Ukraine

Demiseason avaUkrainian ladies of all ages traditionally wore rather curious demi-season outer garments. These bodices and jackets are used in Ukraine since the 16th-17th century and are a very important part of the local traditional attire. In public, women didn’t walk around in just an embroidered shirt, they always covered their upper body with some kind of outerwear, like kersetka, yupka, tsurkanka, bunda, keptar, and so on. It’s a pity most vintage outer garments that survived to this day are from the 19th – early 20th century. Still, they look lovely and are cutely adorned. Here are a few samples.

Costume Lviv63 avaOne of the very popular traditional outer garments in Ukraine are bodices, vests, and waistcoats. Such pieces of clothing are demi-season and comfy because they don’t restrict movements but keep your body warm. For centuries, Ukrainian women wore a variety of sleeveless garments, and in different regions, they had their own local names. Here are just some of these ethnic bodices and their traditional names. All of the items are preserved in different Ukrainian folk museums.

Male embroidery avaSadly, Russian troops in Ukraine are not only killing people and animals and destroying buildings, infrastructure objects, plants, and factories, they’re also destroying our historical sites and cultural objects, including folk museums, together with their collections. Ukrainians are very skilled in the craft of embroidery, so many local museums store vintage needlework samples and embroidered clothing, some of which are extremely rare and valuable. Some of the samples you’ll see in this post are probably already gone because they were stored in folk museums in those cities that suffer from heavy bombings.

Spadok8 avaChernihiv region of Ukraine is one of the oldest and most historically and culturally rich areas in the country. The local traditional attire takes roots from Kyivan Rus’ and has a lot of common features with the apparel of Kyivan Rus’. Sadly, in Russian-Ukrainian war, museums, historical sites, and storages with valuable cultural artifacts are destroyed en masse. The world is loosing masterpieces that form Ukrainian traditional culture. Here is a video with just one folk costume that will show you what Chernihiv clothing culture looks like.

Patchwork avaThe craft of patchwork is typical and rather widespread in America and Asia. The Turkic peoples, Native Americans, and Pakistanis are among the most skilled patchwork artisans, and this tradition goes back for centuries. Although, patchwork wasn’t always art – 19th-century women were often forced to use this technique to turn worn clothes into quilts, blankets, and other household textiles. At the same time, the art of patchwork is only emerging in Ukraine these days. And here’s what it looks like.

Spadok7 avaTraditionally, Slavic maidens wore their hair uncovered until marriage and after the wedding, always used a kerchief, wimple, or another headdress. No married woman should have been seen by people outside of her closest family without some kind of head covering. Today, this tradition is long in the past. But we’d like to show you a lovely video of a married lady from Eastern Ukraine dressing in traditional costume step by step. She is proudly wearing the accessories indicating her marital status.

Ukrainian embroidery45 avaUkrainian needlework is world famous. There is a huge variety of unique authentic patterns – floral, geometric, animal, etc. We’ve prepared several close-up photos of Ukrainian embroidery patterns seen on vintage folk clothing and ceremonial items from the 18th – early 20th century. Look at the color play, the diversity of patterns, the beauty of this traditional decoration! The older needlework designs, the more meaningful and significant they are, but even ordinary floral embroidery without any protective powers is charming enough for people to want it as embellishment for their clothes.

Ukrainians avaAt the beginning of the 20th century, a lot of men, women, and kids in Ukraine wore traditional clothes in daily life and especially for special occasions. In rural areas, handmade folk outfits were in use until the mid-1900s, while in cities and even some towns, people already switched their traditional clothes for modern industrially-made garments. Many old photos depicting people in national Ukrainian outfits (single men or women, newlyweds, and whole families) survived to this day. Their folk costumes show the regional differences in clothing tradition.

Headgear1 avaUkrainian married women traditionally covered their heads. This tradition takes roots in the ancient times – Scythian (585-260 B.C.), Sarmatian (450 B.C. - 400 A.D.), females of various Slavic tribes and the Kyivan Rus’ (882-1240 A.D.) all wore some kind of wimples or veils covering their hair. And Ukrainian women continued this tradition until the beginning of the 20th century. Obviously, there were some tricks and secrets of wearing different folk headdresses. We’d like to share a few of them with you.

Spadok6 avaThe traditional attire of Crimean Tatars looks striking. It has so many embellishments and unique features! If to talk about general style, these outfits are the closest to the Ottoman-style clothing. Here’s a wonderful video that shows all details of a Crimean Tatar traditional costume from basic underpinnings to charming accessories. These are authentic vintage garments of a Crimean Tatar woman from the end of the 19th – the beginning of the 20th century.

museums avaWe write a lot about the traditional clothes and clothing crafts of Ukraine on this website, but it’s always better to see once than to hear one hundred times, so here is a detailed list of various folk museums in Ukraine. You can visit these exhibitions and witness in person, have a closer look, or even ask the museum curators about garments and clothing traditions you’re interested in. When you’re traveling, drop by a folk museum of the country you’re in and find out more about its culture.

Spadok5 avaAuthentic Ukrainian women’s clothing was designed perfectly because a female could wear it for years. She didn’t need special maternity clothes, her garments fit nicely through the whole pregnancy. Want to know how so? We offer you 4 wonderful video clips showing how a married woman dressed step by step in Ukrainian traditional attire over a century ago. All the clothing pieces are original, from the late 19th – early 20th century, and designed for special occasions.

Spadok4 avaIn the 19th – early 20th century, Ukrainians wore mostly handmade and hand-embellished clothing. That’s why every outfit from this period is unique, you literally won’t see two identical costumes. Every garment preserved in numerous Ukrainian museums and private collections is treasured by the locals. These 3 videos show the folk outfits of young unmarried girls (usually, they got married at the age of about 16-20). You’ll see that even rather young maidens already had costly and ornate clothing and dressed impressively bright.

Male costume ava2Leathercraft is one of the oldest handicrafts on Earth. And it is still a part of our life because we use a lot of leather and fur in our clothing. At the same time, we have many other choices, while our ancestors didn’t – they wore outerwear, shoes, and other indispensable accessories made from leather, skins, fur, and wool. This was the only way to survive. So, they learned to create masterpieces from such simple materials, and everything by hand only, with some primitive tools to help. These people were extremely skillful in leathercraft.

Ukrainian attire avaIn 18th-early-20th-century Ukraine, women – no matter how rich or poor – strived to look festive, wealthy, and spectacular on every special occasion. Every Sunday, they took their “Sunday best” from a closet (or rather a large chest) and went to the church or to the market or for a visit dressed in their fanciest clothes. Unfortunately, life in Ukraine was rather hard and needy at the time, as Ukraine was under the rule of the Russian Empire. So, the best women could afford was a piece of fine fabric for a skirt or apron, an imported silk kerchief, a coral necklace with a silver dukach pendant, etc.

Hunia1 avaThe Carpathian region of Ukraine is represented by a bunch of curious and unusual folk garments, especially outerwear. One of them is called “hunia”, and its appearance is as odd as the name. Hunia is warm, hairy, and eye-catching. And this garment is exactly what a Hutsul (Ukrainian sub-ethnic group of people who live in the Carpathians) needs. By the way, hunia has returned into fashion recently and modern Ukrainian fashionistas are ready to spend a fortune to get one. Honestly, there’s no surprise there – such natural, warm, and charming outerwear deserves to be loved.

Kersetka avaIn Ukrainian traditional costume, there is a garment with the most perfect design ever. It is a bodice called “kersetka” or “korsetka”, and it is so special because the cut fits ideally a pregnant and not pregnant woman at the same time. Meaning that a woman can wear the same bodice for years, throughout pregnancy, during breastfeeding, and long after the birth of her baby. She didn’t need any specific maternity clothing. Besides, this bodice is designed so that it sits perfectly on the body, accentuates the curves, and is very comfortable to wear even in daily life.

Bohuslav loom avaIn one of the Ukrainian museums, there is an old weaving loom that still works just fine and any visitor can try working on it. The museum is situated in a small town Bohuslav near Kyiv. This authentic loom dates back to the mid or end of the 19th century, and it has a lot of lovely details. Bohuslav was one of the cultural and handicraft centers in Ukraine, specializing in weaving. It even has its own traditional weaving technique. So, thousands of people who want to learn weaving on a vintage loom come to this little but picturesque town.

Polissia avaA lot of female folk costumes in Ukraine included an apron. It was a festive piece of clothing, a handy garment that protected the skirt and could be easily washed, an item used for extra warmth in winter – a very multifunctional article of clothes. And every woman tried to make her aprons unique and beautiful – they adorned aprons with embroidery, openwork, prints, woven patterns, etc, and used costly fabrics, like silk and gold-cloth, to make them. Each Ukrainian folk apron is gorgeous, and, luckily, many of them survived to this day. Here are a few examples of authentic aprons from museum collections.

Chernihiv avaNorthern regions of Ukraine are a swampy woodland area. The lifestyle of local people differed a lot from those in other regions. For example, they traditionally used materials and food the forest gave them, while Ukrainians from other territories mostly survived from farming. Also, the local climate is a bit colder and more humid, with hordes of midge everywhere, so people often preferred to wear woven clothes and thicker fabrics. Their traditional footwear was bast shoes because birch, willow, or other tree bark was available in large quantities.

Woven towel avaIt’s typical for many Slavic countries to use ceremonial towels (wedding towels, towels framing religious icons, etc). Most often, they are hand-embroidered, but in some regions, people preferred woven towels with rich and bright patterns. Here is a collection of woven ceremonial towels from northern Ukraine, the late 19th – early 20th century. They were woven on vintage weaving looms by skilled artisans and sold out to ordinary Ukrainians. Now, they’re exhibited in a museum.

Krysania avaOne of the most famous subethnic groups of Ukrainians is Hutsul people. They live in a certain area in the Carpathian Mountains and have an extremely rich and bright culture. Particularly, Hutsul traditional clothing differs a lot from any other Ukrainian folk costume. Today, we’ll talk about a charming accessory used by Hutsul men – a festive hat called “krysania”. Every Hutsul boy used to dream about this stylish headdress and every young man knew how to wear it to look carefree and nonchalant.

Fair avaIn the 19th century, town fairs became extremely popular in many European countries, including Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Hungary, and so on. Large fairs were held 1-2 times a year and were huge. They were a place where different cultures, regions, ethnic groups, and traditions met and intermixed. Merchants traveled from one market place to the other and brought their goods, often imported. All these factors more or less influenced the local fashion and clothing traditions.

Tree of life2 avaIn Ukraine, ceremonial wedding towels are an integral part of the traditional (and even modern) marriage ceremony. Practically every couple uses a so-called “rushnyk” during their wedding and then preserves this item as something sacred for the family. In the past, each woman wove and embroidered her wedding towel by herself. So, many authentic examples survived to this day and are now kept in museums and private collections. Here is a large collection of wedding towels with the Tree of Life depicted on them. Why did women like the Tree-of-Life motif so much? Let’s find out.

Kaptur avaUkrainian women have always been very creative with their clothing, jewelry, and accessories. There are dozens of arty-crafty headdresses or at least elaborate ways of draping even the simplest headpieces. But this particular headdress is truly unique – it was worn by married women only in a small area and, today, it is almost vanished. But why is this accessory interesting and special? Because women were banned to wear it to the church in the 19th century. Strange, isn’t it? Let’s find out why.

Rushnyk avaHere are several samples of Ukrainian traditional needlework and openwork. These two crafts were widely used by the local women to decorate clothing, tablecloths, bridal and ceremonial towels, etc. We’ve found some vintage examples of ceremonial towels called “rushnyk” that represent old traditions, beliefs, and skill. These are from central regions of Ukraine, the late 19th – early 20th century. They are museum exhibits. Every piece of the towels is handmade – they are hand-woven from linen or hemp yarn and embellished with embroidery, openwork, fringe, etc.