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National Russian Dress
January 15, 2009 13:35

Basic costume garments
Wedding Dress of Russian Brides
Costume decorations

We know our predecessors by their tales, songs and legends, as well as by a great variety of original clothes and household things created mainly by some unknown talents. When looking at ancient holiday garments of peasantry one cannot help wondering at their unusual harmony and power of life emanating from these things and their ability to hand down the visible image of our ancestors and convey their spiritual essence to us.

Historians suppose that traditional Russian costume started taking its shape in the 12th-13th centuries. It was during that period when intensive formative process of Russian ethnos was taking place. Russian costume, just like garments of all the Slavic population of Eastern Europe – i.e. Ukrainians and Byelorussians – was quite peculiar and in accord with living of the nation of tillers. Up to the 18th century it fitted well all layers of Russian society: it was worn by tsars, boyars, merchants, craftsmen, and peasants.

A peculiar feature of Russian national costume was a big number of outerwear. The clothes were of throw-over and throw-open types. The throw-over clothes were put on through the head and the throw-open ones had a top-down slit and were fastened line-on-line with hooks or buttons.

As a rule peasants sew clothes of their own fabrics – wool, hemp, staminate hemp, and linen. Poor families could purchase garments extremely rarely. If purchases occurred, though, it was done in turn, by clubbing of several families – first for one person, then for another, and so on. Even ritual garments, like wedding dresses, were available for collective use.

The costumes of nobility were of Byzantium style. In the 17th centuries there came some borrowings from Poland, such as the Polish caftan (man's long outer garment) and the Polish fur coat. To protect national originality the order of 6 August 1675 prohibited stolniks (a courtier rank below the boyar in Russia in 13th-17th cc), solicitors, Moscow gentry, dwellers and their servants from wearing foreign style clothes.

Dresses of the noblemen were made of expensive fabrics, with use of gold, silver, perals and expensive buttons. Such garments often descended. The cut of costumes remained unchangeable for centuries. There was no such notion as fashion.

The Russian national costume lost its popularity after Peter the First banned it in 1699 for all except peasants, monks, priests and sextons. First he introduced into practice the Hungarian dress, followed by Saxon and French outerwear and German sleeveless jackets and underwear. Women were obliged to wear German dresses. All those who entered towns while wearing Russian clothes and beards had to pay duty: 40 kopeks from a pedestrian and 2 rubles from a person on horseback.

By the early 20th century the most widespread women’s costumes were of two types: the South Russian one with poneva, i.e. a homespun woolen skirt, and the Mid-Russian one with a sarafan, i.e. a pinafore dress. A set of a skirt and knitted jacket became popular.

The national Russian costume became still less popular after the revolution of 1917. However, in some villages, especially in the North of Russia, much of it is used till date. Samples of ancient folk clothes collected in museums and private collections of this country represent one of the most interesting phenomena of Russian culture.

Further on we are going to tell about the traditional costume that was common among peasants from the last third of the 18th century to the first quarter of the 20th century, since this is what is considered to be the authentic Russian national costume.



Tags: Russian Traditions Traditional Russian Dress    

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