Goral: General Information

The ethnographic (or ethnic) group of the Gorals or Gorales (literally “highlanders”) and other West Slavic peoples of the Carpathians show little northern, Germanic, influence, as opposed to the other regions of Poland. They have been grouped with the Hutsuls (of either Romanian or White Croat descent) in the south-eastern corner of Poland (now Ukraine). In the 19th century, Polish scholars viewed the Gorals as being linguistically close to the Poles, but having close ties with Slovak folk culture. It was noted that Gorals’ social and economic life resembled that of the Vlach shepherd culture.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Gorals settled the upper streams of the Kysuca and the Orava rivers, and part of northern Spiš (Slovakia). These territories were part of the northern Kingdom of Hungary. The mountainous regions were settled with pastoral Slavs with the “Vlach law”. In 1803–19, Gorals migrated to Bukovina (nowadays in Rumania).

Nowadays, they are primarily found in their traditional area of southern Poland [the geographical region of Podhale of the Tatra Mountains and parts of the Beskids (Cieszyn Silesia, Silesian Beskids, Żywiec Beskids)], Slovakia [in 4 separate groups: in northern Spiš (34 villages subdivided in two groups), Orava and Kysuce (2 villages) and smaller groups in 7 other enclave villages in northern Slovakia], and in the region of Cieszyn Silesia in the Czech Republic (Silesian Gorals). There is also a significant Goral diaspora in the area of Bukovina in western Ukraine and in northern Romania, as well as in Chicago, the seat of the Polish Highlanders Alliance of North America.


1) Goral children
1) Goral children

Highlanders’ costume.

2) Goral hat
2) Goral hat


The men’s costume consisted of a linen shirt, woollen coat, trousers, sheepskin waistcoat, hat, highlanders’ leather shoes (kierpce) and a belt. The woollen coat (cucha or sukmana) was fastened with buttons or hooks and eyes and tied high on the torso with coloured ribbons. Below the tie was embroidery. The pants were tailored from white hand-woven cloth, ornamented with stripes running along the external stitching. The men wore a typical black hat with a low rounded crown and brim. Originally the brim was decorated with animal bones and then later on with cowrie shells from the Adriatic coast sewn to a red band. Young unmarried men wore an eagle or grouse feather in their hats. When they married they gave up the bachelor’s feather just as the bride gave up her maiden’s headdress.

3) Men's Belts and a ladies wedding costume
3) Men’s Belts and a ladies wedding costume

An impressive part of the costume is the wide leather belt adorned with metal tied around the waist. This is typical of the mountaineer belts worn in the Carpathian Mountains.

3) Parzenica embroidery
4) Parzenica embroidery

Parzenica (embroidery)

The parzenica embroidery dates back to the mid-19th century. This style of embroidery is thought it originated in Hungary and was brought back with the uniforms of young men returning from the Austro-Hungarian army. Initially they were simple string loops, used for reinforcing cuts in the front of cloth trousers. They had practical functions and protected the cloth from fraying. The modern-style parzenica came from those tailors who began using red or navy blue string, simultaneously increasing the number of loops. Later the appliqué design was replaced with embroidery. Using woollen yarn allowed the parzenica to become more colourful and eventually it become a stand-alone trouser ornamentation, developed by talented tailors and embroiderers.

5) Goral man and woman
5) Goral man and woman


The women’s costume consisted of a shirt with white embroidery on the collar and cuffs; colourful, flower-patterned skirts along with an ornamented and embroidered corset; and a sheepskin waistcoat in winter. Black laced, high-heeled half boots. Heads were covered with headscarves tied under the chin. When outside, a huge woollen shawl was worn on the shoulders.

6) Bodice of regional costume of Odrowaz
6) Bodice of regional costume of Odrowaz


In the second half of the 19th century it became fashionable in the Podhale region to adorn corsets with depictions of thistle and edelweiss. These motifs were the most popular in the early 20th century. When “Kraków style” came into fashion, the highlanders of the Podhale region began ornamenting their bodice with shiny sequins and glass beads.

7) Clasp/brooch
7) Clasp/brooch


For centuries, clasps have been an important element of Polish Highlanders’ traditional costumes. Originally used for fastening shirts, they fell out of use when buttons became popular, remaining only as ornaments. In the early 20th century, they were already rare, used only by senior and young shepherds, who grazed their sheep on mountain pastures. In the 1920s and the 1930s they were considered collector’s items and sought after by tourists. In Zakopane, they were often worn as ornaments for the “cucha” (outerwear), sweaters or occasionally on leather bags. Nowadays, the clasps are a popular element of highlanders from the Podhale region, but the way they are worn differs from the original one: instead of fastening shirts they are usually attached to them or sewn on.



Condra Jill (2013) Encyclopedia of National dress. Traditional clothing around the world. Volume 2. ISBN 978-0313-37635-8





1) Goral children – http://sewintodance.com/catalog/images/Childs%20Goral.jpg

2) Goral hat – http://www.polartcenter.com/Zakopane_Men_s_Goral_Hats_p/9230024b.htm

3) Belts – http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Gorals

4) Parzenica embroidery – Marta Malina Moraczewska – Praca własna, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51158245

5) Goral man and woman – http://geekysis.blogspot.de/2015/05/national-costumes-of-poland.html

6) Bodice of regional costume of Odrowaz- https://de.pinterest.com/dorota183gal/g%C3%B3ralskie-highlanders/

7) Clasp/brooch – https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/a1/47/e1/a147e1607361260002671b0fac987534.jpg

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