Russia has a lot of traditional clothes that are popular worldwide. One of them is kaftan that is worn by the men and women. Originally from ancient Mesopotamia and heavily used by many Middle Eastern groups, kaftan made its way to Russia through the Persian in the tenth century. Because kaftan is hardly an exclusive term for a certain nation’s traditional clothing, the style and how it is used vary from one place in the world to the other depends on the culture and usually the climate condition. Kaftan can be an outer wear that falls down to the ankle made of cashmere or silk in places with cold climate, while in moister places, kaftan is thinner and made of cotton. How about in Russia? We will shortly go to the details of all you need to know about Russian kaftan. So, read on.
Early Use of Kaftan in Russia
As what has been mentioned above, kaftan was first introduced to Russia by the Persian. But, being a nation that has always been so loyal to its root, Russians adjusted the cutting of the kaftan to suit their identity. They sewed the kaftan around the waist and could be wrapped over on either side. In the 13th century, the kaftan became common in the Old Russia. In the 19th century, almost all peasants and merchants in the country wore kaftan for daily activities.
Because of how strong the Russian’s need to protect their country’s influence was, they just had to modify all of the kaftans imported from another places. The kaftans would be decorated with lace and stones to go with the local manner. Alexandra Feodornova, the last Empress of Russia, introduced the Russian kaftan to the west in the 1890s through her coronation.
Types of Russian Kaftan
Under the same name, kaftan has a lot of variations around the world. The style, decoration, and fabric used for the clothing would tell you the origin of it also the social class of the person wearing it. In Russia, there are three widely known types of kaftan:
1. The Feryaz
This type of kaftan can be worn during winter or summer. The winter feryaz uses fur as lining, while the summer one is lined with thinner, lighter fabric. Feryaz has a wide hem, around three meters, with long sleeves that could fall all the way to the ground. In the old time, both the rich and the peasant could wear a feryaz kaftan, but the fabric and style would tell them apart. Peasants used cotton or canvas as the material for their feryaz that was tied with a cord and had three to five buttonholes only. They also wore the kaftan right on top of their regular shirts. The rich, in contrary, used velvet or brocade to make their feryaz kaftans and added exclusive-looking buttonholes that could be secured with tassels. They would wear the feryaz on top of another thinner kaftan.
2. The Opashen’
It looks similar to the feryaz, but less glamorous and is only used as a dustcoat or a summer cloak. This is why the material used to make an opashen’ kaftan is mostly wool. No lining or decorations added to this type of kaftan. The long sleeves are open in front, like there long slits across them from top to bottom, making an opashen’ function like a vest, too. A cotton shirt or another kaftan can be worn underneath an opashen’ and when it is cold, the sleeves can be used to wrap the arms and hands around. When not in use, the sleeves could be tied in the back to keep them from standing in the way.
3. The Zipun
Unlike the other two types of kaftan, a zipun is more lightweight and minimalist. There are no decorations like buttons, stones, lace or excessive fabric for a collar or lining. Zipuns were widely worn by peasants daily even when they were doing their businesses about because of how convenient and functional zipuns were.
These three types of kaftan are counted as vintage sorts of Russian kaftan that are not commonly worn or massively made anymore. You can still find the authentic ones of them in several museums in Russia namely The Russian Costume Museum in Moscow, The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and Moscow Kremlin Museum. These kaftans also appear in folk festivals or performances like theatres.
Modern Russian Kaftan
In today’s market, there are a lot of modern Russian kaftans to choose and purchase. Both Russians and non-Russians love them since the country’s traditional clothes are known to be ones of the most beautiful clothing in the world. The modern version of Russian kaftan is simpler and more practical both for men and women. Made mostly from linen, cotton, and silk, the kaftans incorporate Russia’s national colors – red, blue, and white – for the base as well as the decorations.
Kaftans for men have loose sleeves with wide opening at the wrists. The collars are narrow but stiff and up while the buttons go only a quarter down the front part of the kaftan. A cloth belt is used to tie the waist. The ones for the women look similar to a long dress with fitting sleeves that are gathered around the wrists. The neck is low with elastic and laces adorn the upper arms and waist parts. The white kaftans are mostly used for more casual events and festivals, while the heavier and more regal ones are used for official or national events.
Beautiful traditional Russian kaftans are popular among tourists and travelers. They would put them on the list of things to buy from the country besides the legendary Matryoshka dolls, Russian porcelains, and scarves. That was all you need to know about the Russian kaftan that hopefully has invited you to learn more about the beautiful clothing item.