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Hutsul national dress
In all the lands of Ukraine, the traditional national dress of the people of the Land of Hutsulshchyna stands out as probably the most distinctive and lavishly decorated.
Probably the first most noticeable feature in the Hutsuls’ dress is that men like to wear more decorations on their dress than women. The men’s krysani (hats) are decorated with braided colored cords, feathers of mountain eagles or falcons, with tryasunky, that is bunches of glass beads, that shake and tremble with every movement of the head.
Men’s shirts have lavishly embroidered fronts, and embroidered strips around the neck and on the sleeves. The embroidery strip around the neck has colored strings attached to it at the throat. These strings can be tied in a peculiar and showy manner. Keptar (a vest made of sheep skin) is embroidered in a bright, colorful way. Its decorative impact is enhanced by lelitky – shiny spangles. Belts, made of rough oxen hide, are very wide and cover the whole of midriff; belts are stamped with decorative patterns, have inlays, glass beads and pieces of metal decorating them. In the times of old, Hutsul men used to carry axes on long handles, pistols, stones for striking fire, and a powder flask, all stuck behind the belt. The strap across the chest, attached to bags that Hutsul men carry on their sides, is also decorated with glass beads and shiny pieces of metal.
Hachi — tight Hutsul trousers are held in place by a strong cord. Hachi, made of sheep woolen yarn, are mostly black, sometimes white or red. The legs of the hachi are stuck into onuchi, embroidered socks made of rough material. Onuchi are worn over kaptsi, sheep woolen socks; this double protection for the feet is needed to keep feet warm in rather thin postoly, home-made shoes which are made of ox hide or pig skin. Pig-skin postoly are everyday footwear, without any decorations. They are comfortable and useful on slippery surfaces in winter or wet days, preventing sliding thanks to their bristly soles.
Ox-hide postoly are decorated with decorative patterns and glass beads and have several shiny buckles. In the times of old, rich Hutsuls used to have gold buckles on their shoes and a heavy gold opaska (string) around the hat. Gold was found in the Carpathians and it was used for making gold coins — but mostly for decorations. If there was not enough of it, Hutsuls melted gold coins and used the gold for what they cared for so much — decorations. In fact, ostentatious decorations came second after freedom — the things that Hutsuls value most.
Sardak, or Hutsul coat, is short and made in such a way that it would not hamper free and easy movement. It widens at the waist, and its front is decorated with massive multicolored tassels. Sardak can be buttoned but swanky young Hutsuls prefer to wear their sardaky thrown over their shoulders without putting their arms into the sleeves.
Hutsul women wear clothes which are less showy than men’s wear, but their garments are also embroidered and decorated in bright colors and in other ways. Wherever they go, Hutsul women carry besahy, a bag made of wool. It is made of two parts, one of which is worn in front, and the other on the back. All kinds of things are carried in these besahy — bread rolls, pieces of cured meat, flour, heads of cheese — when women shuttle between home and polonyny (mountain pastures where their husbands spend summers tending cattle and sheep). Those who have a horse load several besahy on the horse’s back.
Hutsuls’ life has never been easy and carefree but it has always been full of good cheer and dignity. Dignity is one of the most important features of life in the Land of Hutsuls.
The dress I have described is worn these days only on festive occasions but there were times when Hutsuls wore their national dress everyday to emphasize their ethnic distinction. They did not buy clothes from elsewhere and made them themselves, proud of their life style and its distinctive features.
By Mariya VLAD
Photos are from the book Ukrainian Folk Costume by Oksana
Kosmina published by Baltia-Druk Publishing House, Kyiv, 2006
Vasyl Shkriblyak, a remarkable wood carver of
the end of the 19th century; he founded an art
school which now is the Institute of Applied Arts
(photo from Volodymyr Shukhevych’s book
Hutsulshchyna, vol. 1).
Tryasunky — decoration for men’s hats adorned
with glass beads.
Necklace made of amber and Venetian glass
(smalt and gold). Crosses that can be seen in
the picture are evidence of the well-developed
art of metal-casting.
Tashka, a flat purse with a metal lid which was
carried around as a supplementary decoration
rather than used as a container for carrying
items. Late 18th – early 19th century;
from the collection of Mariya Vlad.
Mariya Vlad holding besahy that used to belong
to her great-grandmother.
Hutsul trunk for keeping clothes and valuables in it.