Ukraine has some cool traditions regarding folk accessories, especially bags. Ukrainian traditional handbags, shoulder bags, and purses are diverse, bright, and richly decorated. Each of them has its own purpose. Today, it is hard to imagine that a man and a woman can share one bag. But in some regions of the country, folk bags are unisex and still stylish.
Traditional women’s bags
Traditionally, the most popular female bags in Ukraine are woven ones. In modern days, leather bags are a must-have for women, but centuries ago, this material was too expensive and difficult to work with for an ordinary female. Whereas weaving was one of the main clothing crafts in Europe, and particularly in Ukraine. So, Ukrainian women wove their bags and other accessories. Also, they used wicker bags and baskets and sewn purses made from natural fabrics. Female bags always were nicely decorated with embroidery, yarn pom-pons, fringes, tassels, or other – mostly yarn – decorations.
It is a large woven bag or rather sack. Region of use: large territory of Western Ukraine. The unique feature of besahy is that it is a pair bag or twin bag. It consists of two identical sacks worn thrown over the shoulder so that one hangs on the front of a person and the other – on the back. Besahy is made from linen or hemp fabric, particularly from one solid piece of cloth. The woven fabric has a striped or checkered pattern. Besahy was a comfy everyday bag used to carry goods or even babies. It was sturdy and handy rather than pretty and festive.
Photo from Medium.com
Photo from Wikipedia.org. Painting of the artist Seweryn Obst
This bag is also woven. It is a medium-size shoulder bag with a long woven handle. Region of use: mostly Carpathian region – Bukovyna, Pokuttia, and Podillia areas (Western Ukraine). This bag is usually made from woolen or sometimes linen cloth. Taistra is always beautifully decorated: various patterns are woven into the fabric, embroidery designs, yarn pom-pons, tassels, and fringes are used. This shoulder bag looks very festive, though it was worn both for everyday usage and festive occasions.
This shoulder bag is very similar to taistra but smaller. Region of use: mostly Carpathian region – Hutsul area. It is also woven, with a lot of decorative elements (the most popular embellishment are tiny yarn pom-pons). Gold threads and shining buttons are used to adorn the bag as well. This shoulder bag looks very festive, though it was worn both for everyday usage and festive occasions. Often, festive dz’obnia is mostly red. This shoulder bag is small and can’t hold many items. Traditionally, it was used by women to carry a kerchief and some bread for lunch.
It is a wicker bag made from the bark of trees. It looks like something in between a bag and a basket. Region of use: Polissia area (Northern Ukraine). This region is densely wooded, that’s why people used to make the clothing accessories from the tree bark (bast shoes, wicker bags, etc.). The size of naviska can be different. The traditional shape is when one of the flaps is longer and serves as a lid. Also, the two sides of the bag can be of equal length. The naviska is a handbag; the handles are rather short and made from a rope or a tree bark as well.
This small purse serves as a wallet (they are made for bills, not coins). Region of use: various areas around Ukraine, but pockets were most typical for Poltava region (Central Ukraine). They are separate tiny purses of rectangular shape that pretty much look like pockets as we know them. They are made from simple fabric and decorated with embroidery and applique. Karman or pocket is attached to the waist by the belt.
Traditional men’s bags
Male folk bags in Ukraine are usually made from leather and richly decorated with metal elements. Men in this country don’t weave – weaving traditionally is entirely women’s craft. So, men could make their bags only from leather or tree bark in some regions. In Carpathian area, men wore woven shoulder bags (taistra), the same as women did. These bags were made by females and presented to their males, or a husband and a wife both could use one bag.
This is a small leather shoulder bag. Region of use: mostly Carpathian region – Hutsul area. It is used to carry various small items and money. Usually, tabivka is rounded at the bottom. This bag is richly decorated with metal elements and embroidery. This shoulder bag looks very festive, though it was worn both for everyday usage and festive occasions.
This shoulder bag is very similar to tabivka but smaller. It is made from leather and richly decorated, just like tabivka, but the shape of this bag is different: tashka is rectangular. Region of use: mostly Carpathian region – Hutsul area. This bag is a festive item. It is used to carry money, tobacco, a pipe, a fire striker, etc.
Kalyta or kalytka
It is a tiny male purse used to carry tobacco, fire strikers, coins, and similar items. Region of use: Polissia area (Northern Ukraine). This purse is made from leather and is worn attached to a men’s leather belt.
Also, you can see in this photo another variant of "naviska" bag made from tree bark.
Moshna or moshonka
This bag is similar to the kalyta and has the same purpose. But its region of origin and use is different: Hutsul, Pokuttia, and Podillia areas (Western Ukraine). This purse is made from leather and often has a round shape; it is closed with a cord.