Traditional clothing is always interesting. It is a great way to learn about a certain place’s culture elaborately. The cuttings, colors, ornaments, and type of fabric represent symbols and tell a lot of stories about a country. It is not a wonder that travelers or people who are enthusiast about foreign cultures always try to put on traditional clothing and even to acquire some to be parts of their collections. Russia is known to have some of the nicest and most popular traditional clothing around the globe. Let us find out 5 of their names and how they look like.
The History of Clothing
First, let us talk about how humans first discovered textile and learned to dress properly. Evidence proves that humans may have begun to wear clothes since 100,000 to 500,000 years ago. In fact, the first discovered sewing needles were found in Denisova Cave, Siberia, and learned to date as far back as 50,000 years ago. The first fiber, thought to be the material for early clothing, was made from dyed flax and found in a prehistoric cave in the Georgia.
During the time estimated around 6500BC, felt was discovered and used. It was the first real textile that had gone miles since the prehistoric animal skin sewn together and called clothing. However, the discoveries of very early fabrics are limited to the climate and geographical conditions. Cold places tend to preserve them better and that’s why the history of first clothing in Indian subcontinent, sub-Saharan Africa, and other moist regions of the world remain unclear until today.
Russian Clothing History
Unfortunately, the earliest specimens of textile from Russia – around the ninth to thirteenth century – never turn up. Since none of them were preserved, the experts could only learn about the country’s early clothing from archaeological data, written documents, also works of art. The researchers discovered that the materials they used were hides and leather, flax, wool, hemp, and bast, while the dressing style the people wore at that time was not different from what other Slavonic nations donned.
During the early time in Russia, the women would wear rubakha; a long shirt that falls down to the ankles with long sleeves gathered on the wrists. Married women could also wear ponevu; a woolen long skirt with checkered pattern. The males wore narrow porty (trousers) and sorochki (shirts) made of linen down to their knees.
Popular Traditional Russian Clothing
From top to toe, Russian has what you want traditionally. Although the styles have been evolving and modified over the years, Russian signature clothes are always beautiful and showing the aristocratic taste in them. Here are the most known ones:
It is a traditional Russian folk costume that has been worn by women in the country since 1376. Sarafan is a long, trapezoid dress originated from Persia. At first, the dress was worn tightly, but as the influence of Orthodox Church got stronger, the dress became more loose and wider. The dress comes with decorative embroidery and national colors like red, white, and blue. The more modern version of Sarafan is sewn from floral-printed fabrics in diversed colors such as green and yellow. This dress is still worn daily in Russian villages, but in the cities they only appear in special occasions like wedding and folk holidays or art and cultural performances like ballets and theaters. If you take a look at Matryoshka dolls, you will notice that they wear Sarafan.
It is one of clothing items in the world that people would instantly associate with Russia as well as one of the most criticized ones. Shuba is the Russian fur coat that has passed many centuries and is still widely worn in the country. This could be understood since Russia can be very cold at certain time of the year and especially in several regions like Siberia. The first shuba was made and donned around Moscow in 1382. People from lower social class would wear rabbit or sheep fur, while the ones from the higher strata could afford to wear Sable fur. These codes are still applied today as fine fur coats become the statement of wealth and Russians don’t really worry about how Europeans protest the violations of animals’ rights over them.
3. Russian Kaftan
Introduced to the Russians by Scandinavians, kaftan came all the way from Persia in the tenth century. At first, only princes and boyars wore kaftan, but then almost every male in Russia wore kaftan. It is a dress that fall down to the knee, even ankles. The material could be silk, brocade, velvet, or canvas. On special occasions, kaftans appear in more glamorous cuttings with ornaments and colorful fabrics, while daily kaftans are simpler with earthy tones.
It is a waist-length cloak worn by Russian women made of silk or brocade with golden lace or fringe decorations. It is buttonless and tied at the neck with a long ribbon or thin golden rope. Epanechka can be combined with a sarafan and known to be a festive dressing for women. The early Epanechka was made out of fur and fell down to the ankles, but now silk is a more commonly used material for the cloak.
Worn by Russian men, beshmet is an outerwear made of fabrics like wool, satin, silk, or glazed cotton. It is a knee-length clothes with no buttons but hooked around the waist by a sabre belt made of leather decorated with copper and silver used to fasten a dagger or a sabre by the waist. The collar of a beshmet is stiff and always up, while the sleeves are narrow and long.
These 5 traditional clothing known around the world can still easily be seen around Russia especially during folk festivals or special events. Some are even still worn daily in villages. During the New Year celebrations, you can see Ded Moroz and Snegurochka wear the nicest of Russian clothing you can find around the town to buy for souvenirs.