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Ukrainian Traditional Dress

The array of the Ukrainian traditional clothing is characterized by wide regional and ethnic diversity. Even adjacent villages displayed dissimilarity let alone Hutsul, Lemkiv or Rusyn styles; secondly, the multiformity is the effect of neighborhood other ethnoses and ethnic groups. Thus, the border territories of Polissia, Volyn, Lemkivschyna, Boikivschyna, Hutsulschyna, and Bukovyna manifest variations of the traditional dress formed under the Polish and Romanian influence as well as that of Southern Slavs, Hungarians, peoples of the Caucasus, especially of Circassians.

The conception of traditional dress is related to the region of Central Ukraine just as the present-day standard Ukrainian language that also has formed in the region.

To arrive to its present appearance the Ukrainian traditional dress has passed a long way with some of the elements remaining intact since the times of ancient Slavs. For instance, in this manner was inherited the most widespread garment – a long shirt decorated with embroidered magic ornament with a waistband. Incidentally, embroidery is the major adornment of the traditional costume used primarily to decorate underclothing, that is, male and female shirts, as well as supplementary items such as waistbands. Embroidery always enclosed certain information, It allowed to read where the shirt came from (since each of the regions had its favorite combination of colors), gender (for instance, the sleeves of a female shirt were wide narrowing into a densely embroidered cuff at the wrist in contrast to a male chemise with sleeves often made straight), approximate age of an owner and function of the garment: it could be intended for everyday wear, festive or marriage purpose, etc.

Over their blouse females of the central part of Ukraine wore zapaska, a piece of fabric wrapped around torso, on weekdays, leaving plakhta, a type of shirt made of two widths of woolen cloth, for holidays to be sashed by kraika, a belt of multicolored coarse woolen thread fringed. Since both plakhta and kraika did not meet in front, an apron embroidered to match in color was worn. Besides the colored kraika belts narrow linen towels decorated with red bands were also used being the obligatory item of attire for a bride during wedding. Corset waist or knee long made of fine woolen fabric, velvet or silk was worn over the shirt. Boots of morocco preferably of red color were the favorite woman’s festive footwear. Girls chose to wear shoes of brocade while lapti (bast shoes) and postoly (footwear of one-piece leather) were seen as sign of indigence treated with respected nowhere in Ukraine except northern regions of Polissia and Carpathians, where they were widespread. Colorful bands and glass beads (necklaces) complemented the attire adding festive mood to it. Often side by side with the necklace a circlet of coins was worn on the neck.

The traditional male clothes comprise a shirt, pants or sharovary (baggy trousers), sleeveless jacket (a sort of a bodice), waistband and boots. The white male shirt with the passage of ages has changed its appearance from the one knee-long and worn outside trousers to become a short one with embroidered collar and cuffs at the end of sleeves, and tucked into pants. It had mid-chest cut with loops made of silk cord or ribbon for fastening. Sometimes a male corset resembling a vest was worn girded by a waistband. Historically, it originated from the Cossack pidzhupannyk. Concerning the pants, there were two types of them since times immemorial: the narrow trousers and sharovary. The former are sewn to a belt and buttoned, while the latter is girded with ochkur ( a belt or lace). Each of the types of pants corresponds to a certain type of a shirt: narrow trousers are worn with a long shirt outside, while the tuck-in shirt is matched with sharovary. The indispensable item of the masculine attire was also the waistband made of silk, cotton or wool, multicolored and decorated with tassels. Girded were not only sharovary, but upper garments – zhupan, svyta, and, sometimes, kozhukh too. The basic footwear for men were black boots, however among the inhabitants of mountain regions the so-called morshentsi or khodaky, leather sole with the edge tied up on the leg with a rope or bast fiber or strap, were widespread. In the woody locations lychaky were made of bast, and cherevyky (a very old kind of footwear) were widespread throughout Ukraine.

In winter, both males and females dressed into kozkukh made of curried sheepskin. Several options existed for warmer weather, that is, svyta, a dress made of thick wool material, colorfully dyed, and decorated by embroidery or applique; a lighter keptar of Huzuls; and zhupan of the central part of Ukraine originating during the Cossack period. Now and then, kuntush could be met, which is also dated back to 16th century.

To complete the general picture of the traditional national costume one should add the headwear and hairstyle. The mail haircuts were limited to u kruzhok (circled), do zakabluka, pid skobku (cut even around the head), and a la Pole. Hat, straw hat (not seen as clothing for poor), cap or kuchma (headgear made of caracultcha) were worn.

Maids walked bareheaded which marked the state of being pure. Having lost virginity, a girl had to cover the head by pokrytka meaning “coverage”. A plait was something a girl took pride in, whose traditional costume also included a wreath of flowers often furnished with ribbons.

Not necessarily a married woman cut her hair, but she always covered her head with a kerchief, namitka or ochipok (a kind of bonnet worn by married woman). The headwear being seen as the principal element of female dress, the manners and ways kerchiefs or namitka were bound are highly intricate and varied.