Traditional Ukrainian Costume
Traditional Ukrainian costume includes the history of nation, its culture and traditions. National costume keeps in itself peculiarities of different periods, so it is one of the most important historical sources in studying cultural features of Ukrainian people.
Archaeological excavations indicate that first Ukrainian national costume appeared in Kievan Rus. Since then we can surely distinguish special peculiarities in clothes of different regions. Those differences were mostly concerned jewelry and ornaments on shirts. Ukrainian suit kept visible regional differences until the end of XIX century and only at the beginning of XX century it became blurred. Ilya Repin said very nice phrase about beauty and originality of Ukrainian clothes by comparing Ukrainian women with Parisian: “Only Ukrainians and Parisians can dress up with taste! You won’t believe how beautifully girls dress up, boys also… It is really public, comfortable and sylphlike costume. What great dukats, monists, hats and flowers! What nice faces! What a great language! It’s only beauty, beauty and beauty!”
Traditionally male costume is similar to Russian or Belorussian. It consists of hemp or linen shirt and wool pants. Shirts was often used as outerwear. The main peculiarity of Ukrainian shirt is that it has sinuses. It is not big but embroidered with ornaments. The embroidery is in red and black colors. The other difference between Ukrainian and Russian shirt is that Ukrainian men tucked it into pants and not wore it above them.
Shirts for men could be low standing or wide turndown collar. That shirt might have buttons or laces to clasp.
Pants or bloomer fixed on body with lace. Ukrainian pants were very wide, especially Cossacks’ pants. The part of cloth was sewn up between two trousers. Such bloomers were made of woolen cloth covered with wax. In the Carpathians the internal part of trousers was decorated with embroidery. Usually bright colors such as yellow and green were used on red embroidery.
There is a variety of ideas of women suit. It depends on region where people live. Those differences were visible in a style, embroidery, design, colors and jewelry. The classical Ukrainian suit is thought that one which was spread in the region of Middle Dnieper. However, the archaic element were mostly saved in costumes of Polissia. The female costumes of Southern regions had the peculiarities of all the regions of Ukraine. As the costume of Podillya is concerned, it represents the influence of Moldovan traditions. North Western regions took a lot of elements from national Polish costume.
Despite of several borrowings from other Slavic peoples, in general Ukrainian female costume is characterized by ethnicity and original elements, which can’t be observed in other national costumes.
The basic element of Ukrainian female costume is women embroidered shirt, which was a little bit longer than male one and consisted of two parts. The lower part was made of denser and thicker tissue. The seamless skirt or apron was worn above the shirt. The seamless skirt was a part of tissue up to 4m in length, which was made with painted wool.
It was cut into 3 pieces and then two of them were sewn up to the third one in such a way that the middle of the lower part had to be situated opposite the cut of side parts. The seamless skirt was wind around the waist and tied with a belt on the top. The embroidery on that skirt was discreet and unpretentious. The apron was worn behind the skirt. It looked like today’s kitchen apron.
A bag piece of importance in Ukrainian costume was paid on jewelry. Usually necklaces were worn on the embroidered shirt. The amount and size of beads told about the status of the family.
The Ukrainian female costume for holidays differed from the one for everyday by the quality of cloth, variety of colors and ornaments. For holidays girls wore wreathes on their heads and necklaces as much as possible.
The shoes were usually concerned as a part of luxury. Rich people were wearing leather boots. Poor people were wearing shoes made of straw. Those shoes were called Rounders. There were also shoes called “Lostoly”, which were made of pork or cowhide.
Rich women had “Sapyantsi”, shoes made of colourful leather. Later boots came to peasant women but were used as element for holidays. In any way shoes were not concerned as footwear. They were mostly used as the most dreamt decoration for all girls.
It is pleasant to realize that even today traditional Ukrainian costume remains demand and very popular. The elements of Ukrainian costume are often used in everyday life such as male and female embroidered shirts, wreathes of flowers and hair bands.