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Underwear avaIf you think that 19th-century fashion in Europe was reduced to corsets, crinolines, and bustles, you’re wrong. Just look at the folk underwear used in Ukraine in the same time period – it’s the opposite fashion trend. It’s all about natural lines, minimum of undergarments, and beautiful embellishments on the visible parts of the clothing. But let’s find out the most curious facts about Ukrainian traditional underwear worn in the 19th century. We may surprise you.

Fact #1.
In Ukraine 150 years ago, the embroidered shirt was considered the underwear. One didn’t go to public places in only a shirt. It was like wearing only a bra and panties. A man had to wear at least trousers and a belt with his shirt; a woman used a skirt (sewn or wrap-around) and a belt – minimum. But, usually, females also wore some upper garment (vest, bodice, jacket, etc.), an apron, and jewels. By the way, a few strings or coral necklace were an obligatory part of a day-to-day costume.




Fact #2. Ukrainian women didn’t use drawers or any other underpants up until the beginning of the 20th century. And even then, these clothing articles were forced on them. The ankle-length shirt served as the only undergarment, as contrary to the British or French fashion where females used drawers since the 18th century.


Fact #3. The embroidery, lacework, cutwork, etc. was used to decorate the women’s underwear items. The patterns were, usually, floral and geometrical. People didn’t invent special designs for the undergarments, just used the same as for the ordinary clothing.


Fact #4. In Ukraine, women didn’t use corsets or stays made from whalebone or metal wire. But there were garments similar to those – short kind of vests or bodices, with a thick lining. In different regions of the country, their names varied: “nahrudnyk”, “stanyk”, “leibyk”, “kabat”, and so on. Their cut was short (above the waist), tight-fitted, and closed at the front. Usually, these bodices were ornate – adorned with embroidery, applique, or at least made from fine patterned fabric. Same as a corset, these items were worn over a shirt or blouse.


Vintage bodice1

Vintage bodice2


Fact #5. Washing and bleaching the underwear was a long and laborious process. Women used ashes as a bleach. They soaked clothing in boiling water, adding some ash and cinder. It took a few days to complete the washing.

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