LINDSBORG — Given its many Swedish-themed festivals, it is not unusual to see people in Lindsborg donning period garb to sing, dance and play. The city recently adopted an official costume designed by Tara Killingsworth and Carla Wilson — the Svensk Folkdräkt.
The two women met shortly after Killingsworth opened The Ivory Thimble in Lindsborg. Wilson brought in a pile of Swedish folk costume patterns she collected over the years and plunked it down on the counter.
“I said, ‘you have to know this — this is going to be big for you,’” Wilson said.
“I do costume design,” Killingsworth acknowledged. “I can do anything for people, and people in Lindsborg need a lot of Swedish costumes.”
The pair would confer together, bringing Killingsworth’s knowledge of fabrics and fashion together with Wilson’s familiarity with Swedish history.
“We had a really good combination of knowledge,” Wilson said.
Then, an idea for a Lindsborg folk costume was born.
“(Killingsworth) approached me last November and said ‘I want to design a Lindsborg Swedish costume, will you co-design it with me,’” Wilson said.
Killingsworth and Wilson researched rural clothing, both Swedish and American, from 1867-1900.
“Right away, we both really wanted the costumes to represent both our Swedish and American heritage,” Wilson said.
The women’s outfit includes a high-collared white blouse and green ankle-length skirt over which are worn a yellow linen vest trimmed in blue and a white apron with a floral design. The men’s costume consists of olive green trousers and a white shirt worn underneath a red vest. Both men and women include a red patterned neck rag in their ensembles. Women, girls and boys (who don knee-length trousers) also wear white stockings.
“We asked people what reminded them of the Smoky Valley,” Killingsworth said. “That yellow, red and green, those were all colors that people threw out there.”
The outfits are accented with silver buttons resembling smashed buffalo-head nickels.
“The costume’s colors, cuts, fabrics — even the hats and buttons — tell a vivid story at a glance of our history and culture, both Swedish and American,” said Lindsborg Mayor Becky Anderson in proclaiming Lindsborg’s Svensk Folkdräkt on May 7.
Beyond being colorful, function was a major consideration in the costume’s design. In the 1800s, neck rags, usually made of silk, could be used to strain water for drinking, mark a trail or be used as a sling or tourniquet.
“They would have used a neck rag on the farm all the time,” Killingsworth said.
The blue kick hem on the skirt can be replaced as it accumulates dirt and wear from use.
“It just adds new life to the skirt and you get more years out of it,” Wilson said.
Both women emphasized that what makes the costume special to Lindsborg is the design and the colors.
“We’re actually encouraging groups to make slight changes,” Wilson said. “...I think that makes the costumes fun to wear.”
Those who have costume passed from earlier generations or made to reflect a person’s heritage from a particular Swedish province are still welcomed in Lindsborg. For others who are new to the community and may not have Swedish heritage — like Wilson and Killingsworth — wearing the official Lindsborg costume gives them the chance to identify with the town.
“You may not be able to find this exact fabric that we used anymore, but you can use something that’s the same color,” Killingsworth said.
Hats can also be customized to be made from wool, straw or cloth, as the season dictates, and colors may be chosen to represent sacred and secular groups.
“We thought that’s a part of the costume we can leave up to individuals,” Wilson said.
Killingsworth and Wilson want to offer printed patterns for Lindsborg’s Svensk Folkdräkt in time for the sesquicentennial year.
They estimate it will take $20,000 to develop instructions and illustrations, digitize the pattern pieces in several sizes for men’s, women’s and children’s costumes and print the patterns for others to use.
“We really do want it to be user-friendly,” Killingsworth said.
Once the patterns can be offered for sale, those proceeds will fund development of accompanying period coats.
The launch of the costume’s design is timely, with the community’s 150th anniversary coming up in 2019, a year in which Lindsborg will also hold its Svensk Hyllningsfest.
To learn more about the Lindsborg Swedish folk costume, contact Killingsworth at 785-212-1925 or email@example.com or Wilson at 785-212-0614 or firstname.lastname@example.org.