Tre samiska barn i olika koltar
The kolt was once the every day clothing of the Sami people. Today it is mainly used on special occasions. Photo: Unknown.

Traditional Sami costume

The traditional Sami costume is called a "kolt" in Swedish. The kolt is an important identity symbol, especially in connection with ceremonious occasions such as christenings, funerals, weddings, confirmations, etc.

The appearance of the kolt varies between different areas in Sápmi. The cut is also different depending on the sex of the owner and, in some areas, the owner's age and civil status. The differences in cut include the fact that men's kolts are shorter than women's and that kolts tend to be longer in the southern Sápmi areas than in the north. Fashion also plays a part in the differences between kolts. Depending on the imagination of the dressmaker, there may also be individual differences in colour, decoration and band patterns.

Previously most clothes were made at home. The basic materials were derived from reindeer and other fur-bearing animals; both clothes and shoes were made from fur, skins and tendons. Frieze and broadcloth, as well as wool for band weaving, were bought from tradesmen. The kolt of today is still sewn from broadcloth and frieze, but materials such as silk, velvet and synthetic fabrics are used just as often.

The traditional accessories for kolts are belts, shoes and shoelaces and, in the case of women, shawls or bosom-cloths. Accessories such as storm collars, jewellery, gloves, trousers and caps are often worn too.

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