Traditional costume of Belarus

Women wearing traditional dress of Belarus

Being a Belorussian I dedicate my first post on this blog to a traditional costume of my country. Though it is not worn on every day basic nowadays, in some villages it is still possible to see old women in beautiful national dresses. As to the young generation, they like to appear in traditional costumes at folk festivals.
Woman's attire consists of a chemise (kashulya) made of homespun linen; a skirt (spadnitsa or andarak); an apron, and a vest. The chemise is usually shorter than the skirt worn on top, and so does not show below the skirt hem. Before the mid-nineteenth century the chemises were decorated on the upper part of the sleeves and the collar. The use of embroidery additionally on shoulder insets and bosom appeared only in the second half of the nineteenth century. The embroidered patterns are usually made in red and black yarn, the composition of ornamenting depending on the region where the set belongs.

Girl wearing traditional costume of Belarus

Traditionally skirts were made of homemade cloth with black, white, green and violet checks against a red background. The spadnitsa skirt was constructed of three, four or six pieces of cloth sewn together. The paniova skirt consisted of pieces of cloth which were attached to the waistband but unsewn at the sides. In some areas unsewn skirts were called andarak.
The apron (fartukh) is an important part of everyday and festive attire. It has colouring and ornamenting similar to those of the gown. Usually made of linen it has a waistband. and its length matches the length of the skirt.
The vests have different names: kabat, shnurowka, bezrukavka. The vest is usually fastened with buttons covered with the same material as the vest or laced with cord. Usually brightly coloured the vests are decorated with embroidery or applique work in a lighter colour. The obligatory part of every costume is a multi-colour belt with pompoms, tassels or fringes.

Belarus men and a woman wearing traditional costume
Belarus people in traditional costumes during folk festival

On their head young girls would wear coronets and narrow head-towels (skindochka), while married women wore bonnets and hoods. Still more women preferred namitkas head-towels which could be skilfully draped in many ways. Strings of beads complete the costume.
The traditional male costume include a linen shirt (kashulia), pants (partki) and a belt. In comparison to woman dress man's is more practical and less embellished. The shirt typically reaches the knee. It is usually worn outside the pants and tied with a belt. Every man owned several belts used for different occasions.

Girls from Western Polesye region of Belarus in traditional costumes
Girls from the Western Polessye region of Belarus, 1970s. Photo by Michas Romaniuk

The typical pants were made of homemade linen. Usually, everyday pants were white and made of poor quality linen. Festive pants were made of thinner and finer wool.
The vest was common in western Belarus. Usually dark-coloured, they were made from home-made fabric. Sometimes two kinds of fabric were combined in one vest, with the high-quality material being used for the front and poor-quality material for the back.
The typical head-dress is a simple straw hat.

Exposition of Belarus traditional costumes at the Mogilew museum

Symbolism of the costume's embroidery is ancient. White, the colour of homespun linen, is the colour of heaven; red is the colour of the sun and earth and is protective of life; black is the colour of the underworld and spiritual life.
The costume's different parts represent three spheres: neck, shoulders and sleeves represent the higher world; the waist - the earth; and the hem - the underworld. Different shapes of ornament are supposed to ward off evil. For example, the hands of working women were protected from spells and bad spirits by decoration of their sleeves with the bright red rhomboid ornaments that is believed to have magical powers.

Belarus traditional costume at the shop-window in Minsk

Though Belarus is not such a big country there are 22 variants of the national costume. Regional differences are mainly in the small details of the costume and in motives and subjects of ornament.

Woman from Western Polessye region of Belarus in traditional costume
Woman from the Western Polessye region of Belarus in traditional costume, 1970s. Photo by Michas Romaniuk

Old woman from the Eastern Polessye region of Belarus in traditional costume
Old woman from the Eastern Polessye region of Belarus in traditional costume, 1970s. Photo by Michas Romaniuk

Girls from Central region of Belarus in traditional costumes, 1970s. Photo by Michas Romaniuk

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  1. these are my favs, so beautiful!


  2. Hi,

    My Grandfather was originally from Belaruse he moved to Australia after the war. I am a jewellery designer and was wanting to make a range inspired by traditional dress from Belaruse. Could you please tell me what the necklaces I see in many of the picutres of traditional dress are made of? Is it wood, some type of stone? or is it just glass?

    Kind Regards Renee

  3. Hi, you have a great blog!!
    I love this post about the traditional costumes, I live in Moscow right now and I am planing to go to Minsk in the near future. Do you know the places where I could buy some dresses and shirts like that?
    Thank you

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