Saturday, March 20, 2021

Armenian Costume of the Lake Van Region, Part 2 Men


Hello all, 

Today I will continue my article on the Armenian costumes of the Lake Van region, by talking about the men. 

Men in general are less inclined to hold onto a unique ethnic costume, being more motivated by practicality and by the need to interact with the larger society in order to do business. Thus, in any society they are more likely to wear a more general, uniform outfit. Armenian men changed to western suits quite early. Let us take another look at this drawing of a family from Van. 

In this image, the man is wearing standard Ottoman urban attire. slip on shoes, stockings, shalwar, sash, linen shirt, vest, and fez with kerchief wrapped around it. This same outfit was worn by men of various nationalities in cities all over the Ottoman Kingdom. 

In the Lake Van region, it was more typical to see the outfit worn by the man in the photo at the head of the article. This is a studio photograph of a rich man from Sasoun. This was more of a regional costume than an ethnic one. Compare the photo to this one of a Kurdish man. 

Or to this photo of Chaldean men. 

This costume belongs to the Armenians as much as it does to anyone, so I will examine it in some detail. Here is a screenshot of the Armenian dance group Vaspurakan. 

Here is a museum display of an Armenian costume from Shatakh [Çatak]

This display shows all the basic features of the outfit. Extra vests and jackets were also layered on the torso. 

The initial layer was made of linen or cotton. These help keep the outer garments clean, as they are more comfortable on the skin and easy to wash. 

Shirt, or shapik. Here is an example of a very basic shirt. The cut is the same as the woman's shapik, only shorter, and always of undyed cloth. One length of cloth folded over for the body, sleeves set in at right angles for maximum freedom of movement, and gussets under the arms for fullness. 

Another couple of examples. 

These were bleached, or not, according to whether they would be used for dress. This one seems to have been lengthened at some point. 

Likewise simple cotton or linen drawstring pants, tiumban, were also part of the foundation layer. These examples are from Bitlis and Shatakh, but these did not vary much. 

This was sometimes worn as is, in extremely hot weather, or for work in the fields, with the addition of headgear, sash, and footwear. This painting seems to show this, with only a single extra white garment worn on the torso. 

The main garments of this ensemble are a matching set of outer pants, shalval or saharteri, and outer shirt/jacket, shal, as you can see from the photo above. These were woven out of wool, or a wool - linen blend. Stripes and other ornaments were woven into the fabric, and supplemental embroidery was often added to the cuffs of both pants and jacket, and the front opening. The pants were quite full, and had a drawstring.  Here is an example of such a set from northern Iraq. 

The cuffs of the shirt were slit, and the shirt and possibly other layered jacket cuffs underneath showed through the slit. The front panels were not fastened, but possibly tucked into the pants, and held in place by the sash.

The ornament and base color of the pants varied, but within a definite style. This first set is from a Museum in Yerevan. 

Here is a pants and jacket set from Shatakh. 

Some pants were either not made as part of a set, or the jacket has been lost. This is an example from an unknown location. Note the simple cross stitch band design on the hem. 

Some examples are much simpler. This set is from the city of Van and is made of relatively plain brown stripes. 

The pants were made of home woven cloth. When weaving cloth by hand, the finished product is about 16 inches wide. It is not practical to make it any wider, as it would be very difficult to reach the edges in order to pass the shuttle through. The various ornaments were added with supplemental weft. The cut used for the pants is a common one, and requires 4 lengths of cloth. Thus you need a length of cloth 4 times longer than the finished garment, plus enough to turn under for the cuffs and drawstring. Here is a diagram of the cut. The gusset is cut from the area between the two middle fields. The circumference of the waist is thus about 60 inches, losing an inch for each seam. 

Take another look at the folded pants from above. 

A number of vests and jackets were often layered. 

This one was obviously meant to be layered over, as the lower part and back are made of plain white cloth. 

Here are some more examples of jackets that were meant to be layered over and under. They were made in a wide number of materials and colors. 

One type of vest in particular was unique to this region, and was always worn on top of the others. This was called aba or kaziakhi. The back and shoulders were woven of a heavy wool with long strands of wool hanging off the cloth. These strands were looped into the weave of the vest and left hanging on the outside. The Transcarpathian Ukrainian Hunia is similar. The front opening was covered with gold cloth, often with a purple frog. Short epaulettes were sewn to the shoulders and also had fringe.  These two are from Khizan and Shatakh. 

The photo of the man at the head of the article shows him wearing this type of vest. Here is an exhibit from a Russian museum that shows a costume from Shatakh wearing an aba over a jacket over a vest over a shirt. 

Here is a photo showing two men from Alur wearing a fleecy aba like this one, but without the fancy front part. 

There exists a simpler version of this vest, also called aba. The cut is much the same, except that the short sleeves are sewn closed on the bottom and it is made of simply woven wool. 

Here is a photo of two men from Alur wearing this type of aba. 

A larger mantle, or coat, which is worn in colder weather, also exists. The cut is similar, but the garment is larger. 

To get an idea of the size of this garment, here it is on a mannequin. 

A long, wide sash was worn around the waist. This was often made wide enough that it had to be folded in half lengthwise, thus when wound around the waist, it formed pockets that could be used to carry small items. Like all sashes, these were wound at least twice around the body. They were made of a wide variety of materials. 

Felt caps were worn on the head. Some were plain , and rather dome shaped, 

Others were flat on top and could be highly ornamented. These were likely for younger men, and possibly for more important individuals or dress occasions. 

In either case, they normally had a kerchief, usually of silk, rolled and wrapped around the base. 

Padrik has a sketch of a man from Sasoun wearing a headdress like this. 

Here is an exhibit from a Yerevan Musuem. 

The village costume was completed with knit socks and moccasins. 

At times, if required for freedom of movement, the pants would be tucked into the stockings. 

Men who were more well off or more urban would replace these with shoes, either of fiber or leather.

Or even boots.

I will continue this subject in my next article. For now, Here are just a few more images of this costume.

This photo shows men from Sasoun. 

This photo shows an outfit from Bitlis on the left, and two from Shatakh on the right, and is an exhibit at the  Armenian Museum of America,, in Watertown, a suburb of Boston.

This photo is of an exhibit in a Russian Museum, A man from Shatakh and a woman from Bitlis. 

This photo is of a group of women and children in Istanbul. The boy on the left [who couldn't stand still for the photo]  is dressed in a version of this costume that was sewn using a cotton print. 

Another screen shot of the dance group Vaspurakan performing in a simplified form of this outfit. 

Sketches by different artists. 

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

Roman K.


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