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Expressing Norwegian and American Identities through Dress

April 13, 2022 @ 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Expressing Norwegian and American Identities through Dress

April 13, 2022 | 2:00 p.m. (MT) / 3:00 p.m. (CT)

Location: Online on Zoom

Vesterheim Chief Curator Laurann Gilbertson is giving an online presentation for our friends at the Museum of International Folk Art in Sante Fe, New Mexico, in connection with their exhibit Dressing with Purpose: Belonging and Resistance in Scandinavia.

Register in advance for this meeting here.

More than four million Americans identify as being of Norwegian birth or ancestry. Many of these Norwegian Americans choose to create and express an ethnic identity by observing family traditions, joining cultural organizations, attending festivals, or wearing a bunad. A bunad (plural: bunader) is a Norwegian national costume.

Bunader worn in the United States range from reconstructions of historic folk dress to contemporary designer outfits inspired by traditions to personalized and freely-composed interpretations. Since about 1960 there has been a proliferation of “U.S. bunader,” outfits created to represent American communities in the same way that bunader have been designed in Norway to represent the cultural history and natural environment of Norwegian communities.

Dress is an important marker of ethnic identity in the United States today. Focusing on the years since 1950, Gilbertson will explore choices in Norwegian dress and how the bunad has been adapted and transformed in the American context. There has been a shift from first expressing a national and then regional Norwegian identity to sharing a more personalized Norwegian or Norwegian-American identity. The recent popularity of reconstructed styles, “U.S. bunader,” and couture bunader suggests that Americans are increasingly interested in expressing their personal identity at the same time they express a Norwegian group identity.

Dressing with Purpose exhibition examines three Scandinavian dress traditions—Swedish folkdräkt, Norwegian bunad, and Sámi gákti—and traces their development during two centuries of social and political change across northern Europe.

Photo credits: Laurann Gilbertson


April 13, 2022
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM