Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Embroidered Bridal veils of the Darvaz district, Tajikistan

Hello all,

Today I will talk about one of the more striking embroidery traditions of Central Asia.
These bridal veils are widely found in collections and museums, and the work is extraordinary.
The above example is found in the Museum of the Ethnography of the Peoples of the USSR, or whatever it is called these days, in St. Petersburg .

Tajikistan is now an independent nation in the south of Central Asia. 
Its Capitol is Dushanbe, and this is their flag.

In contrast to most of Central Asia, which is Turkic, The Tajiks are an Iranian people, and their language is a form of Persian. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tajiks
They inhabit not only Tajikistan, but parts of the neighboring countries, in particular the north of Afghanistan. The easternmost portion of Tajikistan consists of Кӯҳистони Бадахшон or Gorno Badakhshan, where the people speak the various Pamir languages. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorno-Badakhshan_Autonomous_Region
These extend also into northeastern Afghanistan and Uyguristan in China, which immediately border it.

These veils, while often taken to be emblematic of Tajikistan as a whole, are in fact from only one small district, Darvaz. It is shown in dark red on this map.


Darvaz historically extended into what is now Afghanistan, but I do not know if these veils are also found south of the present border. 

This  garment featured prominently in the ceremonial procession of the Bride to her new husband's house, and the first viewing of the bride by the family. They were then displayed by the family and used in subsequent generations. 

They all have substantially the same general composition. Here is a drawing of another veil. Click to enlarge.

There is a panel towards the upper center of the veil where the threads are bundled with a faggoting stitch to form an area of coarser grid so that the bride may see. Of the above two examples, one has this area plain, and the other has it embroidered. The edge is ornamented with stylized Birds; Peacocks perhaps, or Roosters. A pair of these birds is also placed below the eye holes. The rest of the veil is composed of various rectangular fields with diamonds, suns, crosses and other geometric shapes. 

The embroidery is done with a satin stitch which takes a back stitch every few threads, and so is able to make these large figures without being in danger of catching. Here above is a closeup of both the front and the back of this stitch. 

There is a hand woven band attached to the upper edge of the veil, usually with tassels attached. Presumably this is to tie the veil around the head, or more likely, a headdress of some sort, perhaps something like this.

 This is often missing in collected pieces. I have found no images of a bride actually wearing one of these, but presumably it was worn something like this.

Today in this region the same type of embroidery is used to make curvilinear designs on the women's kamiz, as shown here.

But there is evidence that in the past, the embroidery on the rest of the clothing was more similar to that of the veils.

The use of these veils died out around the beginning of the 20th cent., but they were kept and prized as great examplars of the art of these people. Here are images of other such pieces. 

The embroidery on this veil is very similar to the tunic in the drawing above.

These designs are worth admiring in their own right, but they also would make excellent subjects for many other projects. It would be a good thing to bring a bit of old Darvaz into your own homes. 

Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative

Roman K.
email: rkozakand@aol.com

Source Material:
N. N. Ershov & Z. A. Shirokova, 'Al'bom Odezhdy Tadzhikov', Dushanbe, 1969
Sophia Avizhanskaya, 'Museum of the Ethnography of the Peoples of the USSR', Leningrad, 1990
Tatyana RAzina, 'Folk Art in the Soviet Union', Leningrad, 1990

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Overview of the Costumes of the Slovenes

Hello all,
Today I would like to give somewhat of an overview of the costumes of Slovenia and the Slovenes. They call their country Slovensko, but be aware that the Slovaks also call their country Slovensko. Be careful not to confuse the two. Slovenes live in Slovenia, and also in some neighboring parts of Italy, Austria and Hungary. They intergrade with the Croatians in dialect, and the border is taken as the dividing line between the two.

Being in a mountainous region, the Slovene language has a large number of dialects, but most are mutually intelligible, except for Rezian in the west and Prekmurjan in the east; each of which has a separate literary standard. 

Here is a map of the traditional regions of Slovenia. The three regions in red reflect their common history as the province of Carniola or Kranjska in the Austrian Empire.


The image at the head of the article is of the Gorenjska, or Upper Carniola costume, which is by far the best known. This is what people generally think of as 'The' Slovenian costume. This comes in several variants. Sometimes a Spencer jacket is worn as part of the costume, and sometimes a large starched white kerchief is worn with the ends tied on top of the head, instead of the distinctive headdress.

A video of some dances from Gorenjska


The capitol of Slovenia has particular costumes associated with it.

A video of some dances from Ljubljana, the capitol.


To the south, the province of Dolenjska or Lower Carniola, has a somewhat different costume in the northern parts. 

Here is a video of dances from Dolenjska.

The costumes from south central Dolenjska resemble those just across the border in Croatia, in the regions of Delnica and Kordun. 



In the southeast corner  of Dolenjska, around the city of Črnomelj, is the region of Bela Krajina [White Country, or Whitemarch].This has a very well preserved and distinctive costume, almost all in white linen. This apparent simplicity is belied by the complex construction and sewing details of the costume. 

In the region of Podzemelj, 
some embroidery enlivens the all white costume.

Later, for special occasions the people of Bela Krajina would put on city type costume, known in the region as 'black costume'.

Videos of dances from Bela Krajina.


For the region of Notrjanska, or Inner Carniola, I have found very little in the way of remembered costume. 

 This couple is from the area around Vrhnika in northern Notrjanska.

 This girl is from Viševek in southeastern Notrjanska.
The following are from southwestern Notrjanska, specifically the Brkini Hills. This costume looks very Balkan and is similar to those in close by Istria.

A video  of dances from this region.



The westernmost region is the Primorska, or Littoral zone. Very little of this is actually on the Adriatic sea, most of it borders on Italy, but there is a sizable Slovenian minority in the adjacent part of Italy as well. 

Slovenian Istria.

These costumes are from the village of Škedenj, or Servola, which is now in the Italian province of Trieste. One can see obvious similarities to both Croatian Littoral and Italian costumes.

Some other Slovene costumes from around Trieste.

Videos of Slovene dances from the Istria - Trieste area.

Further north, the border passes through the region of Gorica or Gorizia. Solkan is a village on the outskirts of Gorica.

This is the costume as worn by folk dance groups representing the area.

Video of dances from Gorica.

North of this is Soška dolinathe Soča river valley, which more or less parallels the Italian border. 

The most distinctive region is Val Resia, or Dolina Rezija, which is entirely on the Italian side, not far from the Austrian border. The dialect spoken here has its own orthograpyhy and is not intelligible with Standard Slovenian, and in fact, the people here consider themselves to be of a distinct ethnicity.

Here are videos showing dances from the Resian Valley.


To the north, and lying mostly in Austria is the region of Carinthia, or Koroška. 
While the majority of the inhabitants are Austrian, Slovenes inhabit the southern part, and a small part of Carinthia is currently within Slovenia. 

Rož Valley, or Rosental.

Zilja Valley, Zilska Dolina or Gailtal. This lies in Austria but is inhabited by Slovenes. Some Austrians have also picked up this costume. 

Video of wedding dances  from the Zilja valley. The bride, per old tradition, is dressed in black.

The Meža Valley, Mežiška Dolina or Mießtal. This currently lies within the borders of Slovenia.

Videos of dances from the Meza valley.


Štajerska or Styria is also mostly in Austria, but a significant part lies in Slovenia.
The Northern and Western parts have an Alpine costume, but the Eastern and Southern parts have a Pannonian costume similar to that of Southern Dolenjska and Prekmurje.

West Styria.

Videos of dances from West Styria The first is set at Carnival time.

Eastern Styria.

Video of dances from East Styria.


This is the Easternmost part of Slovenia, across the Murje river. This region has a divergent dialect, and the costume is purely Pannonian. City dress was adopted early, as happened in many parts of Slovenia.

A set of dances from Prekmurje. This is a representaion of a wedding celebration. The Bride is all in black with a white wreath and corsage. The Groom is likewise dressed all in dark colors. Some Hungarian influence may be noticed. 

Thank you for reading. I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative.
I drew upon many sources for this article, both print and online. 

One of the best sources of information on Slovene Folk Costumes is the Facebook page Slovenska Ljudska Nosa.
I highly recommend it. It is, of course, mostly in Slovene. Please visit them and like them.


Email: rkozakand@aol.com

Roman K.