Medieval costume of Belarus

While being on holiday in Belarus last summer I visited an interesting exhibition that took place in one of the museums of Minsk. Reconstructed costumes of the Medieval Belarus were shown at the exhibition covering the period of time between the 15th and the 17th centuries. At that time Belarus was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and town people's and court costumes were mostly influenced by the European fashion, though some of the Byzantine-Russian designs were wearable too (for example, fur-coats, which unfortunately were not presented at the event).

Court costume of noble woman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Reconstruction of the court costume of a noble woman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1540-50

Dress of town woman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Reconstruction of the dress of a town woman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1535-45

So, what was the costume at that time? Everyone wore kashuli (shirts). The wealthy decorated theirs with gold and silver embroidery. They also wore silk sharavary, wide outerwear pants. Garments for women were sukni, the gown-length high-necked dresses made of silk, wool or velvet narrowed at the waistline, usually with collar and sleeves; and saian, which resembled a coat with a waistband.

Costume of noble man of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Reconstruction of the costume of a noble man of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1630-40

Various upper-body garments without sleeves were worn by prosperous people and the nobility. The fereziia, a light outer garment of a loose cut with wide sleeves that fastened with buttons, were worn both by men and women.
The zhupan was another garment worn by men of that period. Made of expensive fabrics like velvet or satin, zhupans could be yellow, red or blue in colour with a linen lining. Usually they had golden or silver-covered buttons and were embellished with golden of coloured cord. Zhupans were double-breasted with a slim back and a large turned-down or stand-up collar. The narrow sleeves were made slightly longer in order to create decorative folds.

Reconstruction of the costume of a noble man of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, mid.17c

Together with zhupan a long festive garment, kuntush, was often worn. It was usually made of brightly coloured silk or velvet but darker than zhupan. The winter kuntush was edged with fur. Its long sleeves were slit to the shoulder line and tucked under the sash, which was a mark of nobility. Reach people wore it unfastened to show off the zhupan.

Reconstruction of the costume of a rich town man of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1440-50

As to the headwear, noblewomen wore hats of expensive fabrics edged with fur. In the second half of the sixteenth century berets with ornate embroidery and coloured feathers were fashionable. Men also wore hats made of velvet of other expensive cloth decorated with feathers. Such hats were known as maherka.

Costume of noble woman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Reconstruction of the costume of a noble woman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1525-35

My brother and his wife are interested in knights, medieval costumes and all that historical stuff and they are members of a knight club. They study costumes and armors of a certain period in history of Belarus and then make them and wear at different festivals.

My brother, his wife and their friend in self-made medieval costumes

Members of the club in historical costumes

At my brothers wedding his friends from the club met him on the road with "bread and salt" wearing medieval costumes.

I visited their club one time. It was so interesting. And I just had to try a medieval knight's "outfit". It turned out to be so heavy! And I felt so clumsy and awkward in it. Of course one needs a bit of practice in wearing this, but still ... Plus, a heavy helmet on your head, plus a sword, plus a shield...I can't imagine walking around with all that stuff weighing me down, not to say fighting in it with someone.

I suppose it was not easy to be a knight after all. :)

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  1. those medieval costumes are absolutely beautiful. i used to go to medieval fairs, and also sewed costumes, i just love the whole atmosphere. it´s so magical!
    love and kiss,mary

  2. This is a very interesting post! I'm in love with medieval costumes and i would die to experience that kind of life just for one day =D


  3. Medieval costumes are amazing, I love all that lush velvet and gold braiding.
    I went to a medieval festival in Sweden a few years ago, there were a lot of people coming from clubs all over the country, all dressed in costume and looking amazing.
    I can just imagine how heavy that knight's outfit must have been.
    The knights must have been mighty strong men to have fought in such a physically demanding get-up...x

  4. This is a wonderful article on the costume which are medieval. Please keep posting more about such topics so that we can get more information. For more info;- https://superiorswords.com/