Polish Folk Vest

This vest belonged to my grandmother, Adele Vestcyk (1904-1997), and she made it, we think, between 1920 and 1930. I think it dates from the early 1920′s – the size is small, about a size 6, and less than a B cup. My grandmother was busty as a grown woman, so I suspect she made this while still a teenager. At the time she danced in a Polish folk dancing troupe and this was part of her costume. The style itself is a pretty standard example of a Polish petal edge woman’s vest, very common since about the middle of the 19th century. Here is an example of a modern one made in Morawica and Olszanica in the region near Krakow:

Krakzach Polish Folk Vest

Krakzach Polish Folk Vest

The modern ones are very heavily embellished, which might seem like too much of a good thing, but I really love them!

As you can see, my grandmother’s is much simpler, and there are a few things that make it a little different; the paprika color of the cotton velvet is unusual, and while the embroidery is simple, it’s still well executed, and it has a lot of charm. I suspect she embroidered the vest, without at hoop, after she made it up. The embroidery thread is untwisted silk floss and the lining is apple green cotton sateen (the photo makes it look more blue-ish than it really is.)

There are five pairs of Bakelite lacing rings; four are ivory, and the top pair is a Jadeite green – I have no idea why the top set is a different color, and it’s a mystery as to what type of cord she used to lace the vest. Traditional Polish vests of this type are usually black, with the embellishment in traditional folk colors of red, yellow, blue and green – the colors of this vest remind me much more of the fashionable colors of Jazz Age America.

The metallic trim is really neat: it’s tarnished after all these years, but I think it may have originally been a bright copper color, and I think the fiber in the middle is silk floss. The little bow shape is not at all a European motif; I think she must have added that herself. If you look closely you can see her hand stitching.

My mother gave this to me after my grandmother passed away, so I don’t remember hearing anything about it until I received it. It’s in my sewing room, and I really enjoy having her spirit with me when I sew.

Add Comment