Ukrainian authentic embroidered shirts made a 100 or more years ago, are adorned with beautiful and diverse patterns. The symbols were chosen on purpose and every craftswoman knew their meaning. Also, there was a large variety of embroidery stitches and techniques, used to make the shirts. Today though, modern embroidered shirts or so-called “vyshyvanka” are much more simple and look similar. Ukrainians almost forgot the hidden meaning of ancient embroidery designs. But this knowledge is returning to these people little by little.
These are dresses of different styles and colors. The great-grandmother's of modern Ukrainians wore them on weekdays and holidays. Experts say that an embroidered dress or blouse could tell a lot about its owner.
“Ukrainian embroidery is not just a dress or a blouse. It's a whole coded world. Some items are even made in the 3d format”, says Inessa Zanina, Ukrainian journalist.
For example, vyshyvankas (it is a local name for the embroidered shirt) from Borshchiv district in Ternopil region (Western Ukraine) are embroidered with black thread. There is a reason for that. Five centuries ago, Turkish raids caused many men to die there. After that, women wore clothes to mourn their loss every holiday.
These kinds of shirts are embroidered up until the 20’s and 30’s of the 20th century. After that, women added bright colored woolen threads to the embroidery.
“This time, we decided to pay close attention to the aesthetics and symbolism of the coded information. The one that the shirt carries in its embroidery. The fact that you wouldn't find any explanations about the embroidery is not accidental – it was done intentionally, to force visitors to admire and become interested and involved”, comments Natalya Ivanchenko, co-curator of the exhibition of embroidered shirts, held in Ukraine.
Anna – one of the visitors of this particular exhibition – became very interested. She is an amateur in embroidery. She came to the exhibition with her family. She says she is going to learn all the peculiarities of the ancient embroidery at home. She now shares the characteristics of embroidery techniques of the different regions of Ukraine.
“You can see Polissia [area in Northern Ukraine]. It is represented by red or white flowers, and the embroidery has the particular stitches. If you take a look at the vyshyvanka from Poltava [Central Ukraine], there is also a certain set of stitches and colors, too. The colors are calmer: white, gray, brown, blue”, says Anna Morenko, visitor of the exhibition.
Such a complex technique of embroidery and especially the canvas, on which the drawings are made, are hard to find these days, says Anna. Modern shirts and dresses, in general, are embroidered in crosses (cross-stitch embroidery). The priority is given to the colorful flowers – poppies and camomiles. But experts believe that the real art can only be seen at exhibitions or in the grandmother's wardrobe.