a character all its own.

Lada Suskova wearing the Čičmany kroj she gifted to JoAnn Parks.


Watch a Video About Kroje

Click here to watch the video.

Check out a video by our friends at Czech-American TV at www.catvusa.com. This video features a shop in the town of Uhersky Ostroh, which produces all the accessories necessary for a complete costume on the Moravian fashion. The shop ladies have mastered the old techniques of embroidery, lace-making, and pleating. The video shows their work, and a dress-up demonstration for man and woman.

Western Fraternal Life is proud to sponsor Czech-American TV at www.catvusa.com. Check them out for Czech lessons, cooking, music, history, and more.

Category: Czech Connection

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