Men’s clothing

Traditional Russian men’s clothing has always been less diverse than female wear.

Men wore ports (pants), a shirt, usually with an oblique collar, and cinched it with a belt. They wore hats made of felted wool –in an infinite variety of shapes.

A man in casual clothes (felted hat, shirt, ports, belt) Russian folk costume

A man in casual clothes (felted hat, shirt, ports, belt) / Russian folk costume / F. Parmon

Gradually hat was replaced by a cloth hat or a leather cap – the influence of the urban style.

Traditional Russian Women’s Clothing

Among the traditional Russian women’s clothing the most common were two sets.

Women’s shirt with a skirtand aheaddress (soroka)

The set was popular in the southern regions of Russia.

The woman wore a long linen shirt. On top of it she wore a skirt (poneva). In the front she wore an apron. On top she then put on some additional items – nasov, navershnik, etc.

Beginning of the 20thcentury, South Russia

Beginning of the 20thcentury, South Russia, Tula Province / Collection of Natalia Shabelskaya 

Women always wore a traditional headdress –fully covered, completely hiding the hair (soroka).

Beginning of the 20thcentury, South Russia, Ryazan Province_

Beginning of the 20thcentury, South Russia, Ryazan Province / Collection of Natalia Shabelskaya

Young woman wearing soroka

Young woman wearing soroka / Sergey Sołomko

Women’s shirt with a sundresses and kokoshnik

This set was common in the northern regions of Russia, the Volga region, the Urals and Siberia.

Over a long shirt a woman put on a sundress. On top of it – short chest clothing on straps – dushegreya.

Girl in a headdress and dushegreya (beginning of the 20th century)  Northern Russia

Girl in a headdress and dushegreya (beginning of the 20th century) / Northern Russia, Pskov Province / Collection of Natalia Shabelskaya 

Married women, as well as in the south, wore a headdress, completely hiding the hair – kokoshnik. Expensive kokoshniks were always worn with scarves, the lower ends of which were tied under the chin.

Girls, as well as in the south, wore bands on their heads.

Peasants were conservatives. And they had a very clear distinction between a costume for everyday life, work, holidays or rituals.

Festive Russian women’s clothing

Festive clothing had to be newer, not too worn. The number of items in festive attire was usually bigger – people tried to impress others, “not to lose face.” Clothing was made from more expensive fabrics, sometimes purchased. Festive attire was decorated with ornaments and embroidery.

Rich peasants had several sets of festive clothes: “Sunday” set and for various holidays.

Festive women's clothing (the beginning of the 20th century) Northern Russia

Festive women’s clothing (the beginning of the 20th century) / Northern Russia, Arkhangelsk province / Collection of Natalia Shabelskaya

During some important events in the life of peasants the costume was paid special attention. It was especially important at weddings and funerals.

For example, wedding shirts could have very long sleeves, in which they even sometimes made slits for the arms. It is possible that the symbolic meaning of long sleeves shirts was the following: the person who wore such a shirt didn’t have to work, which was so true for a wedding celebration.

Woman in Toropetsky pearl headdress and a shawl

Woman in Toropetsky pearl headdress and a shawl / first half of the 19th century / Abram Klyukvin

Sometimes poor peasants for decades preserved their wedding clothes so they had something to be buried in.

Casual women’s clothing

In contrast to the festive clothes, casual clothing was made of simple and, most importantly, durable fabrics. Such clothing was also much less decorated.

The exception was the reaping shirt. But this is understandable, because such an important milestone of the peasant lifeas harvesting, occupied a central place in the life of any peasant.

Harvest time was quite a sacred period in the annual cycle of any peasant, when all the worries, all hard work and difficulties of the season ended with reaping the harvest, “gifts of nature”.

Reaper (1871). Konstantin Makovsky

Reaper (1871) / Konstantin Makovsky

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