|In the Ukrainian town of Pereyaslav-Khmel’nytsky there is a museum of Ukrainian traditional, national dress. It is housed in an eighteenth-century building and has in its collection about 1500 shirts, blouses and other embroidered items, about 200 woman’s adornments, over 200 belts, aprons, head-dresses and other pieces of traditional Ukrainian costume plus a lot more. The layman comes to the museum to gaze at the exhibits in wonder and admiration, and the historian comes to study the changing styles, types of dress, and through them better understand Ukrainian culture and everyday life of the past.|
NOSTALGIA FOR THINGS TRADITIONAL
whirl of changes Ukraine finds itself in now, one feels a
sort of nostalgia for things that seem to have gone
forever never to come back, and yet it turns out they
linger on in dress, customs, songs and dancers. There are
still a lot of people living who remember the way the
traditional religious holidays and festivals were
celebrated in the rural Ukraine. Some of these people
even would say: «Oh, I’ve seen the real celebrations
of Christmas, the real wedding reception» and so on,
meaning that these occasions were celebrated differently
from the way they are celebrated now.
It is there that the ancient Rus-Ukraine dress had gradually become specifically Ukrainian as it is known now. The national dress throughout Ukraine shows the same «classical» features, though each distinguishable geographical and cultural part of Ukraine has some differences in dress, particularly in embroidery patterns. In some cases slight variations can be observed even in the dress worn by people living in the neighbouring villages.
SHIRT — AN ANCIENT SLAVIC GARMENT
In addition to being just an article of
clothing the shirt (or, probably, more properly
«blouse» if applied to a woman’s garment) had a
special, sometimes symbolical meaning for those who wore
it. It was not too long ago that some village girls who
wanted to put an amorous spell on a lad they fancied,
would wear a «magic» shirt when they went through an
«enchanting ceremony», and this shirt had to be the one
they had started making on the Ivan Kupala’s night —
an ancient heathen holiday celebrated in summer which in
Christian times was incorporated into the calendar of
The thread used in adorning shirts with needlework was dyed with natural dyes and the actual technique of needlework varied from place to place, and from century to century. The stitches used also varied — from very intricate to rather simplified. In the early twentieth century cross-stitch gained predominance over other types of stitches. Even if the colour scheme was limited to two contrasting colours, the patterns themselves in combination with the colours never failed to produce a powerful visual effect.
PATTERNS OF ADORNMENT
Girls and women, bent over their needlework during the long winter nights in the snow-bound houses, lit inside only by a small oil-lamp or a candle, adorned their shirts with all kinds of embroidery patterns: stylized floral, animal and purely ornamental designs. By far the most popular one was that of a broken tree which happens to be one of the modifications of the universal symbol the tree of life, a symbol found virtually all around the world in art and on household items. Solar symbols and purely geometrical patterns are also widely used in embroidery.
SKIRTS, BELTS, VESTS, HEADKERCHIEFS
Each article of clothing had a special name
and as there were quite a few of these articles in
woman’s costume it would be unreasonable to list all of
them here. A couple will suffice. Plakhta and zapaska
were two kinds of skirts; the usually chequered plakhta
was the more cheerful looking of the two and consequently
was worn on festive occasions, and zapaska of subdued
colours, made of durable cloth, was an everyday garment.
EARRINGS, NECKLACES, RINGS
It’s hard to imagine a woman indifferent
to earrings, necklaces, rings and other decorations and
to be sure Ukrainian women wore all kinds of ornaments.
Coral necklace was an especially highly prized item but
they cost a lot and only relatively few could afford
them. As recently as about 70-80 years ago for a price of
a coral necklace one could buy a cow. The poorer had to
be content with glass beads, the richer sported necklaces
made of gold and silver coins.
by Natalya POKLAD
Materials supplied by Larysa HODLYNA, Chief Curator of Pereyslav-Hmelnytsky Historical and Cultural Preserve
Tel.: 380 (4467) 54-103
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