Traditional Ukrainian Dress
Folk costume is a basic element of a country's culture and
craft, closely tied with its whole history.
Vasyl Boiko, a fellow at the Institute of Art, Folklore and
Ethnography of the Academy of Arts and Science of Ukraine,
writes that folk costume "distinguishes itself through its
originality and the wealth of regional variations... The Ukrainian
costume is a genuine encyclopedia of the people's creativity.
In it are synthesized the folk arts of weaving, style, sewing,
adornment (embroidery, applique, trimming, etc.)."
Traditional dress in Ukraine shows a high degree of sophistication,
elegance, and artistry. For centuries scholars of ethnography
(descriptive anthropology) and folklore have collected and
studied Ukrainian folk costumes. Art historians have paid
much attention to the highly artistic embroidery that is a
fundamental element of folk costume.
The earliest-known dress worn in the territory of Ukraine dates
back to the Scythian and Sarmatian tribes. Men wore cloth or fur
trousers, jackets, pointed caps, and boots. Women wore wide shirts
that dropped to the knees, a coat with armhole slits, and a cap
like a man's hat but covered with a wrap. Embroidery was a Scythian
art as far back as the 5th century BC, according to archaeological
But it was during the Kyivan-Rus era, according to Kateryna Mateiko, a scholar with the Ukrainian State Museum of Ethnography and Crafts in Lviv, that the prototypes of the basic elements of the Ukrainian costume developed. The main elements of dress were the shirt, trousers, cloak, sheepskin vest, overcoat, cap, footcloths, stockings, and boots. Princes and boyars (the upper ruling class) wore clothes influenced by Byzantine fabrics and ornaments.
During the Kozak(Cossak) period, the nobility dressed in Renaissance
styles prevalent in Europe, with the addition of long overcoats
and sheepskin jackets to protect against the climate. Kozak(Cossak)
officers adapted this dress to military needs, with short caftan
or zhupan, wide trousers or sharovary, and cloak or kyreia. Townspeople
imitated the fashions of the nobility to some extent, while the
Kozak(Cossak) style influenced the dress of the peasants. The features
of dress that evolved during the Kozak(Cossak) period among the
townspeople and peasants were preserved with some changes, while
the nobility adopted European baroque fashions.
The golden age of Ukrainian folk costume was the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century when regional variations reached their peak. Availability
of factory-made fabrics in the second half of the 19th century changed the fabric used in the fashions, but the general features of folk dress persisted in small
towns and villages until the First World War. After the First World War, folk dress began to disappear in the countryside because of the low price of urban clothing
and the peasant's desire to dress like townsfolk.
Scholars of Ukrainian folk costume usually classify it by regional differences. The Encyclopedia of Ukraine recognizes five regional groups: that of the Middle
Dnieper Region, originating in the Hetman period; Polisia; Podilia; central Galicia and Volhynia; and the Carpathian Mountains and Subcarpathia, including
Pokutia, Bukovyna, Hutsul, Boiko, and Lemko.
Classifying costumes by region is a broad tool, since variations occur from village to village. Costume differs according to sex, with woman's dress more
elaborate than men's. Social, economic, and marital status influence dress and there are special ways of dressing according to the season and for festive
The Slavic peoples have been decorating eggs since prehistoric
times, originally in the belief that their magic would assure the
coming of spring. Later, under Christianity, the decorated egg became
a symbol of the Resurrection and its message of renewal. The Ukrainian
community in Canada has developed this traditional craft into a
vivid cultural symbol and a source of ethnic pride. Their rich decorative
heritage gives Ukrainian egg-painters enormous scope for originality.
Among the myriad ornamental motifs that can be recognized in the
Museum's egg collection are symbols drawn from solar, plant, animal
and ecclesiastical sources. Ukrainians call these eggs pysanky,
from the verb pysaty, "to write". The design is "written" on the
shell in molten wax, using a stylus, before the dyes are applied.
As in batik, the wax protects the areas not to be dyed.
When Ukrainian settlers first came to the Canada over one
hundred years ago, they brought with them the rich
and varied art and culture of their homeland. One such art
form is Ukrainian embroidery, an art which is present in both
the secular and sacred aspects of life. Our exhibit displays
artifacts which stem from both of these aspects.
Ukrainian artistic embroidery is one of the ancient and widespread
genres of folk art, a favorite way of decorating clothes and
household objects. Traditional Ukrainian embroidery plays
an important role in public events, celebrations and special
occasions of the communities. For festive events women wear
embroidered blouses and men wear embroided shirts. It also
appeares on pillows, table linens, clothes and placed near
household religious icons, covers the easter baskets.
Cross is one of most widespread technique in Ukrainian embroidery.
It is simple and convenient technique to implement patterns.
The beauty of work made by this technique depends from exact
counting threads on fabric and direction the top stitches
(the top stitches suppose to lie on the same direction).
Taistra (Carrying Bag), Western Ukraine
Traditional Homespun Ceremonial Towels
Wood carving is an important and highly developed branch
of the Ukrainian folk art. It has been refined for generations
and has brought luxury items into every day life. Household
articles, farm implements, transportation vehicles, as well
as religious architecture were made out of wood, and most
of these items were decorated with woodcarved designs. The
ornamentation was applied to functional and decorative wooden
items consisted of mostly geometric patterns. As with all
Ukrainian folk art, the decorative patterns used had a deep
Wood carving was popular throughout Ukraine, but some regions were
especially noted for the beauty and sophistication of their wood
work. The ancient art of wood carving increased greatly and became
an essential part of daily life. These wooden masterpices never
fail to touch the heart of folk art lovers.
The bandura is a unique Ukrainian musical instrument that
dates back to the 7-th century. Originally it was used for
accompaniment of epic folk ballads and occasional folk dances.
It became immensely popular between the 15th and 18th centuries
when traveling musicians, called Kobzars, entertained in towns
and villages of Ukraine, while singing about the exploits
of the Kozaks(Cossak, Ukrainian warriors). Over the years,
the bandura acquired more and more strings and became a fully
chromatic instrument with switches for changing tonalities.
The Bandura is taught as a solo and ensemble instrument in
music schools and conservatories in Ukraine.
Tsymbaly (Hammer Dulcimer)
The hammer dulcimer is an instrument that is well known in
many countries. It's origins can be traced to the Middle East
where it was known as the santur and it is thought that the
instrument was first brought to Ukraine during the Crusades.
It spread to Ukraine through Hungary and Rumania, where it
is known as a cymbalom and was probably introduced into Ukraine
by wandering Gypsy and Jewish musicians. The earliest mention
of the Ukrainian term tsymbaly dates back only to the 17th
century. In Moldova earlier mentions dating to 1546 can be
found. The hammer dulcimer is similar in construction to the
husli, consisting of a large wooden box with a soundboard
on which strings are strung across in courses of three to
five strings. Two bridges are placed on the soundboard over
which the strings are stretched. These divide the strings
so that each course of strings can produce two different notes.
The strings are struck with wooden hammers. Usually the instrument
is played in a seated position - placed on the knees of the
performer - or in a standing position, with the aid of a long
belt that goes around the neck of the performer.
The trembita,woodwind instrument, is the Ukrainian version
of the alpine horn. It is usually made of spruce that has
been split, a central bore dug out and then glued together
and bound with birch bark. It is usually some three meters
(10 feet) long, being 2.3 to 5 cm (1-2 in.) wide at the mouthpiece
and 6cm (3 1/2 in) wide at the bell. Shorter trembitas of
half to one meter in length can be found. This shorter instruments
are often called "vivcharska dudka" (shepherds pipe) or "syhnal'na
truba." The mouthpiece is often made from a separate piece.
The range is approximately three octaves, encompassing the
natural harmonic series such as in the french horn. The trembita
was primarily used in signaling events such as the coming
of visitors, enemies or death in the mountain regions of Ukraine
and thus a system of elaborate signals was devised. Carol
motifs were also played on the instrument at Christmas. Like
many of the instruments of Western Ukraine, the trembita is
not unique to the Ukrainian people. Instruments such as the
trombita, trabita, trebita can be found in Poland and the
bucium in Romania.
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