Karolin - Centre for Polish Folklore

Mazowsze National Folk Song and Dance Ensemble is one of the largest artistic ensembles of its kind in the world. Polish traditional dance, song, music and costume inspire its artistic programme, in which features of regional culture form the basis of intricate choreographies and musical compositions.

Mazowsze takes its name from the central Polish region in which it was founded and is based, though its repertoire has expanded to include representations of folklore from across the whole country. Over the past 75 years, Mazowsze has become a household name and has performed across the globe, earning the title of "Ambassador for Polish Culture".

Costume of the Opoczno Region

The territories on which the “Opoczno” form of traditional dress was worn were defined as a result of research carried out by Janina Krajewska in the years 1949-1955. These areas included the left bank of the Pilica River, in the vicinity of Rzeczyca and Sierzchowce, as far as Rawa Mazowiecka and Lubochnia. On the right bank, it was worn as far as Smardzewice, Opoczno, Drzewica and Odrzywół. These were typically rural areas, where most inhabitants supported themselves through farming and animal husbandry. The Opoczno form of traditional dress developed rapidly in the period following the emancipation of the peasantry, until the First World War. Over the last 150 years, it has seen many changes in terms of colour, weaving technique, embroidery and embellishment.
Mazowsze Ensemble bases its costumes of the Opoczno region closely on this form of traditional dress. It was the first costume prepared for the Ensemble, and was worn by members during the Mazowsze’s debut performance in the Teatr Polski in Warsaw on 6 November 1950.

Men’s Costume

Woollen, striped trousers and waistcoats are characteristic for the Opoczno region and are worn on stage by Mazowsze performers. Men also wore long, woollen white coats (sukmana) with woollen belts. Blue hats (maciejówka) are also a distinctive feature of this costume.

Women’s Costume

Women’s traditional dress includes: a white cotton square cut shirt with flat embroidery and crochet lace embellishments (siatki) on the collar; a woollen skirt with a woollen striped bodice or a black or navy beaded and sequined velvet bodice; a woollen apron which contrasts in colour with the rest of the apparel; and a flowery, woollen headscarf with tassels.

Costume of the Sieradz Region

The Sieradz variant of traditional dress was worn within the borders of the present day voivodeship of Łodź, in Central Poland. It was widely worn towards the end of the nineteenth century and in the early twentieth century in the areas of Łask, Zduńska Wola, Pabianice, Warta and Sieradz, around the Warta river, its tributary – the Widawka – and the rivers Grabia and Nieciecza.

The development of this form of occasionwear peaked after the emancipation of the peasantry, in the second half of the nineteenth century. Women continued to wear these outfits for longer than men: in the areas of Sieradz and Widawa until the 1950s.
Mazowsze first presented their costumes modelled on traditional dress from the Sieradz region during performances in Paris in 1954.

Men’s Costume

The waistcoat (lejbik) and jacket (spencerek) are key elements of the men’s costume from Sieradz. Striped, woollen homespun fabrics dominated. Trousers were made from wool with green, blue or red striped patterns. As in the Opoczno region, distinctive “maciejówka” hats were commonly worn.

Women’s Costume

Skirts, dresses and bodices were made from striped, woollen fabrics. Aprons were either homespun or factory-made. Striped scarves were worn over the shoulders and headscarves with tassels were tied around the head.

Costume of the Urzecze Region

These costumes are referred to by Mazowsze’s artists as “Wilanowskie” – from Wilanów – and are a stage adaptation of traditional occasionwear from western Mazowsze. This form of traditional dress was worn along the left bank of the Vistula River, including areas close to or forming part of present-day Warsaw, such as: Błonie, Czerniaków, Ujazdów, Ołtarzew, Powsin, Powsinek, Raszyn, Wilanów, Służew and Zawady. Their inhabitants – farmers who could take advantage of the great nearby market offered by the capital city – were relatively well-off and this, as well as the proximity of Wilanów Palace, had a significant impact on this form of traditional dress. It was widely worn until the start of the twentieth century and remained in use for longest on the Wilanów estate.
Men’s Costume

Mazowsze Ensemble’s men’s costumes of the Urzecze region feature a navy blue, woollen long coat (sukmana) with a red collar and cuffs, a “kaftan” jacket and woollen trousers. A long, red woollen belt completes the outfit.  

Women’s Costume

A characteristic feature of women’s traditional dress from this region – and of Mazowsze’s costumes  –   is the gobelin fabric bodice. Embroidered tulle aprons are worn over woollen skirts edged with black guipure lace. Blouses and skirts are decorated with distinctive black, flower-motif embroidery.

Costume of the Kurpie “White Forest” Region

The term “Kurpie” refers to the ethnographic region located in the forests of Eastern Mazowsze. The term also describes its inhabitants. The so-called “White Forest” areas were settled relatively early and are divided into two culturally distinct parts: the “Pułtusk” area in the southwest and the “Ostrów” area in the north east. Traditional dress from the former survived for considerably longer than that of the latter, experiencing something of a renaissance in the 1930s. It served as inspiration for Mazowsze Ensemble’s costumes of the Kurpie “White Forest” region, which date back to 1951.
Men’s Costume

This includes a woollen waistcoat tied with a woven belt, woollen, striped trousers and a white, embroidered shirt.

Women’s Costume

A characteristic element of this costume is the “kitla” – a dress made from wool in shades of green, pink and beige, with striped patterns. Both the dress and woollen apron are significantly embellished with glass beading. The blouse is embroidered with semi-circular patterns characteristic for this region. A woollen headscarf is tied around the head.

Costume of the Kurpie “Green Forest” Region

The northerly “Green Forest” region is bordered by four rivers: the Pisa in the east, the Narew in the south, the lower Omulew in the south-west and the Middle Orzysz in the west. Historic occupations of its inhabitants included fishing, hunting and honey-collecting. Traditional dress in the Kurpie Green Forest – both everyday and occasionwear – was commonly made almost entirely from homespun flax and wool fabrics. In men’s dress, the colour brown was prevalent. In women’s, red and green dominated. Mazowsze Ensemble first performed in costumes modelled on traditional dress from this region in 1952.
Men’s Costume

Men wear short, red, woollen jackets with embroidered edges. Trousers are sewn from white woollen material and are tucked into black boots. Red ribbon runs down the side of the trousers. Black felt hats complete the outfit.

Women’s Costume

A very characteristic element of unmarried girls' traditional dress from this region is the “czółko” headdress. Made from black velvet and decorated with flowers and ribbons, it forms an integral part of Mazowsze’s stage costumes. Girls wear a silk taffeta bodice with decorative buttons, a woollen skirt embellished with ribbons, a crocheted apron and an amber necklace.