Belarusian embroidery is one of the main folk clothing crafts in this country. It has deep and old roots and represents the traditional beliefs of the local people. The most interesting thing about Belarusian embroidery is that there are specific patrimonial symbols embedded in the patterns. They serve as a connection between different generations and show the affiliation to a certain family. It’s fascinating how ordinary embroidery patterns can be so meaningful and important.
The traditional Belarusian clothing crafts are embroidery, weaving, lacemaking, and applique. As this is one of the Slavic countries, its folk costumes are richly decorated with embroidery, and each pattern is symbolic and meaningful.
The most widespread color of threads used in authentic embroidery designs is red. It is often combined with black, but still, red color is dominating. There are some samples of vintage Belarusian embroidered shirts with fully black embellishments, but they are rare. Modern embroideries are made with various colors, including blue, yellow, burgundy, etc.
Belarusian embroidery pattern on modern men’s shirt
Belarusian people adorned many of their garments with embroidery – shirts, aprons, headdresses, vests, shawls, and some outerwear. If to talk about embroidered shirts, the largest amounts of embroidery you will typically find on the sleeves and chest. Belarusian aprons and female headwear are also often densely embroidered. The male outfits are embellished with fewer patterns than female ones.
Belarusian women’s embroidered shirts. Note the typical bright red embroidery
Ordinary people usually don’t know much about the traditional patterns, can’t read the symbols behind these beautiful embroidery designs. But ethnographers, museum workers, and collectors can – they’ve preserved the knowledge or learned anew their meaning. And right now, anyone can find enough information about the typical symbols in Belarusian embroidery, where they are traditionally placed, authentic embroidery stitches, and etc.
Many of the patterns seen on Belarusian authentic clothing are very old. In fact, they came from the Pagan religion and took deep root in the local culture. A lot of them are protection symbols and symbols connected with fertility, childbirth, welfare, etc.
Interesting embroidery designs on Belarusian male shirt
Also, the real, vintage embroidered shirts told the story of a family throughout generations. There were symbols typical for a certain family and every member used them in her needlework, so there was sort of a connection between different generations through these embroidery patterns. There were even cases when a woman added her husband’s family symbol to her own shirts after their marriage – it meant that she became a part of his extended family tree.
Belarusian embroidery is a very important part of this country’s culture. It helps to keep the knowledge about the local traditions and beliefs, to retain the family relations, and to better understand the ancestors’ lifestyle. That’s why many Belarusian people, especially in the remote rural areas, still carefully preserve the info they have about this ancient craft.
These embroidery patterns depict some of the oldest Belarusian significant symbols.