Friday, August 26, 2016

Bits 'N Pieces (of the Hana Kroj)

Sarah (Middlebrook) Armor, Ed Middlebrook and Katy (Middlebrook) Frazier
Czech costumes are formed by many pieces. These pieces can sometimes be confusing and difficult to wear properly. As before, I want to add a disclaimer that I am no expert (not at all). I welcome comments and suggestions. I welcome submissions on Czech costumes or related items.

Several years ago I decided to make a kroj (Czech costume) representing the Hana region. My goal was to make a costume as authentic as possible. The finished product took two years to complete.

The costume includes:

1. TIGHTS. White opaque tights are my recommendation. Panty hose just look too contemporary.

2. SHOES. My daughters, Sarah and Katy, wear black or brown shoes with this costume. I hope someday to make authentic decorated black shoes with embroidery stitches and red ribbon. But for now, plain black shoes would be my suggestion.Take a tip from us, go ahead and put your shoes on before you put your costume on.

3. UNDERSHIRT. As I mentioned in previous posts, I recommend a plain white Under Armor shirt to keep you cool and protect your blouse from perspiration.

4. PETTICOATS. The petticoats are very important. They should be stiffly starched enough to stand on their own. For additional fullness, sometimes the girls will wear a full can-can type petticoat that are available at Czech Costume Creations at the link on the right side of this blog. The can-can type petticoat is not authentic but under the white cotton petticoats they are not seen but provide for a very full skirt.

5. YELLOW SKIRT. The yellow skirt is worn over the very full petticoats and the ties tucked in to the skirt.

6. EMBROIDERED APRON. Costumes from the Hana region typically have white aprons/over skirts. The apron I made is white cotton with yellow embroidery (all done by hand!).

7. HANDKERCHIEF -  A handkerchief is pinned at the waist. I hand embroidered and hand edged this handkerchief several years ago.

8. VEST. Put the vest on but wait until after the belt is on to hook it.
Hana Vest

9. BELT. The vests for the Hana costume are traditionally short. Since my daughters, Katy and Sarah, are so tall, a lot of the white blouse shows so we made the belt long enough to wrap around the waist twice with a big bow in the front. The ends of the belt should hang very long with the ends even. When we tie the bow, great care is taken to get the ends at exactly the same length.

10. COLLAR. The most distinctive part of the Hana kroj is a very stiff collar. This collar was created with 13 yards of lace and made detachable for convenience. I use liquid starch to made the collar stiff. The collar should stand up in the back. I get this collar to stand up by turning it upside down on an empty milk jug and spray it with full-strength liquid starch until it is soaked. When it dries, it is very stiff. (We store the collar in a hat box.) The collar is attached with a hook and tied with a red ribbon bow.

11. HAT. We have two hats for this costume. A dear friend brought us a hat made out of a large scarf (pictured above) from the Czech Republic. Sorry, I cannot tell you how to fold the scarf into a hat. If anyone has the directions, please let me know. The second hat is one I made out of a stove top hat. I had never seen one of these hat in person when I started making Sarah's but as you can tell by the side-by-side picture, I got pretty close. This hat is traditionally worn by brides.

Sarah (Middlebrook) Armor

Sharon (Middlebrook) Mena on the left next to a photo of an authentic Hana hat.

12. ACCESSORIES. A friend brought us the tall basket (pictured below) (I guess this is for wine but I'm not sure) and Bohemian garnets.
My daughters, Sarah (Middlebrook) Armor and Katy (Middlebrook) Frazier.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Personal Update

Hello all or "Howdy" as we say in College Station, Texas. I have not posted in a while so I thought I would give you a little update. As you may have noticed from a previous post, I have moved from West, Texas, to College Station, Texas. I've been very blessed, both personally and professionally. I married Randy Mena in November 2013 and he owns a local business. Check out our new website:

I have a new job in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs as an Administrative Administrative. I have settled in nicely and have kept myself very busy. I've joined the American Business Women's Association and have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the other members. I have also joined the Texas Educational Support Staff Association and look forward to attending their Summer Work Conference next month.

And in answer to your question, yes I still work on Czech costumes. Not as much since I have also been finishing up coursework for an Associates Degree from Hill College. But lately I have been working on the collar/scarf for my daughter's Kyjov costume. Currently the costume is on display at the Texas Capitol Visitor's Center as part of the PolkaWorks Texas Czechs exhibit. Trust me, it will not be finished any time soon but I will post pictures from time to time to show the progress.
Thanks for listening and now I have a request for you. If you have a Czech costume, send me a photo and a little about YOUR costume(s) to I am sure others would be interested in seeing costumes from different regions. AND if you made your costume, share some tips for others. Sharon

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

It's 5:00 Somewhere ~ Czech Style

I work in the Offices of the Dean of Student Life at Texas A&M University. Our department has started a series of cultural sharing events this year. The series was announced last month so staff could share a little about their heritage with co-workers. I know what you are thinking...wait a minute...Sharon's not Czech. True, but I don't let that stop me from sharing what I know-and have come to love-about all things Czech. (New readers may not realize - but since my late husband was Czech, my children and grandchildren are Czech. With their Dad and paternal grandparents gone, I want to make sure they know of their heritage so I continue to celebrate and share with others.)

So, with a colleague, Sarah Jaks, we put together an informal event for our co-workers "It's 5:00 Somewhere ~ Czech Style". At 10:00 a.m. (5:00 in the Czech Republic) staff joined us for: lively music, kolaches, costumes, dolls, garnets, crystal, porcelain, eggs, Taroky, textiles, language and informational PowerPoint - all Czech.

Working at a major University has been a wonderful enriching experience, both professionally and personally. I enjoy learning more about the diverse populations I interact with and look forward to this series to experience other cultures and heritages. Who knows, maybe I'll do another presentation on my heritage: Irish, Scottish or English.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

West Must Be Doing Something Right...

Last night I went with my sister, Becky, and her family to see their house one last time before it is bulldozed. I hadn't seen the house since the night of the fertilizer plant explosion, April 17, 2013. As we carefully walked through the debris that was once their happy home it was hard to keep our emotions in check, so we didn't. As I looked at the couch where little niece, Ally, sat, I could do nothing but thank God that she survived...without a scratch. The couch was covered with glass, bits of ceiling, sheet rock and insulation...but little Ally is ok. After shedding a few tears, hugs and smiles we took a few pictures, gave it the official "clap" (applause) for keeping the family safe, said good bye...and drove away.

Before going home we drove through a nearby neighborhood and saw a good friend. This dear friend (a teacher at West Elementary) visited with us for a bit. We did what everyone in West, Texas,

is doing now when we see each...thank God for all the survivors. Then she told us that the first day back at school the faculty and staff let the children of West express their emotions...drawing, writing, talking...whatever they need to do. The teachers were amazed. Most of the students looked past the explosion. Past the blast. Past the loss and instead focused on the blessings this town is witnessing. So very many of the dear children of West are focusing their attention on "God bless West" and the love, support and generosity surrounding this dear little town so many of us call home.

I have to think that we must be doing something right as a town when our children can see God's blessings in the midst of this tragedy.

Out of the mouths of babes...God blesses West.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bridal Kroj from Hluk

Thanks to everyone for your patience as I have not posted in quite a while now. This post is part of a series I hope to start on the varied costumes from the Czech Republic. Anyone wishing to have their costume(s) featured in this series can send photos and description to me at

I want to extend many thanks to Mildred and Bill Dokupil of West, Texas, for providing the photo and description of her spectacular authentic Czech costume (kroj).

Mildred is wearing a traditional bridal kroj from the village of Hluk near the town of Uherske Brod, located near the Moravian-Slovak border area. This kroj is a stunning example of a mid-20th century costume. The collar is called an objek and is made of pleated Czech lace and embroidered ribbon. The accordion pleated sleeves (rukavec) are trimmed in hand embroidered lace (kanicky) which have been heavily starched. The blouse (kosila) has embroidered panels on the front and sleeves. The vest (kordula) is made of purple velvet, trimmed in hand painted ribbon (masla) and metallic lace. The back has three orange yarn puffs that indicate what village the kroj originates from. The front skirt (fertusek) is of burgundy brocade with floral prints edged in pleated Czech lace. The back skirt (sorec) is made of white accordion pleated cotton and is highlighted at the waist with brocade ribbon and metallic lace. The white skirt is worn by the bride and black by the bridesmaids. The off-white panel at the back (struple) has hand embroidered puffed pink roses, greenery and adorned gold beads and sequins. The kroj is complemented by a floral ribbon (masla) tied at the front waist.

The elaborate bridal cap (cepeni) is handmade with puffed Czech ribbons, flowers, pearl beads, gold and silver beads, crystals, silver sprays and miniature mirrors. The back is accented with Czech embroidered bows and ribbons.

Mildred acquired parts her kroj in March 1984 with the help of Ludmila Vaculikova and her family. During the Communist regime it was very difficult to get parcels in the mail. Slowly it came piece by piece. The bridal cap was the last part of her kroj and it was hand carried by Karol Vaculik, son of Pani Vaculikova, who came to West for a visit. Mildred wishes to thank Babicka Vaculik for all her work and getting this beautiful Czech kroj.

Mildred and her husband, Bill, first visited Czechoslovakia in 1978. They found Bill's relatives in Halenkov where his great grandfather is buried. After a return trip to his home land his great-grandfather became ill and died. Mildred found her grandmother’s family in Orechov. They have been back eight times and still visit the Dokupil and Hejl families.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness Day December 17, 2012

I would like to ask my friends and followers to designate and keep this December 17 as Random Acts of Kindness Day. On December 17, make a difference in someone’s life. Even if only to bring a smile to their face. Show love, compassion and Christian charity with a simple RAK and expect nothing in return. Believe me; your act will be paid forward to others. And what better time than the Christmas season? Why do I ask this?

On December 17, 2008, my life and the lives of my children were forever changed. As I was leaving the house to go Christmas shopping, I received a call. My high-school sweetheart and husband of 28 years (at that time) was very ill. In the hours that followed we learned he had Stage 4 colon cancer and the doctors gave him mere months. Those who knew Ed, saw an upstanding Christian man who would give you the shirt off his back if only to help someone. Ed went Home on October 6, 2010. I plan to honor his memory with RAK day.

If I had the financial means, I would love to make a charitable donation in Ed’s honor somewhere but that is not possible. I could put beautiful flowers on Ed’s grave, but that would not make a difference to anyone except give me a measure of peace. So, I’m asking anyone who reads this post to please SHARE this post, however you see fit. Help me get the word out via Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.

On December 17, make a difference to someone and expect nothing in return. On that day, simply post: December 17, 2012 RAK day. #BeTheChange #EdRIP #payitforward

Edward Ray Middlebrook – September 20, 1961-October 6, 2010