How to Stay Cool While Wearing Kroje

imageNow that summer is here in full force, we have to think about how to stay cool while wearing kroje. This is not an easy task. Wearing kroje usually requires (for women) at least a blouse, vest, skirt, apron, tights, and shoes. Most times there are also multiple skirts plus boots! It’s hard to stay cool when you’re wearing so many clothes.

On top of normal festivals that are often inside (at least part of the time), there are also parades. Unfortunately, these are not inside. The parades are usually scheduled on the hottest days of the year, at the hottest part of the day to test your poise as a queen, or so I’m convinced. Therefore, I believe it is my duty to share some wisdom on the subject.

Here are my suggestions on how to stay cool when you have to wear kroje:
1. Seek shade or shelter when possible. This is an obvious one.

2. Drink lots of cold water. Cooler water will help you feel more refreshed and they double as ice packs.

3. Strip unimportant layers off when necessary. This means that you need to be prepared to go shoe and tightless for parades. I know this is taboo in a normal situation, but parades have different rules. It doesn’t do any good to wear tights during a parade if they are soaked and you have to change them after anyway. Also, if no tights make the difference in whether or not you feel like dying of heat stroke, just take them off. You will be forgiven.

4. Invest in a neck cooler. They are those weird fabric squares that are stored in plastic tubes that you get wet and keep you blissfully cool all afternoon. These are great if you can find one in the same color as your kroje, get it wet, put it around your neck, and tuck under your blouse. Genius!

5. Wear a jumper. A jumper is a one piece dress. For kroje that means that you don’t have a separate vest and skirt; they are made as one piece. Often jumpers are made of a light cotton that you wear a blouse under and an apron on top, thus eliminating a layer. A good example of a jumper is the Domažlice kroje.

6. Have your kroje be made with lighter fabrics. Use lighter colors and lighter weight fabrics such as cotton to keep you cooler. Or, have interchangeable pieces, such as short sleeves for hot days and parades and longer sleeves for coolers days and inside events.

7. Keep an umbrella handy. An umbrella can help keep the Sun’s blazing rays off your skin. No sun burn and less heat.

8. Wear moisture wicking clothes under your kroje. This may sound like an extra layer and it is, but that bottom layer helps pull the sweat off your skin and cools you down. This may not be ideal for the whole day, but it’s a good way to keep your kroje cleaner.*

9. Bring a change of kroje. If all else fails and you are miserably sweaty and gross, then change into another kroje. Remember that queens don’t actually sweat though, we glisten.

10. Enlist an entourage. Ask family and friends to help with keeping you cool, hydrated, and feeling great! Have someone be in charge of the cooler and bringing you water when needed. Maybe, someone else is your official fanner. Have fun with it. You are a queen after all and you should be treated as one 😉

*tip courtesy of Michaela Steager, current Nebraska Czech-Slovak Queen.

 

If you want to hear more about being a Czech Queen, you can read about the Nebraska Czechs here, why I became a Czech queen here, my struggles here, and my tips on preparing for the pageant here.

As always, you can ask me questions or let me know your thoughts below on on the Facebook page. Happy cooling.

The Costumes are Finished

Kroje titleI love to sew. It is therapeutic and rewarding to create something from nothing. My problem is that I always underestimate all the things that can go wrong. I ran out of lace trim and white thread, had to order fabric online and wait for its arrival, and then I got sick. These may seem like little things, but when combined with a deadline, it really puts a damper on progress.

I am happy to say that I am finally finished with the three kroje I was commissioned to make. I finished with a week to spare. Once the fabric I needed came in, I had two weeks to finish before I left on vacation and then just one day to finish the design on the vests. It was hectic!

I wanted to be completely done before I went on vacation, so I didn’t have to lug my machine to Kansas. However, their just wasn’t enough time and I had to finish the designs when I got back. Before the fabric arrived I was already done with the blouses. The vests were constructed, but needed the design and lacings. The skirts were half done and need waistbands and lace at the bottom. And I hadn’t started the aprons yet.

I was most excited and terrified to work on the vest designs. The photo was not clear, but I had a general outline of what it needed to look like. It was also exciting because I got to use some new functions on my sewing machine. It was terrifying because I had to be very precise in where everything was placed or it wouldn’t all fit. I also got to add sequencing, ribbons, and decorative stitching, some of which had to be done by hand.

The first thing I did when I got the fabric was to cut out the eyelet lace for the skirts, serge, and attach them, so the skirts would only need the lace added to the bottom. I also cut out all the pieces for the apron, making sure the pattern all faced the same direction. Once the aprons were constructed, I had to make sure they were the correct length in relation to the skirt. Then it was time to make sure everything was ironed and looked nice and crisp.

That whole process took more time than I anticipated because I had to serge and attach twice as many pieces on the skirt. Time was also affected by the fact that I had to order fabric and wait for it to arrive. I am not sure what I would’ve done if I didn’t find the right design for the apron fabric or an eyelet for the skirt. And on top of that, I was ½ a yard short on the lace trim. Luckily, I had a little leftover from the shirts, but I literally used the entire roll the store had.

vest1 vest2

I used a wax chalk to mark the placement of the designs on the vest. I then used my machine to make the zig-zag, curved lines, and embroidered hearts on each of the three vests. The next step was to hand sew on the sequence and beads. And finally, I had to add the grommets and lace up the vests. I put one of the completed projects on a mannequin to photograph and check fit and I was done.

It is freeing to be finished. These costumes had taken up over a month of every spare minute I had. There were many nights when I came home from work and started sewing and didn’t finish until after midnight, just to go to bed and do it again the next day. I really do enjoy sewing, but sometimes I need a break. I think I will read a book and get some stuff done around the house.final Back

If you missed the first part 1 about this Kroje, you can find it here. If you want to see how I made the apron, look here. And as always you can drop me a line below or on Facebook with any questions or comments.

Prague Doesn’t Let Go

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I am so excited to share with you a post from my friend Brianna Tichy! She lives in Prague, Czech Republic’ gives tours of the city, and writes for a successful adventure blog! I hope you love hearing about her experiences.

As innumerable works of art, literature, and music will all attest to, life is hard. While it may seem like the plot of a modern day fairytale or adventure movie, it’s a lie to say that trading my Jersey girl existence for life on the banks of the Vltava has been a smooth and painless experience. When I moved to the Mother of Cities four, almost five, years ago, I was in a state of post-graduation bliss where I felt Prague was my next great adventure, and it has been. I arrived at Václav Havel International airport with two suitcases full of what I had deemed my “essentials”, exhaustion, and high hopes for the next chapter in my life.

For me, the decision to move to Prague had been a long time in the making—I had grown up hearing about the Czech Republic thanks to my family’s connection to the place. Growing up in Southern New Jersey, Tichy wasn’t a common last name from a well-known ethnic group, but in my dad’s hometown of Wilber, I heard all about the land of Bohemia and its legends every time we visited (usually on Czech Days). As a kid, I was fascinated by legends like the one of Libuše, the priestess with the power of prophecy who founded Bohemia’s ancestral dynasty, and as I got older, I devoured everything I could about my family’s history, desperate for that European connection.image

I suppose that after all of that, it was no surprise when I expressed a desire to become a Czech-Slovak Queen and represent my home state for the very first time in the national pageant, although I do believe that my friends and family back in New Jersey were surprised. I had never been a particularly frilly child and was always more of the adventure-loving, book-devouring academic set. Pageants aren’t very common in that part of the US, but once I explained what it meant to me and what the job of a Czech-Slovak queen was, they were definitely on board.image

When I was crowned Miss Czech-Slovak US during my second attempt as an at-large contestant, I was beyond thrilled, not just because of the crown either. No, during my time as a contestant, I had met some and would still meet some amazing and truly inspiring people who are as proud of their heritage as I am—people who today I have the honor of calling my friends. The other component to my bliss was that this was it—thanks to the Miss Czech-Slovak US pageant, I would finally get the chance to go where I always dreamed. The Czech Republic was my oyster!image

I had studied Czech at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for a few years and this trip was an integral part in my progress to actually learning the language, although how to live in Prague as an expat was a lesson I wouldn’t learn until moving here to do my Masters in 2012.image

The first thing you should know about life as an American in Prague is that it’s a struggle. I’m lucky to speak enough “street Czech” as I call it, to get by, and happen to have a Czech surname, which helps in places like the post office and immigration sometimes. But by and large, Czech bureaucracy is not a fun thing to experience. Left over from the stamp-loving days of the Austrian Empire, to get anything official done here still requires a ton of patience, number-taking, waiting in line, and hard paperwork. Most expats I know pay money to have people do this for them, but I’ve always been determined to try it on my own first and at times, it can be incredibly frustrating. Even a trip to the grocery store can sometimes feel like an ordeal, as any expat can attest. I’ve been here so long, I’ve got a long list in my head of what ingredients I need might be called in Czech, as well as a list of conversions and substitutes for ingredients that I either can’t find (American and Czech cuisine are sometimes startlingly different) or would cost an arm and a leg to buy in their real versions (like any form cheddar cheese…as a cheese lover, I’ll tell you the struggle is sometimes real!). Living so far away from my family and a place where my native language is always spoken can be tough at times, but as English is generally the lingua franca of travel these days, I can’t complain too much.image

The truth of the matter is that by living so far away, I’ve amassed a tight-knit group of friends who have become like a family to me and always have my back. I’ve gotten to know people from all around the world here in this city of a hundred spires—a city that plays host to more languages and nationalities than most people would guess at a glance. I’ve been lucky enough to make local friends so amazing and nice, their families have de facto adopted me as one of their own and take me in for any and every holiday that I spend faraway, across the sea from my own homeland. I’ve learned that history is longer, more complex, and at times still just as relevant as if it had happened yesterday than most people in modern day America even think about. I’ve also learned that even though we may not speak each others languages perfectly, or even have a language in common at all, most people are fundamentally good and kind and want to show you a bit about their lives and their culture, if you only take an interest.

Yes, life in Prague can be hard. Currently, I’ve finished an MA here and am working on my PhD, but as any academic will tell you, books rarely pay the rent. I pay for my bread and butter by working as a social media guru and writer, which never ceases to remind me that even when things get tough, there’s still a heck of a lot of awesome things in the world to see and amazing people to do them with. I live in that land of Libuše and Charles IV, after all, and if that’s not a childhood dream come true, I don’t know what is. The thing about Prague is that while it’s not terribly big, it is full of so many different people and lives that it’s positively bursting with stories, and on any given day, you can experience something completely new and inspiring here.image

There’s really nothing like a Prague summer, where you start off meeting some friends in a park for drinks on a picnic blanket, watch the lights come on one by one in the city’s Lesser Town, lighting up Prague Castle as the piece de resistance. From there, you can move to a pub to try some of the Czech Republic’s (no, I will NOT call it Czechia’s) crisp, flawless beer (one of our most beloved traditions), or dance the night away in any modern night club. A day in Prague is like a day in any other city, but with more cobblestones and historic hot spots than you can shake a stick at. Still, you can’t help but feel like it’s something pretty darn special as you wind down from a night of gleeful dancing, sitting on the historic statue of St. Wenceslas astride his trusty steed surrounded by a ragtag group of friends who have become like your family, watching the sun as it slowly rises over Wenceslas Square and the rest of this timeless, beautiful city. It’s moments like those when life in Prague, despite the struggles, is totally worth it. Perhaps Franz Kafka, one of Prague’s native sons, was on to something when he wrote, “Prague doesn’t let go. This little mother has claws.” I don’t think the city will ever truly let me go, and I’m not complaining.image

 

I hope you enjoyed this post about expat life in Prague! If you have any questions leave a line below or on the Facebook page!

Last Minute Tips to Help Prepare for the Pageant

With just a couple weeks until the Miss Nebraska Czech-Slovak Pageant, I thought I would share some last minute tips on how to prepare for the pageant:

  1. Don’t forget about gifts for your fellow queens, including outgoing queen. This gift does not need to break the bank. It can be a small gift like a bracelet or mug, or a memento that means something to you that you want to share, or even something handmade. The idea is to give something small that will help the other girls get to know you.
  2. Bring a pillow and blanket. There will be air mattresses, but you might consider bringing other options for a better sleep. My first year, I started on the air mattress with a sheet set and pillow and woke up cold and sore on the floor because I got the unfortunate mattress with the hole in it. You are going to be exhausted from the long day, stress, excitement, and sun, and good sleep is imperative to your sanity on Sunday. Plan for comfort, but don’t be too crazy. There is limited space.
  3. Wear comfortable clothes to rehearse in on Saturday morning and change into kroje for private interviews. It will be hot and you will be in kroje for most of the weekend. Allow yourself to be comfortable for the meeting and on stage practice (unless costume is a part of your talent then definitely practice with it). You will have plenty of time to change after.
  4. Make sure your talent is memorized. For me, talent was the most nerve-wracking part of the pageant. I was extremely nervous and was so scared of messing up. If your talent is memorized so well that you no longer need to think about what you are doing, you will be much less stressed. You will still be nervous, but once you are memorized then your body will be able to still perform, even if your mind is running on overdrive. Also, if you don’t have to use words, then don’t use them. If you want to bring them for the morning practice for security that is fine, but not for the pageant.
  5. Study the practice questions as much as you possibly can. I know you only have them for two weeks, but put the questions on flash cards. Add the answers to fact questions on the back and bullet point ideas for opinion questions. Then, have others quiz you!
  6. Practice introducing your parents. You will be asked to introduce yourself and who your parents are on stage. It’s simple: “my name is Danielle (Patzel) and I represent the York chapter. My parents are Steve and Theresa Patzel.” Practice a few times just to be comfortable and make sure your parents are prepared for their time in the spot light 😉
  7. Practice talking about the two facts you were asked on the application. For part of the on-stage interview, you will be asked about the two facts you listed on your application. The Emcee will ask you an open ended question like: “ I read on your application that you’re really interested in cats. Can you tell me more about that?” Then, you just need to be able to tell the emcee, judges, and audience about that fact. Be concise. Know 2 or 3 specific points about that cool thing you do and say them. You will sound much more informed and intelligent if you don’t talk around the question, talk too long, or say ums.
  8. Have some talking points prepared. People will stop you constantly the whole weekend. The relationship you build with the Czech community starting this weekend will begin to form how you will be seen. Be prepared to be an ambassador for the Czech community as a queen from the moment you get into town. You are always being watched.
  9. Do a mock private interview with your chapter or friends and family. Ask your chapter if they would be willing to do a mock interview with you. They should have a good idea what sorts of questions the judges will ask. You will get the best possible practice this way because the situation will be similar. This will help you be better prepared and build your relationship with your chapter. If that isn’t possible, ask your friends and family to ask you questions from the study guide and your application.
  10. Czech out the sites in Clarkson. Don’t miss the two story museum, exhibit at the library, or polka band at the opera house. Go to the opera house basement to buy goods and baked items, get fresh kolache, and bid on the auction items. These are experiences that are unique to Clarkson. Remember that even though you will be busy with all things pageant, everyone else is there for a Czech festival. And you should enjoy yourself 🙂

 

If you liked this post please Czech a couple others about the Czech Queen Pageants:

Are You Ready for June?

Ahoj Přátele! The last two weeks have been a complete blur. I have been so immersed in my sewing project, work, traveling, and some last minute things to get ready for my vacation, that I haven’t had a lot of time to dedicate to MyCzechList. I want to apologize for that.

You have been such great audience and have been really welcoming to my guest posters. All the site numbers are up and we are continuing to grow! I have some more extciting things in store for June and I hope you will love them! There will be more guest posts, a new menu, better images, and more amazing content!

In the month of May:

The month of June is going to be even better than May!

  • At the beginning of next week, I will be posting tips on how to prepare for the pageant. We are almost at the two week mark until the Miss Nebraska Czech-Slovak Pageant and I want to share a few pieces of wisdom from my experiences.
  • I will also be posting in the subsequent weeks about the connotations and meanings of the word Bohemian, more about my sewing project, how I planned to make a kroj from scratch, and some wisdom and thoughts from my interview with John Fiala! I hope you are ready!

Next week I will be spending the week in Kansas with my bestie! Don’t worry, I will still be posting and working hard on more content and the new menu! Let me know your thoughts on the blog, my progress, and what you want me to post on in the future below or on Facebook!