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Celebrating Norwegian Culture with Our Bunads

When it comes to traditional garb, Bunads is top-tier when it comes to cultural uniqueness and quality. If this is the first time you’ve even heard the name, stick around to learn more. The Norwegian Bunad is an incredibly interesting garment, and once you see what they look like and know a little more about them and their cultural relevance, you might end up with one in your suitcase heading home after your trip to Norway.

What is a Bunad?

A bunad is a traditional Norwegian dress worn by Norwegians on special occasions and major life events. And if you ever visit the country on the 17th of May, which is our National Day, you’ll find most of Norway dressed to the 9th in Norwegian traditional clothing.

But the Bunad is not just culturally significant and incredibly beautiful with all its embroidered detail, brooches, and colorful wool; the designs are also unique to every region. This includes some regional characteristics such as flowers, mining, and icebergs. This is why there are over 450 different Bunads that can be found in Norway and, in effect, each will reveal where the wearer is from.


The History of the Bunad in Norway

Norway was in union with Sweden from 1814 to 1905. This was the time of the industrial revolution and most things, especially the dress code of the time period, was very bland, black, and grey, and everyone tended to look the same.

But as with any suppressed individual and those feeling forced to conform, a type of rebellion began to brew underneath the surface, and the Norwegians were starting to look for signs and symbols supporting independence. For this, the Norwegians started digging into their past.

They gathered all sorts of traditional handiwork, patterns, colors, designs—you name it—anything and everything that uniquely represented Norway. They then incorporated all these elements together to create some of the intriguing designs found in the Bunads to this day.

What Makes the Bunads of Norway So Special?

Except for what we already mentioned, including the historic relevance, the culturally unique designs, and the incredible beauty and style of the dresses, Norway is also one of the few places in the world where traditional folk costumes are not just worn by a few who stubbornly stick to old-school traditions but are actually happily and popularly worn by the general public whenever the occasion calls for them.

Bunads in Norway are seen in the same way suits or special formal dresses are seen in other parts of the world. What makes these traditional clothing even more special is that Bunads are often sewn or embroidered by someone in the family, and these garments are handed down and inherited throughout generations.

Although Bunads generally tend to be dresses, with roughly 70% of women in Norway wearing them, you can also find a type of male version of the Bunad, with about 20% of men in Norway wearing them. Bunads represent Norwegian tradition and history of more than 150 years. That is also why it has been nominated to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Norwegian Bunad

A Few Interesting Facts About the Bunads in Norway

As if the Bunads aren’t interesting enough, the following facts are all both curious and intriguing:

  • Remember the days of the DVD rental? We almost all knew the pirate copy warning trailer by heart, and for many who were just small children at the time, it can invoke terrifying memories as most children were sure that the FBI would be busting through the door at any time (why exactly, since we weren’t burning any pirated copies, no one will ever really know). 

Although not quite the same genre and definitely less dramatic, the Bunadpolitiet (aka the Bunad Police) is an organization that tries to ensure that Bunads are kept 100% original to Norway with exclusively local sourcing, production, and manufacturing. This is not just to keep the Norwegian integrity of these folk clothes but also to ensure only the highest quality garments.

  • Bunads from the Sunnmore region have certain requirements based on the women's relationship status. Married women had to wear black stockings with their dresses, while those who were unmarried had to wear red stockings (we’re assuming that this was originally intended to be some sort of old-timey Bumble or Tinder for the people in the region).

  • You are expected to be on your best behaviour when wearing your Bunda, and according to tradition, you are not supposed to wear too much makeup or drink too much to show your respect for the traditional garb.

  • One cannot wear a Bunad from Svalbard unless one has actually lived in the region for at least four seasons (we’re still a bit murky on whether there might be a loophole regarding whether this is consecutive seasons or after considering all the seasons spent in the region separately).

Can Visitors to Norway Get a Bunad?

Considering all the above, one wonders whether visitors to Norway can buy a Bunad or whether it’s exclusively reserved for locals with historic ties to the country.

Today, even though the Bunads might be tied to a specific region, the wearer doesn’t necessarily have to be, and anyone who has an appreciation and respect for Norwegian culture can have and wear a Bunad (whether you are Norwegian or not).

In the same breath, you will really need to have either a deep appreciation for the clothes or pretty deep pockets since the Bunads, made only from the best and incredibly strong materials, such as wool, can range from $3000 to $13 000 each!

Bunad in Norway

Where Can One Buy a Bunad?

You will find many places selling Bunads in Norway. These can range from general local stores and handiwork shops to souvenir stores and museums (the latter obviously not being actual museum items). You also don’t have to be in Norway to get your hands on these beautiful garments. If you go to the website, you can even order your Bunad online.

Pick Up a Bunad On Your Travels Around Norway

The best and most affordable way to explore the country is to rent a motorhome in Norway upon arrival and then hit the road for the road trip of a lifetime. And while stopping at numerous local attractions along the way, why not make picking up your very own Bunda another stop along your travels? And if you’re here on the 17th of May, you’re officially invited to join the festivities!

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