Kataryna's Ukrainian/Rus Costume Research


This translation went through the hands of a few translators before Dragoslava (a local SCAdian with an interest in Russian and Ukrainian persona) found a translator who was willing and able to translate the clothing terms - my understanding is that the book is written fairly technically so she had to spend some time looking up terms.

Better yet, the translator found it very interesting and expressed an interest in doing a few more pages from the same book. Yay!

So pages 31 to 39 of

Istorii`a ukranskoho kosti`uma
Personal Author: Nikolai`eva, T. O. (Tamara Oleksandrivna)
Title: Istorii`a ukranskoho kosti`uma / Tamara Nikolai`eva.
Publication info: Kyv : "Lybid", 1996.
Physical descrip: 171 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 21 cm.
Subject term: Costume--Ukraine--History.
Bibliography note: Includes bibliographical references (p. [167]-171).
ISBN: 5325004743

-My comments are in red with brackets and have "NB:" or " sic:" in front of them
-Sofya la Rus's comments from the SIG email group are included in blue
- Katelijne van der Ast's comments on possible dyes are included in green

Kyivska Rus
-The clothes and material were locally made. Archeological findings shoe that shoes (postoly) and boots were made from leather; woven from plant stems or the bark of trees; and decorated.

-Information about the clothes come from ancient Kyiven Rus written sources (Sic from Sue: Kyivan??... but it doesn't match the date for the historical time period I can guess that she means the area and not the time period) (NB: and in the book there are bibliographic numerical references ever so often). The Kozhuch (a fur coat) is mentioned as well as an opancha (Woolen short Overcoat), velvet and silken materials.

-Other sources of information include the frescoes of the churches which depict the clothes of the nobility; musicians and hunters dressed in tight pants and shirts tied with a wide belt (NB: If anyone has pictures of the musician pictures from these scenes I would love copies... I suspect these are the scenes in the Saint-Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv) (Yes. Rabinovich mentions these. I've been looking for them, too. This is the closest I've gotten so far. http://www.icon-art.info/location.php?lng=en&loc_id=148)

-Jewelry indicates that there were different social levels in eastern Slavic society. The original instructors in jewelry making were the Greeks, however, Rusians became very skilled and produced many unparalleled pieces of workmanship.

-Local artisans created many forms of decorations. We have artifacts from the 11th - 13th centuries. These include the following items: crown, headpieces, beads, necklaces, canopy (zapona), buckle for the coat, rings, hoop, etc. These decorations were formed in realistic shaped of heads of horses, birds, dragons, or in geometric shapes. The symbol of the sun, a ploughed field or sown field, hops, tree of life, the horns of the European bison, (NB: I suspect these are the same symbols seen on the traditional easter eggs and the period pottery) the sun god - Dazhboh, the goddess of spring, Medusa, gryphons, were used as well. Later these elements were interrelated with Christian symbols. (From what I've seen, the designs on easter eggs are much more stylized that the decorations, although the underlying symbolism is the same. The medusa are on the back of the round medalions call zmeevik (zmeya means snake in Russian).)

-A peasent man in Kyiven Rus wore a shirt down to his knees, tied with a leather or woven belt, fairly tight pants (leggings). A steel, comb, small knife would be attached to the belt. He wore a felt hat, leather shoes (postoly) and a linen flap for wrapping up feet (onuchi). In cooler temperatures, he wore a mantle or cloak made of homespun, coarse cloth. During the winter he wore a sheepskin coat. Men of middle class wore similar clothing, however, it may have been dyed with brighter more colourful hues.

-The clothing of the women was original and colourful. Both rich and poor spent time on making/weaving the cloth, sewing and decorating. A peasant woman, both married and unmarried wore; a long embroidered shirt, a skirt composed of two pieces of woven cloth. An unmarried woman wore a wreath on her head, a married women wore a headpiece of long cloth (kerchief). A married women covered all of her hair, an unmarried might have her hair hanging loose or braided. They wore leather postoly (slipper style shoes).

-Clothing of the nobility, upper class: was made using expensive local and imported cloth (from western Europe and the East). The long (under)shirt and was made of flax (Sic: This is typically Ukrainian-English translation grammar). The clothing which was worn over the undershirt was made of silk (from the East), or from strong downlike clothe woven through with gold or silver threads. (NB: This is a second reference I've seen to some sort of note worthy cloth made specifically in the Ukraine... IIRC it's a plant fiber (flax/hemp/cotton) Actually, the quote above doesn't say that the "strong downlike cloth" is of local manufacture, especially since it's listed with an imported silk. Anyway, the following quote is strikingly similar:
"The over garment of princesses and boyarinas in 10-13th cent. was sewn of eastern embroidered silk ("pavolok") or tightly woven vorsistoj (napped) fabric with gold or silver threads, similar to velvet ("aksamita")... "(Pushkareva89, my translation)
In Russian, "gustoj" means tight or dense. "Guski" are those fluffy down earrings. Or perhaps "downlike" in your translation is the equivalent of "napped" in mine.
that was spun fine enough that the traditional wedding shawl could be passed though the ring... must go back and find that reference again... I took it to be a purely 1800's thing - but maybe it's older.
I remember reading about such a fabric in a fairy tale when I was a child. Pushkareva mentions a cotton chiffon so light and sheer that it was called "cloth of air". I'm pretty sure this was from a paper or a documentary - I recall a picture/film of them pulling through the ring.)

-The women wore a silk overcoat. The overcoat of an upper class women would be (sic) sewn from velvet. The collar and seams would be decorated with gold thread. (NB: Interesting departure from the red thread). (Red thread is traditional for the next-to-the-skin shirt - symbolic of protection. Red is the color of the sun in Russian poetic imagery, and the chief old Russian god was the sun god, Perun. Once the undershirt has been properly guarded, other colors can be used on the upper garments. Besides, red wouldn't show up very well on dark velvets, and gold is much more "symbolic" of showing off. ;-)

-Dyes were made from - the red dye from the eggs of grubs; reddish-brown from the bark of wild apples; blue from cornflowers, blueberries; yellow from the leaves of the birch tree; yellow-brown from onion peels, bark of oak tree or pear tree. (NB: I'll have to ask if the grubs are specifically named)
More deja vu:

"Fabrics were dyed mainly with vegetable dyes, but also with animal dyes. Blue dye was made from son-travy (pasque flower?), cornflower, and blueberry/huckleberry [Vaccinium spp and Gaulussacia spp, all called черник in Russian]. Yellow came from blackthorn (?) or droka [a steppe plant in the bean family, see below], and leaves (or bark sheets?) of birch. Golden-brown was provided by onion peels, oak and pear bark. Red brown dyes came from buckwheat, St. John's wort, wild apple tree bark, alder and buckthorn. (Pushkareva97 and 89) "

As for your "grubby" red:
"Adam Nahlik analyzed 14 fabrics from the Novgorod excavations for evidence of dyes... His dye list includes: ... lak-dej... and kermes. See discussion below. (Nahlik)
Kermes - a red dye from the "gnat" Coccus illicis (or Kermes ilicus) living on oaks (Q. coccifera) and known from ancient times. Brought to Europe from Persia by the Arabs in the Middle Ages. Such dye was known also to the Ukrainian and Germans, obtained from a plant louse that lived on the plant Selavantus perennis. The coloring compound is kermesic acid. (Nahlik)
An article about the ancient textiles found in the Altai Mountains associated with the Pazyryk culture of 2,500 years ago discusses similar dyes in their fabric analysis, including Kermes vermilio, a source of kermesic acid. See lak-dej, below. (Polos'mak)
Further on-line research indicates that the dye known to the Ukrainians and Germans is probably Polish cochineal, from Margarades polonicus or Porphyrophora polonica or Coccus polonicus, that feeds on Scleranthus perennis. Oldest recorded dye obtained from insects that feed on a certain kind of oak. Called "scarlet" in the Bible. (Brown)

Lak-dej (a transliteration of "lac dye"?) - dye related to cochineal according to Nahlik. The pigment is laccaic acid and is obtained by a complex chemical operation. He says that there is some debate on the exact source of this dye. Some say its from the scale insect Coccus laccae which drinks from the plant Ficus indicus of Indian, Persian or Ceylonese (Sri Lankan) origin. Others derive it from the plants Laurencee, Perseacee, and Gascaria madogascariensis Targ Tozz. (Nahlik)
On-line research indicates that the lac insect is also called Laccifera lacca or Kerria lacca, and that it feeds on over 160 types of host trees in its native habitat, but especially Ficus spp, F. religiosa in particular. An article about the ancient textiles found in the Altai Mountains associated with the Pazyryk culture of 2,500 years ago discusses similar dyes in their fabric analysis. They discuss a coccide called Porphyrophora, a source of carminic acid for dying, and also Kermes vermilio, a source of kermesic acid, both of which inhabit the eastern Mediterranean. (Polos'mak) Whatever it's source, "lak-dej" appears in Novgorod fabrics dating to the 13th century. (Nahlik).)

(There is a polish cochineal which is possibly these red dye making grubs. The species is called porphyrophora polinica and there is evidence of it being used in dyeing and being gathered from the 6th century and on. it is called vermilicus (like kermes) or coccus or "cremexin menu" in latin texts. Most of Ukraine from the 14th to the 16th century is known for producing it (other places too if you want the whole entry let me know - it's in French though). It is found on the roots of perennial knawel (Scleranthus perennis) but can be a parasite on many other plants. It is by no means as good as the cochineal from America - recipes from 15th and 16th C texts Venician texts need 600-800% of it wrt to the quantity of fiber to be dyed (as compared to 7% for American cochineal). Armenian cochineal is just as bad.)

-In the winter the people wore fur clothing, the rich wore fox, beaver, sable, ermine. Women of the middle class wore squirrel fur. Fur coats were worn with the fur on the inside. Over time this was considered to be too thick and only the poorer, the peasants wore their fur coats in this manner. The richer began to decorate their fur coats (shuba) with velvet and gold thread. These coats were passed through generations. A sleeveless overcoat was worn in bad weather to protect them (sic: the decorated shuba).

- Footwear: Peasants made their footwear by weaving the stalks and bark (lychaky) or from thick hide (postoly). The middle classes wore boots made from horse or cowhide. In the 10th -13th century the boots had a medium heel and were not only red, but also green, yellow, and brown. The toes were either rounded or pointed. Boots were also decorated with multicoloured threads and pears (sic: pearls). These boots were not for everyday wear. The designs were circular - solar symbols, suture with dark threads were a symbol for the road, green threads represented life. (NB: Again the same symbols seen on the traditional easter eggs and the period pottery)

-Ukrainian garments of the 14th -18th century are reflected in the costumes of the Cossack era as worn by the peasantry and the Cossacks.
-The basic was the shirt made of thick, coarse homespun cloth. The man's shirt was short, tunic style, with a triangular neck. The women's shirt was long, tunic style, with the shoulder panels inserted. The man's trousers were skinny made from white or dark cloth, or were wide (sharavary). The women's skirt was a combination of two narrow rectangular pieces, or from one wide rectangular piece (NB: like the one I wear). In Central Dnieper area, women wore two narrow pieces, black or blue, on weekdays. On special occasions/holidays they wore a multicoloured "skirt" (plachta) clinched at the waist with a sash. In different regions, the design of the skirt and sash would differ in colour and design. (NB: Interesting... I wonder if it follows the same break down of the different egg styles) (As you probably already know, the regions are usually defined by the Slavic tribe that originally settled them - Viatichi vs. Polianians vs. Radimichi, etc. I've read information about how these affected the "skirt" (plakhta/ponova), beads, and temple rings.) Women also wore woolen skirts (from Polissia) - a litnyk had a red background with green, black, yellow, blue, white lines running down the skirt; - an andarak was a red skirt with ornamentation along the circumference of the skirt. Another skirt (from Lviv) - shorsh had multicoloured vertical lines on a white background.
-Dymka was a skirt on which pictures were created by hand. Every region, even every village had their own design, ornamentation and cut of the skirt. (NB: this explains a lot) Ornamentation was very important and prominent. It was done though weaving, stamping, embroidery, application (sic: Applique).
-Headgear for women was important and a symbol of their status in the family. A young unmarried women wore a wreath, ring around the head (obruch) or a scarf around the head which did not fully cover the head. For special the girls made wreaths of flowers. Married women wore scarves which covered the whole head. These may have been a long rectangular scarf worn as a hood/cap fashioned in various forms such as trapezoid, oval, saddle, sickle, etc.

Some of the pictures and copies of the pages are here.

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