Releases | New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs

Museum of International Folk Art Announces New Exhibition “Dressing with Purpose: Belonging and Resistance in Scandinavia”

November 18th, 2021

Santa Fe, NM – The Museum of International Folk Art is proud to present “Dressing with Purpose: Belonging and Resistance in Scandinavia” opening in the Neutrogena Gallery from December 12, 2021- February 19, 2023.   

Dressing with Purpose examines three dress traditions—Swedish folkdräkt, Norwegian bunad, and Sámi gákti—and traces their development during two centuries of social and political change across Scandinavia.  

By the twentieth century, many in Sweden worried about the ravages of industrialization, urbanization, and emigration on traditional ways of life. Norway was gripped in a struggle for national independence. Indigenous Sámi communities—artificially divided by national borders and long resisting colonial control—rose up in protests that demanded political recognition and sparked cultural renewal. Within this context of European nation-building, colonial expansion, and Indigenous activism, traditional dress took on special meaning as folk, national, or ethnic minority costumes—complex categories that deserve reexamination today.  

Dressing with Purpose presents historic and newly-made ensembles, jewelry, accessories, and 2D artworks alongside the stories of their diverse makers and wearers. In this exhibition, visitors will meet individuals who adapt and revitalize dress traditions to articulate who they are, proclaim personal values and group allegiances, strive for sartorial excellence, reflect critically on the past, and ultimately, reshape the societies in which they live. 

Dr. Carrie Hertz, Curator of Textiles and Dress, Museum of International Folk Art, and curator of the exhibition, states, “Dress helps us fashion identity, memory, community, and place. Throughout history dress traditions have served as symbols of progress and stability, the exotic and utopian, oppression and freedom, belonging and resistance.”  

“Dressing with Purpose” is accompanied by a breakthrough book containing a peer-reviewed collection of essays by international authors, beautifully illustrated, and published by Indiana University Press. Learn more about the companion publication for “Dressing with Purpose” forthcoming in December here 

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation and Swedish Council of America.  


About the Museum of International Folk Art  
The Museum of International Folk Art is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, under the leadership of the Board of Regents for the Museum of New Mexico. Programs and exhibits are generously supported by the International Folk Art Foundation and Museum of New Mexico Foundation.  The mission of The Museum of International Folk Art is to shape a humane world by connecting people through creative expression and artistic traditions. The museum holds the largest collection of international folk art in the world, numbering more than 130,000 objects from more than 100 countries. 


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Synnve Kvamme (center), with sisters Halldis and Gudrun Folkedal, dressed in Hardangerbunader.

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