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Ukrainian Folk Costumes II

We have just celebrated the 200 year anniversary of our Constitution on 17th May, and as usual on the National Day, everybody who own a national costume, wore it to the festivities.

While I was enjoying myself looking at different dresses with a myriad of interesting details, I was reminded of the rest of the photos of the Ukrainian costumes that have been sitting in my computer for some time, waiting to make their way into this post.

Well, here they are at last.

The first one here is a costume from the  Transcarpathian flatlands. We are still in the era of the sewing machine, as can be seen on the vest. It has colourful ruffles made from a very thin fabric, which have frayed a bit over time. The shirt has fantastic smocking and embroideries on the cuffs. The photo of the skirt is sadly out of focus, but shows the multiple colours of the ruffle border.

I have been studying the belt, but cannot quite decide on the construction technique. I have been wondering if it might be made in the old braiding technique called “sprang”, but I am not sure. Maybe someone reading this will know. As I wrote in the first post, there was no information on the individual costumes other than the region they came from.

The costume above comes from the Lemko area. Again, the amount of detailed work is amazing. I like the dense embroidery of the head dress, which is also repeated on the cuffs, and I love the large pearl collar, – and not just because quilters are partial to hexagons.

When studying the embroidery on the skirt, you will notice that each motif is perfectly aligned with the pressed folds of the skirt.

I wonder how many pearls would be used for a dress like this.

Then we move on to Bukovyna, and here they had costumes for both men and women on display. The one above is for males, and it looks like they were not averse to wearing flowery decorations embroidered in many colours, – including hot pink.

The detailed work done on leather is impressive, and I love the woven belt. Also, I was surprised to see that the bottom of the trousers has a border of drawn thread embroidery. They show very little wear, so these trousers  must have been for very best use.

Above is the female costume, which, as a whole, appears less colourful than the male counterpart. The most impressive parts are the sleeves, which look unusually long, by the way, – and all covered in embroidery in three very different patterns. The edging on the vest with alternating dark and light fur, must have taken quite some time to accomplish. The belt has a similar pattern and colours as in the male costume, but seems to be narrower.


Now, this one from the Pokuttia region has everything: embroidery, fringes, pearls, handmade cords, – you name it, – and then some detailed leather work to blow your mind.

First, I love the head dress with the colourful borders. To wrap it around the head and make it sit correctly must be an art in itself. The shirt sleeves are also heavily embroidered.

But the most impressive part is the vest. I have no knowledge of leather work, so can only guess at how these things are done, but even to an untrained eye, there is no denying that a lot of work has gone into this piece. Just look at all those small pom-poms, – they look like they are felted. Anyway, each and every one of them have been fastened, – probably sewn, – to the leather along with an accompanying dark triangular leather piece.

The narrow checkered borders on both sides of the the front looks like narrow dark leather bands have been woven into slits in the light leather background. Then there is some cross stitch embroidery, and red and yellow twisted cords are couched on both sides.

The alternating pieces of dark and light fur on the edges of the vest, are even narrower than on the vest we looked at above, and there are also lots of small triangular leather pieces, looking like praerie points, on top of the fur pieces.


This women’s dress from the Hutsulian area is also rich in details, and colours.

The head dress is interesting, consisting largely of pearls, – but I wondered about the tinsel. I guess it must have been highly valued at some point to be displayed so prominently.

I love the pattern in the pearl necklace, – although there are repeats, it appears quite irregular.

The upper part of the shirt sleeves has a very dense, colourful embroidery.

The vest has similar decoration details as the one above, but they are arranged a bit differently. Lots of couched cords, and the edges of the dark triangular pieces are also couched in dark thread, – so much so the leather almost disappears. Lots of eyelets are also used as pure decoration. It also has a colourful embroidered border at the bottom, in style with the shirt embroidery.

Here it is obvious that the base leather is sheepskin, which I also suspect is the case of the vests in the photos further above.

In addition to a woven belt, there is also a woven band adorned with pom-poms wrapped across one shoulder, reminiscent of a ceremonial sash, some times used at weddings. Now, if this is a wedding outfit, maybe that would explain the tinsel, – just guessing here.


The corresponding men’s costume from the Hutsulian area is even more adorned than its female counterpart, minus the pearls.

The shirt front is richly embroidered in many colours and patterns, including numbers which indicate it was made in 1961.  The woven belt is quite wide and has stronger colours in it than the one on the women’s dress, – maybe it is newer and less faded.

The vest has similar decor elements and placement as the one above, minus the embroidered border at the bottom. This one has larger, dark triangles, and they are adorned with lots of eyelets and have their edges couched with green cord. The checkerboard strips are wider and have three bands woven into them.

The footwear is also similar between the two costumes.

This is a woolen cape from the same area as above. It has some embroidered decor around the neck, down the back, and along the seams.

The tip protruding at the back looks like it could be a hood, but  I have not been able to detect an opening for the head. It is a mystery to me why it looks like this, unless it is meant to cover a load carried on the back.

The last two costumes that were on display, are from the Podillia area. The men’s costume has a long shirt, with a wide embroidered border around the opening at the front. Stitches around this opening also serve as a strengthening of the fabric, which can easliy tear at the bottom of the split.

The decorative leather work on the west is more similar to the ones from the Bukovyna area than to the two shown directly above. This also goes for the belt, which seems to be woven in a jacquard technique.

The most prominent feature of the women’s costume from Podillia, is the strong decor on the sleeves. With two heavy, black and red pieces at the top, – not sure whether they are embroidered or sewn in fabrics, – and a wide, black zig zag ribbon sewn in a spiraling pattern around the sleeves, they sort of define the whole costume. The red colour is also repeated in a many stranded pearl necklace.

The vest is decorated in similar technique as the one above.


Seeing this exhibition, and then studying the individual photos afterwards, has been like a journey, – very interesting. People everywhere like to dress up, and being well dressed is always a way to show off either wealth or status.

A lot of these costumes has been very time consuming in making, showing that these people had time on their hands, and material, to spend on other things than just scraping a living.


The first post about the exhibition can be seen here.




11 Responses

  1. Absolutely gorgeous. We’ve got a very large population of Ukrainian Canadians in Saskatchewan (the Ukrainian Museum of Canada is actually in my home town) but most of the folk costumes we see around these parts are merely modern replicas brought out for Christmas and dance festivals. These are such beautiful examples – thank you for sharing!

    • I agree, Carly, they are gorgeous.
      Why, you surely must know a lot more about them than I do, having the museum nearby. These are the only ones I have seen, but it has been very interesting trying to make out how things were done.
      I guess the Ukrainians in your neighbourhood must be worried about the situation back in their home country these days. I hope things will work out.

  2. These are amazing ! Sadly Britain does not seem to have the same history of regional costumes, I am facinated as much by the regional similarities as the differences: that people in the same area would want theirs to be identifiably the same as their neighbours’s is an interesting situation, and be able to make it too!!!

    • I think they are amazing too, Benta 🙂
      Wouldn’t you say the Scottish kilts are a kind of national costume too?
      It is interesting to think about what factors would cause the creation of a national, or regional, costume in the first place: The wish to copy something nice you saw? The need to be as nicely dressed as your neighbours? Fashion? Not to stand outside the group? Show off your seamstress abilities? Handing down knowledge to the next generation? Available materials? Tradition? National pride?
      I guess many factors have played a role up until today.

      Did you have a good time in the Bergen area?

  3. Thank you for sharing and really nice photos too.

  4. The Transcarpathian costume is from the Khust area. The sash may indeed be sprang, or it could be looped. The word in Ukrainian is very general, meaning any technique which is not actually weaving on a loom.Could be braided. The ‘cape’ shown in the Hutsul region is called a Huhlia, and today is only worn for weddings. It is a very old garment, and may have originated as an all purpose outer garment which shepherds wore while out in the field, able to function as a sort of mini tent, if you actually put the point on your head. Similar garments are known in Romania and Georgia.

  5. The hot pink in some of the costumes is an example of the degradation of the tradition which happened with the introduction of aniline dyes. The chemise from Bukovyna has exceptional embroidery, in my opinion. The man’s shirt is of a later style and to my eyes actually looks like it is from Podillia. [On the other hand, pink as a feminine color is a very recent phenomenon, it only goes back to the 1950’s or so. Early in the 20th century, red in any shade was considered more masculine. Pale blue was considered to be more feminine. Of course, this is a western idea only,]

    • Thank you Roman for your additional info, – it is great to have someone with knowledge on these things contribute bits of information. I so wish there could have been more detailed information at the exhibition itself. Your insight is very much appreciated. thanks again 🙂

  6. I’ve done some sprang! There’s the beginning of a series on my blog about it. The ‘weave’ of that sash does look like sprang done with thicker threads than I used for my hairnet, and intentionally held closer together.

    Another topic that I’m looking for direction/connection on – I’m presently researching TransCarpathian (Zakarpattia) medieval clothing and embroidery techniques in order to construct some sort of pre-1600 western Ukrainian costume. So far, I’m interested in pattern darning (nyzynka), the whitework with holes, and ‘written work’ (kalatoszegi). I hope I’ve got the names right. Can you recommend other sources? I’m puzzling through Lengyel Gyorgyi’s embroidery book Nagyanyaink Oroksege (Grandmother’s Legacy), but I’d love some more authoritative references for pre-1600. (I’m really shooting for 1200.) Thanks so much in advance!

    • Thank you for commenting, Sarah, and for confirming my initial suspicion of the sprang technique. I have never tried to do sprang myself, I have just seen photos and a few videos of how it is made, and could not think of any other technique that would fit with the look of the sash. Thank you!
      I am not an expert on folk costumes, – far from it, – just a bit interested in beautiful textiles, and a bit curious of how they are made. I am sorry I do not have any real knowledge of the project you are researching at the moment. Perhaps the person commenting just before you on this post may be able to help. There seems to be a lot of detailed information on his blog folkcostume.blogspot.com. I have not managed to read a lot yet, but am impressed by the amount of information so far.
      Best of luck with your costumes 🙂

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