European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Fashion & History

Wedding traditions: the Saami Tribe

European fashiontraditional costume

Customs and costumes of the Saami people

The image shows a pair of boots from the Saami tribe. The boots are made of white reindeer hide, and are part of the traditional attire used for important ceremonies and weddings by the people of the tribe.

The Sámi people – often called Lapps or Laplanders, but also Sámit or Sápmelaš – are indigenous people living in the north of Europe. Sámi communities exist in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and on Russian Kola peninsula.

The traditional costume worn by Sámis is called gákti or kolt. It is worn on weddings, funerals, religious festivities and but also during everyday work. They are usually made of leather, sinews, and wool and sometimes silk and velvet are used too.

The colours, patterns and the jewellery embellishing the gákti give information about the person’s status: they can tell if the person is married and the region of origins. The gákti can be worn with a decorated belt, silver jewellery, traditional leather boots and a silk scarf. Also the shape of buttons on belt tells if the person is married on not: square buttons mean that the person is married. Single people wear belt with round buttons.

Both bride and groom wear gákti: the bride wears several layers of scarfs and loads of silver brooches. She also puts a bridal crown with long silk ribbons attached on top of the traditional hat. The groom wears long white scarf put as a cross over his chest.