1962.99.750 FRONT.jpg

Time Period: 1900-1925

Category: Accessory, Hat

Accession Number: 1962.99.750

Donor: Mary C. Whitlock


This hat, donated to the University of Rhode Island's Historic Textile and Costume Collection in 1962, would have been procured from Czechoslovakia long before the nation split in 1993 into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The cap above (otherwise know as a cepec) is made entirely from handmade silk eyelet. The fabric would have been cut into and elaborately patterned by hand, then carefully embroidered with golden/mustard colored thread. This embroidery technique known as vysivka, is commonly seen in kroj (folk clothing) from the Western Piestany region where this piece is specifically found. The cap would have been worn on the head with the ornate-cut-out triangles surrounding the face. [1]


The hat displayed above, otherwise known as a cepec (bonnet), is from the vicinity of Piestany in western Slovakia. Piestany, is a region located on the bank of the Vah river known mostly for its luxurious, world class health spa and "Resort Island". At the beginning of the 20th century, tourist's fascination with folk culture grew as guests of the spa began to buy folk art and small souvenirs to take home. After this spike in the fascination with folk culture, Slovakia adopted Piestany kroj as its national costume. Piestany kroj went on to win awards at exhibitions in both Paris and London due to its rich history and delicate precision.Today, Peistany Kroj is predominately worn for occasions such as folk festivals, theater events and political meetings; it israrely worn on a day to day basis.[2]

The cepec above, is normally identified as part of a woman's traditional kroj (folk costume) from this region and would have typically been worn in conjunction with a long skirt and a white blouse that was tapered and tied at the wrists. This garment, would not only be worn for decorative and protective purposes, but would reflect a great deal of importance and tradition in Piestanty life. The cepec's primary purpose within the culture was to mark a woman's development through out her life, but cepecs were also worn on special celebratory holidays. Generally, (unmarried) girls would not have needed to cover their heads/hair until they were to be married. Therefore, on their wedding day, they would traditionally wear a bridal headdress and then receive a cap/bonnet/kerchief known as a cepec that they would be expected to wear for the rest of their life. In some cases, Slovakian women would wear a second less ornate cepec beneath their decorative cepec to be even more modest and covered.This idea of covering the head to provide a sense of modesty is prevalent in many religions and cultures, especially by those associated with the Romani traditions/lifestyle. Today, about 90,000 people living in this area of the world are registered as Romani. Romani peoples, sometimes referred to as "gypsies", are often associated with their nomadic traditions and talent for song and dance. Romani dress is usually characterized by lots of jewelry, flowy garments, colorful textiles, and ornate embroidery.[3]

The amount of cutoutsand the size of the cutouts can also inform us as a viewers that who ever owned this hat was beginning to stray away from the ancient traditions explained above (because we would be able to see more of the hair). The scalloped front that comes down into points would have also been commonly used at this time to symbolize "wolves teeth" (common to those indigenous to the region) and therefore gave the wearer some sort of symbolic "protection".[4]

One of the biggest visual markers that can give a viewer insight about a garment's meaning and history is its color. The oldest textiles from Slovakia are those that existed previous to the invention of colored dyes. Some of the most commonly found tones in the oldest textiles are dull blackish-brown from sheep's wool, beige and yellowish hues. Yellow hues would have been especially common due to lack of the bleaching process. Even original embroideries otherwise known as vysivka, would have lacked color. Therefore it comes as no shock that the first two "colored" vysivkas produced were those of black and white, although even black and white were not commonly produced until 1800. Both tones showed a great amount of symbolism to the culture. Black was often used as a funeral color/ ceremonial color, whereas white was most commonly thought of as a mourning color. The golden/ mustard colored vysivka on the cepec above would have been one of the oldest and most common hues to be used. Yellow tied into the folk culture by reflecting the "ripening" of grain and crops. Yellow vysivka was also used in certain regions as a marker and was worn by young girls who were believed to have prematurely lost their virginity, a practice that was most likely influenced by the church. Other colors such as blue, green, and red also held special symbolic meaning. Blue vysivka was not very popular due to the fact that people related it to the idea of bruises or tarnishes. For example, no one wanted blue vysivka as part of their wedding attire for fear that their marriage may become "bruised" or "tarnished" in time. Green vysivka was thought to be the color of the trees/ nature representing healthy growth and youth; whereas red was looked to as the most beautiful color and denoted health and beauty. Over time, dyes and color became increasingly more vibrant as better technologies and methods for acquiring color developed. Sadly, Many of the the most vibrant and sacred textiles were destroyed during the first and second World Wars as those from outside cultures (particularly the Nazis) attempted to assimilate those within other cultures to conform to their set of values and beliefs .[5]

The techniques used to create the vysivka would have been passed down from generation to generation, which created a rich folk culture that emphasized the importance of tradition. This passing down of knowledge is referred to in some texts as a "cottage industry." Other traditions in Slovakia include dances, songs/music, and egg painting.[6]

Helpful Sites:

Slovakia Piestany Kroj Embroidery Blouse and Vest

Embroidered Bonnet


Laine Wagner, TMD 224H S15

Last updated:


Other Images:

1962.99.750 CLOSE-UP.jpg 1962.99.750 FRONT TAG.jpg 1962.99.750 BACK TAG.jpg 1962.99.750 INSIDE PEAK.jpg
  1. ^ Helena Kaczérová, trans.,Textile Folk Art.(London: Spring Books,1959), 59-09
  2. ^ "The Piestany Folk Costume Around the World", last modified January 1, 2015,http://www.piestany.sk/index.php?id=134L=tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=3899&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=1&cHash=d2b94587e5
  3. ^ "SlovakiaSite," last updated January 1, 2015, http://www.slovakiasite.com
  4. ^ Jan Letowski, e-mail message to author, March 19, 2015.
  5. ^ "Czech and Slovak Textile Folk Art," last modified February 6, 2010, http://czechfolks.com/2010/02/06/czech-and-slovak-textile-folk-art-textil-v-lidove-tvorbe/
  6. ^ Bobbie Sumberg, comp., Textiles Collection of The Museum of International Folk Art.(Layton:Gibbs Smith, 2010), 10