Who hasn't heard about kokoshnik? Now and then one can see kokoshnik-inspired modern creations on podiums and in fashion magazines. I believe it is the most known and recognisable garment of a traditional female costume of Russia. This very elaborate married woman's head-wear was common in the northern and central provinces of Russia and was worn on everyday basis as well as on festive occasions.
Kokoshnik, Central Russia, 19th century. Brocade, mother-of-pearl, imitation pearls, glass. The State Hermitage Museum St.Petersburg
The name comes from an old Russian word for cockerel, obviously because the shape of the kokoshnik kind of reminds that of a cock's comb: a crescent with the points reaching down to the shoulders. This is the best known and probably oldest type of kokoshnik. Though there were other shapes too: conical, cylindrical, with ear-flaps or shaped like a saddle, dipping down in the middle from the front to the back of the head.
Kokoshnik, Upper Volga region, 19th century. Velvet, metal thread embroidery. The State Hermitage Museum St.Petersburg
Kokoshnik, Pskov region, second half of the 19th century. Brocade, glass beads, embroidery. The State Hermitage Museum St.Petersburg
Kokoshnik from Moscow region, about 1820. Velvet, silver and gold thread embroidery, coloured glass. The Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Different shapes indicated different regions the wearers belonged to. Shorter kokoshniks were worn in the South while higher ones were more popular in the North. Another distinctive feature that pointed out the wearer's place of origin was the embellishment of the kokoshnik. The base was usually made of layers of bark or card covered with rich fabric such as damask and then decorated with pearls, glass beads, metal-thread embroidery. Kokoshniks from the North were usually embellished with the river pearls that were plentiful in that area while those from the South were more often decorated with metal thread and woolen embroideries.
In public kokoshniks were often accompanied by large shawls (platok) draped over and fastened under the chin. photo by Alexander Bozhko source
photo by Alexander Bozhko, source
Kokoshniks were ordered from monasteries, bought at village fairs or city shops. They were carefully preserved and handed down from generation to generation.
Kokoshnik, 19th century. red silk embroidered with white cotton yarns, silver wire, glass beads and colored glass. The Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Kokoshnik should not be confused with another crescent shaped headwear called venets (crown). The difference between the two is that kokoshnik was meant for a married woman and thus it had to be covering the woman's hair entirely while venets was an unmarried girl headwear and so it was open with a long piece of fabric hanging down at the back.
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