Czech lawmakers don traditional folk costumes to celebrate diversity

The Czech Chamber of Deputies was considerably brighter and more colourful than usual on Tuesday. A number of MPs from across the political spectrum showed up for work in the traditional folk costumes of their region to celebrate regional and national diversity and folklore.

Photo: Poslanecká sněmovna ČR

Next to the usual drab politician’s attire of a dark suit and tie, around 30 out of the 200 MPS in the lower house of the Czech parliament lit up the room on Tuesday by coming to work dressed in regional folk costumes. The occasion? The Day of Folk Costumes, which was marked in the Chamber of Deputies in Prague by the opening of an exhibition featuring 50 newly-made folk costumes for men, women and children based on real historical models from 1820 to 1920, when the tradition of wearing folk costumes or ‘kroje’ was at its peak.

Based on designs by the ethnographer Romana Habartová, the costumes were made by more than 50 designers, seamstresses and dressmakers from the Zlín Region, who Habartová says should be celebrated.

"The exhibition is an example of the genius and creativity of these people: tailors, seamstresses, embroiderers, shoemakers and milliners. It is a tribute to honest handiwork and a celebration of all the people who procure, wear and take care of the costumes, thereby preserving our regional and national traditions."

Radek Vondráček | Photo: René Volfík,

The chief organiser behind the costume drive was ANO MP Radek Vondráček, who also organised a similar event in Brno in September 2022, to commemorate 1,200 years since the first mention of the Moravian people in the historical records. Lawmakers dressed up in folk costumes and met in the Constitutional Court building in Brno, where the Moravian Regional Assembly once sat. He says that although this time the event wasn’t to celebrate an anniversary, it was still intended to pay tribute to their forebears, who would often ordinarily come to parliament dressed in folk costumes.

"We want to honour the MPs who during the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire went to the Reichstag in Vienna in folk costumes. They were not only Czech and Moravian, but also Polish, Croatian, and Slovenian. It was terribly important for national identity."

He is adamant that this event was not a political move to win votes in Moravia, which is why he sought broad support from MPs from all parties across the political spectrum and from different regions of the country.

"Really, don't look for any politics in it. I like costumes and folklore, and I think it's good to recall the sentiments of the parliamentarians at that time. I support the European Union and its motto Unity in diversity."

Radek Vondráček  (in the middle) | Photo: Poslanecká sněmovna ČR

Tuesday’s event and even the 2022 meeting in Brno were not, however, the first time this old tradition had been revived. In 2021, Christian Democrat MP Jiří Horák took his parliamentary oath of office dressed in the costume of his local area, Vlčnov. He told Czech Radio at the time that he did it to honour the memory of his great-grandfather, Jan Plesl, pre-war mayor of Vlčnov and post-war Christian Democrat MP, who took his oath in costume 75 years earlier. Shortly afterwards, he was arrested by the communist regime for refusing to submit and was tortured in Mírov Prison in 1949 and then again in 1953 – the second time to death. Jiří Horák said that by taking the oath in the Vlčnov costume, he was expressing his respect for him, as well as for Czech traditions and roots.

However, not all the MPs who wore traditional folk costumes on Tuesday share Horák’s feelings about other traditional conservative values. While Horák said he would vote against gay marriage, Michaela Šebelová from the Mayors and Independents (STAN) said while dressed in her region’s traditional folk costume that gay people had always existed and for sure they had also worn these costumes in centuries past. The Chamber of Deputies will be casting their votes on the equal marriage bill this week.

And Tuesday may not have been the last time that legislators show up to work in costume, either. Some lawmakers said they want to repeat the event every year, with even the Speaker of the lower house Markéta Pekarová Adamová, who did not wear a folk costume this year, saying she was thinking about it for next year.

“When I see you all dressed like this, it makes me consider it for next time. I'm glad that you started this tradition, you've brightened up our day."

Author: Anna Fodor | Sources: CNN Prima News , Aktuálně.cz ,
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