According to the Norsk Institutt for Bunad og Folkedrakt (Norwegian Institute of Bunad and Folk Costume, established 1947)
The particular clothes worn by the rural farmer population in pre-industrial Norway are called folk costumes. Folk costumes were a result of tradition, external influence, local creativity and individual taste, and differed from the clothing habits in urban areas. People living in urban regions and the provincial civil servants, wore clothes influenced by European fashion...
The use of folk costume decreased in many areas around the middle part of the 19th century. Only shortly after, however, the folk costume became an object of renewed interest. In the 1840s the romantic nationalism gained momentum in Norway. The rural folk culture became regarded as valuable, and thus also its clothes. Folk costume emerged as a popular theme among artists, and gradually the Norwegian national sentiments were also expressed through the use of such clothes...
The Norwegian nationalist movement opposed the union with Sweden and campaigned for that which was specifically Norwegian. They wanted to recreate the old rural, pre industrial folk culture which was slowly vanishing, and reintroduce it in the rural and urban communities in an improved version. Old folk costume was again taken in use, but new costumes were also created with elements from the old folk costume.
Today, based on actual historical clothing and reconstructions, there are over 200 varieties of bunad! Who knew clothes could be such a powerful tool for national self-identity?
It is at this stage that the folk costume becomes bunad. The bunad became an important element in the political-cultural contemporary debate– a visible expression of a wish that the specific Norwegian should form the basis for cultural and political activities.
Bunad is big business in Norway, especially around Constitution Day (May 17). My husband and I visited in May 2004 and were lucky enough to be in Oslo for syttende mai. I couldn't believe the variety, quantity, and quality of bunads everywhere I looked - even on the wee ones! (All candid photos thanks to my husband, Craig Allyn Rose)
Where do people these days get their bunad? Companies like this. If you have any interest at all in folk costume, historical costume, or beautiful clothes, you will lose a lot of time on this site! But don't fall in love...to get fully outfitted will set you back $3,000+!
Here's the bunad for Sunnfjord. This is how I imagined John, Anders, Elisabeth, and Oleanna dressed for the Constitution Day party.
And here's my great-grandmother's Hardanger bunad. She was from Aurlandsfjorden, in Sogn, so I can't say why she had a Hardanger costume. Perhaps it was all she could get once she'd come to America? Hard to say.
Now, with added Pandora!
At the throat is the sølje brooch I gave to my mom.