Housed in a former school built in 1907, the Nordic Heritage Museum sits above a quiet, tree-lined street in Ballard. Inside, wood floors creak under the feet of hushed guests.
Inside the Dressing Swedish exhibit, a silent video loops in a corner of one room, showing a woman dressing herself in various traditional Swedish costumes. There are no zippers or snaps. She spends five minutes lacing the bodice of a formal outer gown, and carefully secures her knee-high stockings with ribbon. In another segment, she dresses in a practical work outfit, her black buckled shoes nearly identical to the shoes worn by men. Her undergarment, designed to exaggerate her hips, is made from wicker.
The video shows a man’s formal outfit, black and sombre. White stockings and buckled black shoes give him the look of a Mayflower pilgrim. His pants have no snaps or zippers, but three flaps that must be secured with string knots. His vest and outer coat sport large pocket flaps.
In another room, children’s costumes hang on wall pegs, and a small blonde girl tries one on. “It feels good,” she says. “I like the big puffy sleeves.” She practices curtsying for her mother and grandmother. “It’s cool how it’s a grown-up dress, but it’s kid-size.”
Indeed, the children’s clothing appears to make no allowances for running and jumping. The girls’ frocks and aprons look designed for work, miniature copies of the women’s clothing.
And yet, there is room for joy. All the traditional ensembles on display are cheerfully colorful, adorned with silver clasps and elaborate embroidery. Practical purses hang hands-free from many waistlines, a tasteful version of today’s fanny pack.
Many embroidered jackets look easily translatable into today’s fashion, including a modern silhouette of a jacket that hangs loose over the bust, and low scoop-neck jackets that accentuate the bust and slim the waist. One can imagine embroidered wool jackets in the storefront windows of Anthropologie.
A modern wool coat and jacket emulate the silhouettes of yesterday, in a birch-bark felt pattern that could grace a runway today. Marimekko prints splash bold, contemporary flowers across a simple dress, and glittery acrylic buttons update the laces and clasps required for traditional clothing.
Even chain store H&M has gotten into the spirit of Swedish fashion updates. Following the popularity of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series of novels by Stieg Larsson, Swedish women embraced the tough-femme look of the books’ main character, Lisbeth. H&M released a collection called “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” incorporating looks such as this denim jacket spliced with leather sleeves, and dark print t-shirts.
Two t-shirts on display embrace the bold, graphic motifs of traditional embroidery, but with an updated silkscreen finish.
The Nordic Heritage Museum is a proud participant in the Blue Star Museums program, a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the Department of Defense. As a Blue Star Museum, they offer free admission to U.S. active duty military personnel, including National Guard and Reserve, and up to five family members from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The Nordic Heritage Museum is a 501 (c) 3 organization, and is currently running an Annual Fund Drive through December 31, 2013. In addition, they currently seek contributions to a Capital Campaign, to open a new museum in 2016, on a site already purchased.
WHEN: Continues through Sunday, November 10, 2013
Nordic Heritage Museum
3014 NW 67th St.
Seattle, WA 98117
Seniors and college students $5
Children 5 and older $4
Children younger than 5 free
Members of the Nordic Heritage Museum free
First Thursday of each month: free admission all day
Sunday: 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Tuesday-Saturday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.