June 10, 2023


Complete News World

Discuss the foundation from a designer’s perspective

Discussion: The Benads debate reflects the zeitgeist in a very subtle way. It’s about identity. We stand in the gap between society and individuality, tradition and innovation. But let’s remember what National Day is all about. It also means the freedom to choose your own clothes.

We live in a free country – everyone can wear whatever they want and no one has the right to say anything about what you hang on your body. Pictured is Rebecca Ribisen-Sjoly, who rents dresses and party costumes at Sundance.
  • Susan Shanchi Sandgren

    Founder and designer of SANSU

published: published:


This is the topic of discussion. The post was written by an external contributor, quality assurance by the discussion section of Aftenbladet. Opinions and analyzes are the property of the author.

In recent years, the months of April and May have been marked by heated and passionate discussions about the concept of bunad. The questions surrounding tradition versus innovation preoccupy many, and relate to something as basic yet complex as identity. Norwegian identity, local identity and individual identity.

Bonad is clothing, and clothing choice is always emotionally conditioned, whether conscious or not. It is as much about how we see ourselves as how we want others to see us. Clothing builds identity, has a heavy symbolic value, and is a way to communicate with the outside world who we are. This applies regardless of whether or not the person wearing the clothing wants to communicate something specific about themselves. Symbolism in clothing will always be interpreted by those around you, perhaps quite differently than how you interpret it yourself?

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Primary aggression

The foundational debate is complex. It is about tradition versus innovation, collectivism versus individual identity, belonging and exoticism. One of the most discussed things this year is the replacement of the white linen shirt in Al Bneid with a silk shirt or a patterned cotton shirt. In addition, there were more opportunities to spice up the outfit with various silk scarves around the neck or in the hair, as well as to change the apron. All with the goal of building your own bunad – a bunad that represents you, your personality and your identity. The same way you build your wardrobe.

Some people are angry about these changes and feel that traditions and cultural heritage are being tampered with. For some it is about respecting history and craft traditions, while for others it is about something deeper; To protect the “Norwegian”. This part of the discussion can get really ugly when it comes to race. I personally know someone who doesn’t dare to wear a bunad because she doesn’t feel like she looks “Norwegian enough”, and she’s afraid she’ll run into someone and have an unpleasant experience if she wears the bunad – even though she’s lived in Norway for 15 years. I know another person who was told that she cannot go to Bonad because she is not Norwegian, even though she has lived here for 7 years. and that her children, who were born in Norway to a Norwegian father, could not walk in Bonad either. I wonder why some people think immigrants or children of immigrants shouldn’t be able to wear bunads. Isn’t it positive to want to embrace and celebrate Norway’s cultural heritage and traditions – when they live in Norway after all?

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Don’t you want to be one of us?

Why is it outrageous that someone wants to wear a colored shirt with a bunad, create their own color combo or make another funky choice? Bonad is very much about being part of a group. And when someone makes an active decision to “not fit in” with the group, they may feel uncomfortable on the inside. ‘Why don’t you want to be like us?’

It’s always been the case that clothing is about something deeper than colours, cuts, details and trends. Clothing reflects the times we live in and this year’s clothing debate reflects the zeitgeist in a very subtle way. Tradition and culture are dynamic concepts that change and evolve all the time thanks to people with creative and open minds. We should be happy about that. I think there is room to express one’s own identity while respecting tradition – if that’s what you want.

We live in a free country – everyone can wear whatever they want and no one has the right to say anything about what you hang on your body. This is a fact we should be happy with. Isn’t it freedom that we celebrate on May 17th then?