While nearly everyone has seen the embroidered shirts and flowered wreaths donned by Ukrainian women, few people know the history and significance behind them. Here’s a quick look at three of Ukraine’s traditional pieces of clothing.
Foreigners are perhaps most familiar with vyshyvanka, a traditional style of clothing that features elements of Ukrainian embroidery. According to an article in the Kyiv Post, the colors and decorations on a vyshyvanka once differed from region to region, with residents of Kiev donning red and black acorns and folks in western Ukraine wearing green and orange patterns. At the height of the vyshyvanka’s popularity, Ukrainians could tell which village a person was from simply by examining the garment.
As with most traditional clothing, the vyshyvanka eventually went out of style, though Ukrainian nationalists revived the style in recent years. However, now even mainstream Ukrainians are embracing this piece of the past. Why?
“I think it was independence that worked,” Oleksiy Dolya, director of the Folklore and Ethnography Center at Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University, told the Kyiv Post. “It brought to life everything national: traditions, customs, rituals and, of course, clothes.”
Ochipok and Namitka
Once worn by married women, the ochipok also features Ukrainian embroidery with colors and designs varying by region. A namitka is a cover made of thin material that women tie over an ochipok. During Ukrainian wedding ceremonies, a bride would cover her hair with a ochipok and namitka and leave it covered for the rest of her life.
“The wedding ceremony of capping the bride’s head by ochipok and namitka symbolized her transformation into the married state,” reads an article on Rukotvory.com. “After this ceremony it was a dishonor for the newly wed woman to go out with a girl’s hairstyle – i.e. bare-headed or with plated braids adorned with flowers or wreaths. This was even considered a sin.”
Young girls and unmarried women, on the other hand, traditionally wore flowered wreaths around their heads. Known as a vinok, the wreaths date back thousands of years and played a vital role in Kupala Night celebrations.
On the day of Ivana Kupala, young women would place their wreaths in a river or lake along with a lit candle. If a woman’s vinok drifted away, she would marry. If the wreath remained in one spot, she would not. A vinok that sank was thought to represent the woman’s impending death, while an extinguished candle represented misfortune. Young men took matters into their own hands by diving after a special lady’s wreath. Some Ukrainian women still participate in this ancient fortune telling tradition.
While browsing through HRB, you may have noticed women wearing vyshyvankas, vinoks, and other traditional Ukrainian styles. Why not chat her up to learn what these traditions mean to her? Log on to Hot Russian Brides or join now to get started.