In 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.
A kersetka is an old Ukrainian folk garment. The first examples appeared in Ukraine around the early 19th century. It is a sleeveless vest or bodice of a very specific cut. It is loose at the front and tight-fitting at the back. The hem at the back is pleated (with box pleats), so it looks very attractive and ornate. The front is closed one flap over the other with just a few buttons at the neck and chest, which can be moved if necessary.
Such a design is ideal for women, as they’re able to wear a bodice for many years. Even if a female gains weight or gets pregnant, a kersetka still fits her perfectly. There’s no need to buy new clothes or re-sew this one. And it was a very important feature because, in the past, women wore handmade clothing and couldn’t afford to change outerwear every season or even every few years.
A kersetka is a festive outer garment. It was used by Ukrainian females when they went in public – to a market, to the church, to visit relatives, to someone’s wedding, etc. At home, they usually didn’t put it on, using only a shirt or simpler outerwear in a cold season.
A kersetka was an ornate and costly garment. It usually had at least some embellishments. For example, there could be velvet trimming or shiny buttons (by the way, some kersetka also had buttons at the top of each box pleat – the only purpose was decoration) or prints on the fabric or embroidery or applique, and many other variants of adornments. With handmade clothing, it’s easy to make your garment unique and one of a kind, so women tried to find a way to create a special piece so that nobody else had the same-looking one.
In Ukrainian museums and private hands, there is a great collection of vintage kersetka garments. Each item is unique. They differ in color, size, width, fabric, decoration, number of box pleats, number or absence of pockets, etc.
If to talk about the fabric, wool, brocade, silk, cotton, and satin were the most popular options.
If to talk about pockets, most bodices had one, a lot had two, but there were also kersetka with no pockets at all. The pockets usually were insert pockets, rarer patch pockets or welt pockets. Sometimes hidden pockets were put inside the lining. But most often, the pockets were not only functional but decorative as well, like another embellishment on the bodice.
A kersetka is a gorgeous garment. It looks lovely on everybody – little girls, young maidens, married adult women, and elderly women. The design emphasizes female curves but not in a vulgar way. The cut is also very forgiving – it hides any imperfections and highlights the femininity of any body type. Kersetka makes plump women appear taller and slimmer, while lanky females visibly get some curve. This outerwear looks festive and opulent, that’s why it was one of the favorite female outer garments until about the mid-20th century. Even today, Ukrainian women love to wear a kersetka to folk festivals, on a national day, or even on some holidays. In modern times, literally, every woman who put on a kersetka for the first time in her life is surprised by how good it sits and looks on her.
Here are a number of various kersetka garments. Compare how different they look, though the cut is almost identical.