Saturday, 16 April 2011

National garb.

The other day I was studying for the exams downtown in cafe Tíu Droppar. There's something about cafes that always makes studying really easy for me, as if the slight noise around me helps me concentrate somehow, so I'm often sitting at some of my favourites right before exams. This time the sitting was abruptly cut off, however, by a large group of people in Icelandic national dress pouring past and down the Laugarvegur.

I asked the waitresses what was going on and they explained this was a tradition of some school. Every year the students would dress up and go dance on Ingólfstorg. I quickly stuffed my books back in bag, grabbed my coat and ran after them.

I caught up with a group of three girls who were a bit late and asked them about it. Turned out the school in question is called Verslunarskólinn, The Commerce School of Iceland.

So they marched down the street with me and plenty of others in tow. At Ingólfstorg there was already a huge crowd of school kids, their families and curious tourists. Someone mentioned they got a wonderful weather for their dance, and that person might have been better to not say it at all... because there's one eternal truth about good weather in Iceland: pay attention to it and it runs away, embarrassed. And then a fukken blizzard has to stand up for it because someone has to get the weather's work done.

Well, at this point it was still nice out there. Note how most of the guys are wearing tuxedos and the like, not the national garb? I thought it was a bit of a shame. Then again, Icelandic national dress used to be ALL about women. Men didn't even have a trad option for the longest time. Then they realized they were being slighted and came up with this two-row button vest, a cute knitted cap -style hat, knee length trou and socks combo. Wiki shows some pics.

Also note how all the girls' dresses tend to look different? Back in Finland the national dress rules are so strict they even reach one's underwear (no lace or embroidery allowed) and clearly mark you as a person of some certain district, based of the pattern of the skirt, the cut, the colour etc. No improvising, just no.

However, here things are different. According to some ladies I asked about it the variations in dress are all to do with people's own taste, or whatever they inherited from their grandmas. The apron can be any colour or fabric, as long as it's pretty. The skirt must be black, except if you'd like it to be some other colour. The top part tends to have a set shape and cut, and is usually black with either gold or silver coloured clasps and metalwork decorations. Unless, of course, the top is some other colour than black and the decorations don't have to be made of metal either.

Live music.

I explained them how the system works for Finns and they sort of shrugged and said that sort of thing would never fly here. "We're much too individualistic for that".

The weather, as mentioned, can throw anything at you so all kinds of scarves, coats and cloaks are also allowed. This girl's cloak was so stylish I wanted a photo of her. By the way, I still wonder how that tassled headpiece stays on. If anyone knows how it works I'd be very grateful to find out...

These were the three girls who I mentioned earlier on. I love those detailed decorations in the front of the vests!


  1. Don't the hats stay on with a hat-pin?

  2. That's as good a guess as any, I suppose. That or magic.