Sunday, March 28, 2021

Armenian Costume of the Lake Van Region, part 3, Men's embroidery


Hello all, 

Today I wish to continue my discussion of the man's costume of the Lake Van region. Today I will focus on the embroidered pieces of the costume. These can be seen in the photo above, although not very clearly. Both the shirt and the outer pants have been embroidered. 

As we saw in the previous article, neither of these items were necessarily embroidered, that was reserved for special occasions. The embroidered shirts were apparently only worn by married men, who put them on for the first time for their wedding. Here is an image of a modern reproduction hanging in a workshop in Armenia. The wedding outfit is on the left, behind the girl, both the shirt and the pants are embroidered. The outfit also includes a narrow sash and a flat woven wool aba. 

Compare the design on the shirt to those in this photo from Van, where two unmarried girls are showing off the embroidery for their prospective husbands' wedding shirts. 

If you look closely at the design, the centers are substantially the same as the shirt shown above, even though the border designs differ. 

To my knowledge, there are three such shirts that have survived in Russian Museum collections, along with various pieces of embroidery, and the modern reproductions are made from these. All of these are from the village of Alur - Alak√∂y

1 Examining this specimen, we see that the cut is substantially the same as for the ordinary shirts, with one piece of cloth folding over the shoulders, sleeves set in at right angles, and gores and gussets under the arms for fullness. The first difference is that the front opening is at the right side of the neck, in the Persian style. This leaves the front field intact to be the focus of the main part of the embroidery. This consists of a cross with smaller crosses in each of the four fields around it, with border designs around them, in this case, three of them on the sides, and an extra couple on the bottom. The sleeve cuffs are also embroidered, along with a streamer attached to them. The hem of the shirt had originally been ornamented with red applique, but this has worn off the front. This clearly indicates that the shirt was meant to be worn outside the pants. 

2 Comparing this specimen to the first, we see substantial similarity in the embroidery on the front. The cross design is substantially the same, with minor differences in detail, and the three border designs as well, The S shaped design, the reversing triangle design, and the birds. The design featuring rows of squares is absent from the bottom edge and collar. The collar in this case using a reversing triangle design. Additionally there is an extra row of embroidery on the outside of the front opening. The hem also shows signs of applique in red cloth. This shirt is much more worn than the first, being much patched, and the cuffs have been removed and replaced by cuffs of a patterned material. 

3 In this specimen the embroidery on the front has been replaced by applique in red green and yellow cloth. The embroidery on the cuffs and streamers is intact, however, as is the applique on the bottom hem. 

Arikal Patrik published this drawing of a man from Aldgavaz in Vaspurakan. The Turks have changed all the names, so I do not know the location of this village. The embroidery on the shirt front, cuffs and streamers is clearly indicated, as is the embroidery on the pants. The shirt is being worn tucked in, and the designs are not visible in this sketch. 

Here is an old photograph of a man from Shadokh. Again, I do not know the location. He clearly has embroidery on his sleeves, and it is more extensive than on the garments shown above. The streamers attached to the cuffs are visible, but the shirtfront is not, being covered by layers of vests. He is wearing the fleecy aba over a short sleeved vest, and the pants have woven ornament. 

Let us take a closer look at the third shirt. These images can be expanded. The red calico on the front has appliqued ornament in sun shapes which lie between ribbons, zigzags and rickrack. The red applique on the bottom hem extends up on the side gores. 

The embroidery on the cuffs and streamers is cross stitch, using the basic bird border, a diamond design, and an eight pointed star in the center of the sleeve. There are blue beads attached to the edge of the cuff. 

There is an edging around the neck of blue glass seed beads. This is to provide fortune and luck. 

Here we see the entire eight pointed star design and details of the button closure. 

Let us now take a look at the embroidery of the second shirt more closely. You can see that this one also has an edging of blue glass beads around the neck. You can clearly see all the designs used in this shirt. The first image gives you enough of the eight pointed star design on the opposite side of the opening to be able to reconstruct it. 

I will try to give you a closer look at the first shirt. I was unfortunately not able to get as good resolution with this one. The double diamond design is simpler, with two inner triangles rather than four, the collar has a design based on squares, and there is a band of a different design just above the bottom bird border. With a little effort, these designs could be reconstructed. 

Here we see the cuff design is basically the same as the shirt above, using the double diamond design built up from triangles. The streamer has a variant of the same design, with two eight pointed stars at the top, a different border, and again, blue beads attached to the edge. 

Here is a modern embroidered wedding shirt, based on these shirts, with a slightly different composition. The central design is basically the same, out to the squared off S border. The double triangle border is replaced by a smaller diamond design, and another S design. The bird border remains on the outer edge. The cuffs are using the eight pointed star design. 

I have found a couple of images of sleeves not yet sewn into shirts. Here is an exhibit of a man's costume from Shatakh and a woman's costume from Bitlis. You can see a pair of man's embroidered sleeves hanging on the wall behind her. 

Here is another photo of what may be the same pair of cuffs. 

The streamers, djelyakhik are attached to the back side of the cuffs. Take another look at the images above of the two shirts with intact streamers. They have one motif at their head, then a different motif down their length. They might narrow towards the end, where another short piece is sewn on, with yet a different motif.  This last bit may have fringe or tassels added on. Here are some details of streamers without their shirts. 

These streamers are, of course, purely decorative, and perhaps have symbolic meanings as well.  When dancing, they accentuate the arm movements so typical of Armenian dances. Here is a screenshot of the dance group Vaspurakan. They are not wearing these shirts, [in fact it looks like they are wearing black turtlenecks], but they have attached streamers to the cuffs of their jackets which match their pants. These are obviously stage costumes. 

In some other circumstances, they would get in the way, and at times like those, they are wrapped around the arms, as we see here. 

The pants were also sometimes embroidered, but I have not been able to get any closeup images of the embroidery. A few basic bands of embroidery over the woven stripes was very common. 

Sometimes the pants were made of a plain cloth, and then the embroidery is more visible. The red lines here are at the seams and the midpoint of each field. 

Sometimes the embroidery is more elaborate. This often includes embroidery along the seams and especially down the outside of the pants. 

The outer two seams are often done in an insertion stitch in red or a combination of colors. Here is an example of one such stitch. There are many, and they are done between the selvedged edges of the two fields. If a thicker thread is used, then the result is more opaque. 

Arakal Padrik has a drawing of such a pair of pants in his book. You can clearly see the red insertion stitch forming the seam. Unfortunately, nothing much can be discerned about the embroidery itself, except the placement and that the pattern alternates between blue and red. 

F. Grigorian did his own version of the drawing, but added more detail so that an embroidery pattern is visible. This design consists of diagonal lines, such as may be obtained with a bargello stitch, such as is sometimes done on the dickeys and aprons of the Lake Van region.

The modern reproduction of which I showed images above seem to have copied this embroidery on their pants, except in maroon and yellow.  

I am very frustrated that none of these sources considered the embroidery on the pants worth taking a close up photo of. The actual designs cannot be discerned, although the colors and composition are clear. If anyone has better images, I would very much like to see them. 

Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. I hope that I will have inspired the making of new Armenian Wedding shirts. 

Roman K.