Tuesday, 22 May 2012

My first Russian costume

Privet! Hello!

When I made few of my dolls and dressed them in Russian costumes, I naturally wanted to make a real set. Not a pseudo-folk one that can be seen at various festivals made for "export" but a real one, like "they used to wear" long ago.

What I did, already for dolls, was to spent hours and days to read about Russian costumes and investigate the approaches, types, tissues that were used in traditional dress making. Also, every stitch, every detail on a costume HAS A MEANING. So I tried to get immersed into these details, to be able to make not a copy or reproduction of an existing costume but a new one, consciously using the acquired knowledge.

It was for my daughter to have the Russian costume first:

 It consists of three must have pieces
  • the long white shirt  (рубаха = rubaha)
Almost an ankle-length, the shirts were dressed as an underwear and as a home and sleeping dress. Actually till twelve years old, a girl would wear this shirt without any other additional dress or a a belt.
The embroidery on shoulders is realised for decoration but also it carries a protective meaning.

I created this pattern myself, inspired by traditional protection patterns for girls. It shows a stylised woman figure, representing the Mother-God of pagan Slavic pantheon. The embroidery is made  using red thread, as for all children protection embroidery.
Often, the shirts were constructed of two types of tissues: the visible top was sewed in thinner and better fabrics, while the lower, hidden, part was made in rough and simpler home-made linen sheet. This shirt is made of a single piece of textile, from shoulder to bottom. Such "whole-fabrics" shirts were made for specific occasions, rites and feasts.  I made the linen shoulder inserts for this shirt.

Another specific aspect of traditional children clothes is that it is made of old, ideally worn by the parents,  clothes. It was believed that the clothes charged with parents energy carry positive influence, support and protection to the kids and reinforce their link with the family. And by the way, I have heard recently of a research confirming that clothes do indeed carry the wearer's information. So this shirt is sewed of old family cotton piece, found in grandmother's chest.
  • the dress (сарафан = sarafan)
Sarafan dress was spread in the north of Russia; the southern costumes have a special type of skirt called понева = poneva.
There is a multitude of particular ways to sew and to decorate a sarafan dress, depending on which area costume comes from. But the overall approach and the main dress elements stay the same. 
Traditionally, it would be made of wool fabrics. Fair enough, cotton is an imported product for the northern areas.
For my realisation, I used heavy but soft cotton fabrics, sort of a decoration type textile.
I did not made any embroidery but covered the bottom edge with a red ribbon, again as they did for the protection purpose (protection from bad spirits but also protection from quick usage of the dress edge ;).

  • the belt
Belt was a very important decorative element, but also it carries a protective meaning.
The belts were made using different techniques; they could be knitted or weaved on various type of looms.
This one is a tablet-woven belt. I did not made any sophisticated pattern as this was my first tablet-weaving project.  It is also made of cotton threads, which is not the truly authentic choice.

This costume is still laking a headdress suitable for a young girl. Currently, my daughter is wearing a simple colourful kerchief. But she is asking me for a traditional Russian crown (кокошник= kokoshnik) or a decorated head band. Still to be made.

During the costume realisation I used the sewing machine for attaching the main details only; all the finishing, trimming and decoration are made by hand.

You would wonder whether my girl wears this costume? Yes she does.
Actually, she loves it and, apart of wearing it for all sort of Russian-related activities such as fairs and workshops, she dresses it sometimes just to visit people or simply at home.

It is a special feeling to wear clothes made according to the ancient "design". The patterns of traditional clothes was tailored by centuries and you feel like touching the time when wearing such clothes. The clothes cut, changes your movements and, as a result, the behaviour. 


PS If you want to know more about Russian costumes and its making, just leave me a comment here.


  1. Улетный сарафанчик! Очень хотелось бы почитать подробности, но языком совсем не владею(((. Как ее перевести-то можно, только через гугль-переводчик?

    1. Пока только через Гугль :(

      Вообще идея моего блога - подпитать интерес к русским традициям среди нерусского населения Инета :)
      Но пока я вижу, что интерес среди русского населения уже есть. Может мне действительно надо подумать над русской версией?

      Относительно костюма, я поняла, что интерес есть. Дай мне время, я постараюсь или выложить русскую версию поста... или новые детали продублировать на русском.

    2. Может, кнопку перевода поставить? Кому надо-нажмет и переведет:)

    3. Сделано, но качество перевода...
      Не ясно, это перевод или шутка... или мой английский настолько нестандартный...

  2. У тебя, кстати, стоит проверка комментов графическим кодом-ужасно долго ее набирать, время жалко. Если ты не специально, то лучше отключи. Подробности можешь почитать здесь: http://rigierukodelki.blogspot.com/2012/03/blog-post_7189.html?showComment=1332331885775#c3781929425465196556

    1. Спасибо! Капча обезврежена.