Negotiation of Czech Ethnic Identity through Folk Costume in the Midwest

  • Erin French (Iowa State University)
  • Kelly L. Reddy Best (Iowa State University)


Folk costumes operate as a language to communicate distinctive group and individual identities such as ethnic identity, and previous researchers found that wearing folk costumes is one way that Czech ethnic identity is celebrated in the United States. Large numbers of Czechs emigrated to America in the 1870s-1920s, but eventually a generation was born that had no contact with immigrant ancestors. The purpose of our research was to examine what role folk costume plays in the negotiation of Czech ethnic identity and how meaning is constructed and communicated through Czech folk costumes. We conducted 12 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with the descendants of Czech immigrants in a previously unexplored Czech population of the Midwest. We identified three major themes: feelings of connectedness, sense of pride, and the importance of being authentic. Through our work, we contribute to the historical and cultural preservation and documentation of modern-day Czech traditions.

Keywords: Midwest, folk costume, ethnic identity, Czech

How to Cite:

French, E. & Reddy Best, K. L., (2020) “Negotiation of Czech Ethnic Identity through Folk Costume in the Midwest”, International Textile and Apparel Association Annual Conference Proceedings 77(1). doi:



Published on
28 Dec 2020
Peer Reviewed