Monday, January 3, 2011

Annette's Bielorussian Costume

 Hello all.
This is my friend Annette, modeling the Bielorussian costume which i made for her. It consists of a chemise, in Bielorussian called a Kashula, a skirt, an apron and a headband. To be complete it should really have a sash, and it could have a vest/bodice. The cut of the chemise is the standard slavic cut.

There is a seperate piece on the shoulders, often refered to as the inset. The sleeves are sewn on to the body of the chemise, and there is a gusset underneath.The seam can be seen in the photo below the top wide red stripe. Thus the shoulder seam actually falls several inches below the shoulder. This is actually the case for all traditional clothing, especially shirts and chemises. I have one shirt which i bought, that whoever sewed it did not reallise this, and the body is so narrow noone can wear it. These days this is called a 'drop shoulder' seam, but in fact it is the norm for historical garments. You will notice that instead of a wristband, the end of the sleeve is gathered to form a ruffle. This is common in Bielorussian chemises. In this case, it is somewhat shorter than the skirt, unlike Ukrainian or Bulgarian costumes in which the bottom hem of the chemise deliberately shows.
I based this costume mostly on the following drawing, which is from a small pamphlet called 'National Costumes of the Soviet Peoples' which shows how to sew a standardized simplified version of the 15 national costumes of the Soviet Union.

I sewed the chemise and apron from two woven runners which i was willing to sacrifice, the shorter being cut in half, and then the two halves sewn togethere side by side,and gathered into the waistband to form the apron. The longer one i cut and pieced so that the design was distributed in the manner you see.
The headband was made from another long narrow piece of cloth with some of the woven design sewn onto the end.

as you can see in this back view. Here is an old photgraph showing an older woman wearing a similar headband.

You will notice that she is wearing a cap underneath the headband. Traditionally, all married women kept their hair covered in public. This was extremely widespread over Europe and beyond, and there were all sorts of superstitions concerning women's hair. You will also notice that her chemise has a narrow piece on the shoulder, and a decorative joining at the top of the sleeve where it is attached to the shoulder piece and body. Her chemise has woven ornamentation, but often they are embroidered instead, or in addition to having a woven design.
Her skirt is striped instead of Plaid, both are common in Belarus. Some might be surprised to find plaids in folk costumes this far east, but in fact plaids are very common and widespread in folk textiles. They are after all, only stripes run both ways.
The skirt is full, hand gathered/smocked into the waistband. For those of you wanting to make traditional outfits, traditional skirts are never tiered, except perhaps in the south of Spain. This is another modern tendency. Traditional skirts are usually about 4 to 5 yards around. Looking at the pics, i would make the skirt longer if i were doing it now.
There should be a sash, either braided or inkle or card woven, with a design, like one of the following.

All of the slavic peoples use what might be translated as 'ritual towels, in Bielorussian Ruchnik. They are used to drape icons in the home and church, in various ceremonies connected with matchmaking, weddings, baptisms, funerals, etc. It was in fact two of these that i cut up to make the chemise and apron. In past times, most cloth, especially homewoven, came in such narrow lengths. Here are a couple of examples of Bielorussian Ruchniks, showing typical ornamentation.
Red is the most popular color for woven and embroidered designs in Belarus, often combined with black.
This is typical for all Slavs and indeed for many peasants in general.

This woman is married as is shown by the wimple like garment she is wearing which covers the hair, and in this case, the neck also. This general type of garment was once worn from Lithuania all the way south to Romania. It still remains in the tradition of some isolated areas.
Below are a couple of other examples of Bielorussian costume. These are all more or less from the south-central part of the country.
Thank you once more for visiting, and rembember that i welcome any particular questions or suggestions for the blog or for research that you might be wanting to conduct.

Roman K

Here is a website that has more information on Belorussian traditional clothing.

Feel free to contact me with requests for research. I hope to eventually cover all of Europe and the Former Russian Empire/Soviet Union. I also gratefully accept tips on source materials which i may not have. I also accept commissions to research/design, sew, and/or embroider costumes or other items for groups or individuals. I also choreograph and teach folk dance.
Roman K.

Source Materials:
Vol'ha Fadzeieva 'Belaruski Ruchnik' Polmia, Minsk, 1994
 Mikhas' Ramaniuk ' Belaruskaie Narodnaie Adzennie' Belarus, Minsk, 1981
E. Sakhuta 'Khremesly i Promysly Belorussii' Nauka i Tekhnika, Minsk, 1988

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