National Folk Dance Ensemble LADO is Croatia’s most successful cultural export product.
The ensemble, which travels the world promoting Croatian culture, consists of over 40 dancers who also sing while they perform, and a group of 14 top musicians who play traditional and classical instruments. In 2021, LADO celebrated 72 years of existence in which they have performed in Croatia and around the world over 5,000 times for which they have won numerous awards.
Since the establishment of the LADO Ensemble in 1949, much attention has been given to traditional attire. Over the years, the pool has grown into a respectable collection of original pieces and faithful reconstructions with more than 1,000 sets of traditional costumes.
Many of the sighs that LADO Ensemble’s concerts draw in the country and abroad are in recognition of the most elaborate ceremonial traditional costumes that have traveled from Croatian cities and villages to their new home – LADO’s vault.
Considering Croatia’s long and storied history as well as its geographic location on the crossroads of large cultural areas, traditional attires of different parts of Croatia show Mediterranean, Pannonian, Dinaridic, Central European and Turkish-Oriental influences. The final forms of traditional attires for daily use show the influence of civic fashion on the style of Croatian countryfolk.
The traditional costumes have an important role in the modern day as a symbol of national, native and local identity, as well as practical use on the stage.
These beautiful and valuable pieces can be found in LADO’s collection. Rather than lying in a chest or a closet, these attires serve a special purpose in LADO – alongside song, dance and music, they are an equally valuable part of each performance marked by stunning diversity of music and dance styles present in an area as small as Croatia.
Creating the costumes
The lengthy and arduous process of making attires used to be performed exclusively by women and it started in the fields with the cultivation of fiber crops. It took a lot of knowledge and time to make the final products, mostly from flax and hemp, which were used to make thread that what used in the weaving process to produce cloth for making the attires.
The process did not end there. In the final and most impressive stage of production – the decoration – the creativity of the makers shines through in each detail. There are in numerous techniques of weaving and decoration associated with each part of Croatia.
LADO’s collection largely comprises ceremonial pieces of traditional attires richly decorated with embroidery, lace, beads, pieces of glass, ribbons and other ornaments, different patterns, colors, fabrics and materials that are carefully maintained and preserved, which is the responsibility of the collection curator, workshop head and wardrobe supervisor.
LADO Ensemble artists treat the pieces with special care and carefully fold them into custom-made boxes after each concert.
The oldest treasure
The oldest costume in the collection is a costume from the island of Krk. It consists of a shirt, apron and dress. The shirt dates back to 1877 and the initials embroidered on the apron is from 1889 (Photos below).
Another special costume from Krk is called Kotiga. It is made of leather. It is a winter garment made of sheepskin inside to protect the body and to keep warm (photo below).
The heaviest costumes are the Vrlika costumes. They are made of old linen and cloth, which is why they are heavy.
You can find out more about LADO and when they are next performing on their website https://www.lado.hr