Monday, October 22, 2018

Overview of the costumes of the Lemkos / Rusyns. part 7a: Central Lemko Women


Hello all, 

Today I will talk about the Central Lemko costume, which is the most widespread of the Lemko costumes, but is surprisingly little known. It is found in the watershed of the tributaries of the upper Wisloka river from the Ropa to the Jasiolka. Here is a map showing the extent of the region, it includes the southern parts of Gorlice, Jaslo and Krosno counties.

Although many of the individual villages have distinctive characteristics, as a whole, the clothing was similar over this region. Again, one has to remember that this area was ethnically cleansed after WWII.

A group from the village of Krempna - Крампна.

A group from the village of Radocyna - Радоцина


By the beginning of the 20th cent. the ancestral Slavic chemise had been cut into two garments in this area, a short shirt and an underskirt/slip. The shirt was sewn with the non-insert cut, the sleeves being gathered into the neckband. 

This diagram is for the eastern Lemko shirt, but the cut is the same, except for the cuffs. In the central Lemko region, the sleeves are gathered below the hem, and they form a ruffle. Decorative trim was sewn onto the hem, and the band which gathered the cuffs was embroidered. There was sometimes a narrow band of embroidery on the neckband as well. Here is a drawing of a shirt from Jaslo county. 

This embroidery consisted of several bands of simple narrow designs which combined into one large composition. 

In this photo you can see the narrow band of embroidery on the collar as well. 


As you can see from these last couple of images, the original linen used in the shirts was sometimes later replaced by a white cotton floral print. It was always mainly white with small scattered floral designs.

Some everyday work shirts had no ruffle and had a minimum of embroidery. 

There is a variant of this costume in the eastern part of this region, from the southern villages of Cheremkha and Volia Nyzhna through Shklar and Tylava up to Krolik Polski, Vil'ka, and beyond.

In this variant, the shirt is made with the ustawka, or shoulder inset cut. The part of the sleeve above the front and back fields is cut as a separate piece This seam then becomes a focus for embroidery. The center of the upper sleeve is smock gathered as well. The cuff does not have a ruffle. 

Here is an example from the village of Volia Nyzhna - Воля Нижня, [ Wola Niżna in Polish]

The original full linen skirt was later retained as a petticoat. The outer skirt, here called kabat [which in both Polish and Ukrainian means jacket] was usually pleated, and was ornamented with a variable number of rows of colorful ribbon. Everyday work skirts were plainer, and might be gathered instead of pleated. Seam binding was often used for this, and sometimes rickrack, combined to make interesting designs. Rows of topstitching was also used. Originally batik dyed indigo was used. This was produced in Bardejov, Slovakia and other places. The resist dyed cloth had small scattered motifs. Later other commercial cloth with dots or other small motifs was used instead. The front was flat, as is usually the case, and the panel under the apron was usually made of some other, cheaper cloth, as it was never seen. And of course, the number and color of the ribbons varied with age. 

Here is an example from the village of Męcina Wielka [in Polish] - Мацина Велика, Matsyna Velyka, in Gorlice county.

You will notice there is a contrasting facing, usually some shade of red, barely showing on the hem. This is turned under for several inches on the inside, and the color flashes when the woman moves. 
Some more examples. 

Here is an example of the inside facing.

The apron was made in a similar manner, but while 5 or so panels were used in the skirt, the apron took two. It was also pleated, and usually had ornamental ribbons sewn on, but there was more variety in color. As in most folk costumes, the apron was always worn. 


Often the apron had a wider resist dyed band near the bottom. 

This outfit is from Sviatkova Velyka - Святкова Велика, [Świątkowa Wielka in Polish]

In some of the southern villages, the apron was embroidered. 


This apron has a more conventionally printed design.

In some villages a white linen apron was used for some special occasions. This was often adorned with white openwork embroidery as well as ribbons. Here is an example from the village of Vysova - Висова [in Polish Wysowa-Zdrój]

This was immortalized in the famous drawing of a bride by Kul'chytska, where the zigzag lines of openwork are often misinterpreted. The white apron is here paired with a white skirt.

The detached bodice, or vest, in Lemko called Leibek, was buttoned down the front, had a round neckline, and short wide lappets which overlapped. When compared to a Polish Gorset, the difference is immediately obvious. 

This first example is from the village of Rozdiele [in Polish] - Розділля, Rozdillia in Gorlice county.

 The material used may be a wool challis print [which for some reason was called Tibet  cloth], as above, a plain colored wool or damask, as in the photo at the head of the article and the following examples,


 or brocade, as in these examples.

In the eastern variant of which I spoke earlier, the leibyk had a pleated peplum instead of lappets, although peplums were sometimes also found in some of the southwestern villages.

Here is an example from the village of Cheremkha - Черемха [ Czeremcha in Polish]

In some villages the Leibek was embroidered, like this example from the village of Hrab - Граб [Grab in Polish].

or this example, from the village of Blikhnarka - Бліхнарка [ Blechnarka in Polish] on the right, being paired with an eastern Lemko shirt. This is incorrect. This kind of chimera in museum displays is alarmingly common. The costume on the left is an example of Halychyna Town Costume. Note that in the old photo, the apron is red, but not pleated.


This image is also from Sviatkova Velyka - Святкова Велика, [Świątkowa Wielka] in Polish]

For dress, a separate wide gathered collar was worn over the leibek. This was often ornamented with lace or white cutwork. In at least some villages these were called galon.

Here are a couple examples from the village of Volovets' - Воловець [ Wolowiec in Polish].

Here are some girls from the village of Vil'ka - Вілька [ Wólka in Polish] showing off their best.

Here is a contemporary example.

For everyday, or for work, these collars were not worn.

Over this collar, for dress, women and girls would wear a multistranded necklace, usually composed mostly of red beads with some contrasting ones in the center. The woman above is wearing a modest set with her everday outfit. 

The famous Lemko beaded collar, which Lemkos call Kryvul'ka, but which is sometimes called Sylianka in Ukrainian and Polish, is NOT worn in this region. It is restricted to the East Lemko region. However one often sees it in exhibits where it does not belong. Here is an example from a museum in L'viw. This is actually a good Central Lemko costume except for the collar. THIS IS NOT CORRECT.

For dress, often a length of Czech jacquard ribbon was folded over the top strand of the necklace and made to lie under the other strands. This was sometimes folded into a kind of bow. It may be that it was sometimes pinned to the shirt. This was called besanunka.

Here are a couple of examples from the village of Rozstajne - Розстайне.

And one from the village of Krampna - Крампна [Krempna in Polish],

 Single girls wore their hair in one braid in back, usually ornamented with ribbons. Here is another photo from Krampna.

 Married women wrapped their hair around a wooden ring, the khimlia, and covered it with a cap, chepets. In some places the ring was put right on top of the head, in ofhers it seemed to worn somewhat further back. 

This woman is from the village of Lypna - Липна [Lipna in Polish]

Here is a woman from Rozstajne showing how the chepets was worn in her village. 

The chepets was made of white linen, later on cotton prints were sometimes used, as in the shirt.  The front edge was embroidered in much the same way as the cuffs of the shirt. Here are some examples.

Note that the chepets sits rather high in these images. If you look at the recent photographs, because they are not putting their hair up in the traditional way, the front of the chepets is pulled down lower.

From the village of Vil'khovets' - Вільховець [Olchowiec in Polish]

From Hrab


From Yavirya - Явір'я [Jaworze in Polish]

 Unknown origin.

Everyday cheptsi had less embroidery. 


A kerchief was often simply placed on top of the cap. It was also tied in several ways. Peruse the various images in this article.

Here are a couple of examples from the village of Radotsyna - Радоцина [Radocyna in Polish]

Here is a mischievous girl from Vyshovatka. She is wearing an untied kerchief without a cap, as she is not married.

 Regular printed kerchiefs were commonly used, but for dress, a linen kerchief which was hand embroidered was often used.

From the village of Zavadka - Завадка [Zawadka Rymanowska in Polish]

From Hrab

From Vil'khovets'

From Vysova.

Unkown origin.

In some villages, especially in the northwestern part of this area, they had a special large kerchief for solomn and ceremonial occasions. The corner was embroidered, as above, and the opposite edge of the kerchief was folded in such a way as to stick out from the head. The point of the kerchief reached below the waist, and the vest or jacket was worn over it.

Village of Krempna

Unknown village

Village of Bodnarka - Боднарка, Bednarka in Polish.

Women and girls often went barefoot. Footwear was originally moccasins with long straps worn over linen footcloths, which were later replaced by knitted stockings.

Later on, shoes or lace up boots were also worn. 

For older women or colder weather, either a long sleeved short jacket, vizytka or kaftanyka, was worn, or a sheepskin vest, which are so common in the Carpathians. 

These photographs show both.

I have found no more images of these jackets, but the vests, called kozhushok were quite common. 


Later these were made of wadded cotton or other warm materials and called kozhushanka. 

In an arc in the east and including some of the south central villages, bodices or vests which were perhaps based on this garment were made for normal wear, replacing the usual leibek with lappets. You will see photos in which both types of vest were worn. This seems to be a somewhat later development. 

This photo is from Radotsyna. Notice both types of vest are being worn.

Overcoats made of sukno called hunia, similar to those worn by  men were also worn.

This image is from Krampna.

Full sheepskin coats, kozhukhy, were known as well. Here is one example from the village of Zhdynia - Ждыня in Lemko, Ждиня in Ukrainian, Zdynia in Polish.

Just a few more images to show that this costume has not been completely forgotten. 

And that is enough for one article. 
I will continue this in my next installment. 

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

Roman K.

As in the last article I have relied heavily on the research done by William Vasyl Jula for this writing. 



  1. I am trying to piece together what my ancestors would have worn so I can make myself a traditional costume. They came from Kurov and Potoky (near Stropkov). Do you have any references for these areas? Thank you!!

    1. Absolutely loving your descriptions. By far the most useful descriptions I've been able to find.

  2. Thank you for your research! Also trying to make an authentic costume for my daughter. From Pielgryzmka

  3. I see see a lot of red beads what dies this represent?

  4. I love seeing an example from my village of Mecina Wielka.

  5. Hi, I am a native of Western Poland, born in Chobienia. My mom was Lemko Ruszyn (Swiantko) from Grab (Hrab), Poland. Gmina Krempna, within Jasło County. Born 1923. Any idea of the style of her clothing? I would love a remake similar like.

    1. Yes, they wore this costume in Hrab. In Hrab they embroidered the leibek. There is a photo, front and back in the article, the first example of an embroidered leibeks. The rest of the costume was the same as the other villages.

  6. My great-grandmother came to the U.S. circa 1900 from Pielgrzymka. Which of these outfits would she most likely have worn?

    1. That would definitely have been in this region.