Thursday, July 2, 2020

Posvichchia or Zhydachiw Costume, West Ukraine

Hello all, 
Today I will talk about a West Ukrainian costume that I have seen occasional images of for years, and have always wondered about. I have recently received a copy of a new book, 
'Vyshywka Zhydachiwshchyny' by Iryna Vachkova. Much of the information I will be presenting is from her work. The image above is from an exhibit in L'viw in connection with the publication of this book. If you would like to obtain a copy of this book you may write to her here.

I call this costume Посвіччя 'posvichchia', because it is worn along the Svicha [Cвічa] River, from about Bolekhiw downstream to Zhurawno, where it meets the Dnister. Ms Vachkova calls it the Zhydachiw costume because it is worn in the southern regions of the Zhydachiw district. However, it is not worn in the town of Zhydachiw or its environs, but is worn in neighboring parts of Stryj, Kalush, Dolyna and Bolekhiw districts, on both sides of the border between L'viw and Ivano-Frankiwsk Oblasts. 

 In many publications this costume is called Boiko. Today it would be considered part of Opillia. Whether or not one considers this to be Boiko depends entirely on where one considers the border of Boikiwshchyna to be. Here is a map of the currently accepted extent of Boikoland. The red line represents the border as defined today, the dashed line shows how the border was defined in the past. The blue line roughly shows the extent of this costume that I have been able to verify. If anyone can give me better information, please write and inform me. 

This costume is depicted in this famous woodcut by Sviatoslav Hordynsky, along with a bridal costume from West Pokuttia, Kolomyja district. [Not Hutsul and Boiko, as is often thought] 

The famous 'Ukrainian Fashion Show' of 1937 featured an unknown woman wearing this costume. 

Kul'chytska published a drawing of this costume from the village of Chertizh in her work.

The 1961 classic 'Ukrainian Folk Art - Clothing' by Bilozub et al. published these images of this costume from Zhurawno. 

The 1992 Canadian publication 'Ukrainian Folk Costume' by Petro Odarchenko et al published this photo under the Boiko section as 'girl from Kalush region'

The components of this costume are the same as that of other Ukrainian costumes of the area, what is distinctive is the ornamentation. The sorochka, or chemise, is of the standard West Ukrainian ustawka cut. In this region it was long, but did not show below the skirt.

 The ustawka itself originally had woven ornament. This example is from Chertizh. 

 Here is a closeup of the ustawka, front and back. Note that the plain white part at the top has a twill weave.


 The ustawka is joined to the sleeves and body panels with joining stitch, often executed in two or more alternating colors. A narrow band of embroidery is done on the other panels just outside the joining stitch.

 The front panel was not ornamented in older examples, but more recently all of the pazukhy were embroidered. 

The collars are fold-down, and have embroidery on the corners, but no ornamentation in back. 

 Cuffs are of two kinds. The first, called duda, is a relatively wide rectangle sewn on to the end of the sleeve which is gathered into it. 

The second type are called min'kety, in which the ends of the sleeves are smocked, and these serve as the cuffs. 

Some ustawky were embroidered with zavolikannia, which imitates weaving, and is popular in Polissia and Pidliashia.Here are some embroidery graphs from this region. 

Sometimes it is difficult to tell which are woven, and which are done in zavolikannia. Embroidery is often added to woven designs, as well. Here is an example from Volodymyrtsi.

And one from Chertizh. 

Later on, of course, the embroidery was often all cross stitch. The distinctive composition remained the same, although at times motifs were scattered on the sleeves as well, like these examples from Monastyrets' and Chertizh.

 Example from the village of Podorozhnie


Other embroidery techniques were used as well. Note that this example from Chertizh has a round collar made of commercially produced cotton fabric.

These shirts are from the village of Beleiv.

One shirt from the village of Velyka Turya

And an example from Bolekhiw.

The skirt, called fartukh in this region was of linen, like the chemise. There was a band of woven ornament on the hem which echoed and harmonized with that on the ustawka. The opening was in front, and the sides and back were smock-gathered into a wide waistband which was tied on to the waist with a long cord.

The apron, zapaska, was of two types. The first, called peretykanoji, was of plain linen like the skirt, with a complementary woven band on the hem. It was made of two panels, joined together vertically with the same type of joining stitch and narrow band of embroidery as was used on the ustawka. Here are two examples from the village of Chertizh. 

Most of the photos which I have show the skirt and apron gathered, but both Hordynsky and Kul'chytska drew this costume with apron and skirt pleated.

Later, one or both of these bands was sometimes embroidered. Here is an example from Volodymytsi.

And Zhurawno

The second type of apron was called poshvanoji. This was also of two panels of cloth joined vertically, but was made of cloth with rhythmic stripes woven in. There was a wider stripe on the hem, and the other stripes were placed either horizontally or vertically.

 This example is from the village of Beleiv.

There is one exceptional example of an apron covered with cross stitch in imitation of these woven aprons, from the village of Zbora.

A waist length vest, kamizelka, was worn with this outfit. It was made of wool, either natural white or black, with floral embroidery on the front, emanating from a pocket. See also other images above.

A fitted, short jacket which flared over the hips was also worn at times. It was called hun'ka or katsabajka. It seems to always have been made of white wool, with embroidery similar to the vest.

The sirak or svyta is a long overcoat made in much the same style. See various of the images above. 


Overcoats of sheepskin, kozhukh, were also worn and ornamented in a similar fashion.

Unmarried girls wore their hair uncovered, usually in two braids, one per side. Married women covered their hair with a cap, chipets. I have not found any images of the chipets. More recently, as we see here above, a very large shawl with fringes is tied over the chipets. Previously a long narrow length of linen with woven ornament on the ends, the prymitka, was worn over the chipets. This garment was once widespread over much of eastern Europe. In this region it persisted into the 1930's and 40's. Unlike many other places, here the prymitka was pinned to the chipets and allowed to hang down freely, and was not wrapped around the head. Take another look at the woodcut by Hordynsky. 

Here is an old photograph of a group of women from this region in the 1930's. Note both black and white embroidered vests being worn.

Men's clothing was simpler.

The pants were made of two rectangular fields for the legs, joined with a square gusset. The shirt was ustawka cut, knee length, and was embroidered on the collar, cuffs, and bottom hem. The side seams had decorative joining stitching for the bottom few inches, and the hem embroidery framed this, complementing the womens' shirts. Very often the front and ustawka were not embroidered, except for lines of backstitch. Here are two examples from Chertizh.

In some cases, the front was embroidered, like this example from Volodymyrtsi.

The outfit was completed with a sash, a hat, straw in summer and lambswool in winter, and footcloths with khodaky [moccasins] or boots. 

Another item of men's clothing which was popular all over west Ukraine and east Poland was a linen overcoat, polotnianka, in this region called verenchuk. This was made with flaring skirts and a minimum of embroidery and/or cord ornament on the collar and cuffs, or none at all. 

In winter a plain overcoat of wool or sheepskin would have been worn.

As time went on, both men's and women's clothing came to conform to the general style of Halychyna, and unfortunately lost their distinctive attributes. Here are just a few more images from the exhibit of Iryna Vachkova. 

Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. Perhaps you will want to try some of these embroideries yourself.

Roman K.

  Ms Vachkova has gathered much more material and is planning a series of books, but is in need of capital to publish. Please consider buying a copy of this book. There is much more detail of the embroideries than I have shown here. Donations also accepted. 

or write to: 



Source Material:
Iryna Vachkova, ' Vyshywka Zhydachiwshchyny', L'viw, 2019
Daria Petrechko, 'Vyshyvani Skarby - Skhidna Boikiwshchyna', Dnipropetrovsk, 2015
Oksana Kosmina, ' Traditional Ukrainian Clothing', Kyjiw, 2007
Petro Odarchenko et al, 'Ukrainian Folk Costume', Toronto, 1992
V H Bilozub et al, 'Ukrajins'ke Narodne Mystetsvo - Vbrannia', Kyjiw, 1961
Olya Dmytriw et al, 'Ukrainian Arts', New York, 1955
Olena Kul'chytska, 'Narodnyj Odiah', L'viw, 2018