The fascinating Sámi dresses

The national dresses of Sámi people are brightly colored traditional clothing. The tradition has started already in the 16th and 17th century. The dress shows the ethnic belonging for these folks. Some, but not all, Sámi wear the traditional dress on special occasions, like weddings, funerals and official meetings when they want to show the best they have to wear. Among the older Sámi people the dresses are worn also on normal weekdays. Here in Rovaniemi you usually see Sámi people dressed in national dresses during the Sámi Parliament´s, Samediggi, meetings 4-5 time a year.

The dresses are nowadays made of mostly blue wool or felt and the ornaments are distinctive bands of bright red and yellow patterns. These bands are decorations on men´s tunics, gaktison women´s skirts and on hats for both men and women. You can tell from the special ornaments and the form of the men´s hats from which region of Lapland they come. Every region has their special hat, some are cone-shaped and others have four corners, known as pointed hats or the Four winds hats. You can even tell the marital status, unmarried men wear round buttons in their belts, and from which family he/she comes from the ornaments on the dresses. A Sámi dress consists of many parts from shoes to belts to hats.


In the Finnish Lapland there are five areas with their own dresses: The Teno river/Utsjoki area, Enontekio-Kautokeino, Sodankyla/Vuotso, Inari and the Skolts´dresses.You can see the differences between dresses if you click on the link. There are also different dresses for winter and summer. 





Today many Sámi use their traditional dresses in tourism services. It is stipulated by the Sámi Parliament that it is not recommended for other people but the Sámi to wear the traditional dresses. Many souvenir shops sell copies of the pointed hats to tourists and I think these hat copies are quite commonly used by others than the Sámi.


There is a traditional story about the pointed had, that I want to share with you:

“A long, long time ago, perhaps thousands of years ago, or maybe a little longer, man could not live in Lapland. Do you know why? That was because all the four winds used to blow just how they wanted. One morning the world could be green and warm, the flowers were blooming and the sun was shining. But the next morning there could be cold and snowy outside as the winds were blowing hard from the north. Sometimes, all the four winds blew, all at the same time.

Then one day a man came to the north, a shaman. He built his tent and moved to Lapland, ignoring the four winds. But he was lonely: no wife, no kids, no friends. Then the shaman lit the fire in his hut, and began to yoik and play his drum as accompaniment. With his amazing yoiks the Shaman called the four winds to come and see him in his hut. The shaman and the winds sat down by the fire, the hut was warm and the four winds fell all asleep. But the Shaman did not sleep, he put some more logs on the fire, and in the warm temperature the four winds began to shrink and shrink. Eventually they were so small that he could hold them in his hand. The shaman took off his hat, which at the time was shaped round like a normal hat. The shaman took the winds one at a time, put them in his hat, and then he tied the winds inside his hat.

Next morning the four winds woke up, got annoyed and tried really hard to get out of the hat. They blew hard in all directions, but they did not manage to come out. Do you know why? Well, they were tied to the hat. The winds inside the hat shouted “Let us out, let us out!” And the shaman said, “I will relieve you on one condition only; you have to promise that you all agree on when you will blow, one at the time, and the others will be waiting for their turn.” And the winds promised and agreed to that in the future the north wind blew only in winter time, the east wind blew in the spring, the south wind would blow warmly in the summer evenings in Lapland and in September the wind would shift to blow winds of fall.” As a reminder of this promise from now on all the men in Lapland wear a four winds hat,” said the Shaman to the four winds and waved his hat, which no longer looked the same after the capture of the four winds, it was now a pointed hat.”

Here you find a lot of more pictures of Sámi dresses.