Traditional headdresses of the Mongolian women

photo from here

Yesterday I posted a few pictures of the Mongolian wedding dresses that impressed me with their uniqueness and beauty. Today, too, the post is dedicated to the Mongolian women, or rather to their traditional headdresses, which impressed me no less. The most impressive, perhaps, was the head ornament of the married Khalkha women. The main element of their headdress is a special hairstyle, designed to mimic cow's horns. A cow for the Mongols has been the symbol of freedom and nomadic life (I wonder why, because for me there is no more domestic animal than a cow). According to another version, the hairstyle does not imitate horns, but the wings of some mythical bird. In my opinion however, it looks more like horns after all.

photo from here

As you can imagine, the structure of this hairstyle is very complicated. The basis of it is a small silver cap with filigree, to which numerous silver, coral or turquoise ornaments are attached. The combed back hair is divided into two parts and formed into the "horns" with the help of several silver or bamboo pins. The lower part of the strands is braided in plaits. Rich women allow themselves to further decorate this part of the hair: the plaits are put into embroidered brocade covers with rows of coral and silver bands. For special events or for travelling a pointed hat (malagay) which looks like a crown is worn over the small cap. The hat is usually made of velvet and has colourful ribbons attached at the back. The top is sometimes decorated with a big coral or other stone.

photo courtesy Steve Zarate

The women of other Mongolian tribes, such as Ordos, wear a luxurious headdress consisting of a felt band or a cap, with many beads of coral and turquoise, silver plates and pads sewn on its front and back. Numerous long strands of coral and turquoise beads and silver bells are attached on perimeter. The hair is divided in two plaits and again, velvet or brocade covers decorated with silver plates are put over them. To the ends of each braid small silver bells are attached. Braids are left on the chest, and their ends are tied to the sides of the dress.

A headdress of the Ordos women, Art Institute of Chicago

The back of the Ordos women's headdress, The National Museum of Copenhagen

As many tribes there are in Mongolia, as many different designs of headdresses you can find. Look at these postcards.

postcards  source

Aren't they just amazingly beautiful? And as you can see from these postcards, although the design of the headdresses is different for different Mongolian nationalities, but they all have some similar elements - silver ornaments, turquoise and coral beads, little caps.

photo from here

Previously, such headdresses were worn every day by all married Mongolian women. Now they do it only on special occasions or for weddings. How about you? Did these traditional headdresses of the Mongolian women manage to impress you?

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  1. wooow this is absolutely amazing, now i know where they got there inspirations for the costumes for star wars princess amidala!

  2. it's really really beautiful and impressive

  3. Thanks Olga - truly beautiful and endlessly fascinating

    Hugh MacCamley



  4. Hi Olga, Thanks for this great post. I am trying to write a dissertation on traditional mongolian headdresses and jewellery but am struggling a bit to find appropriate literature. Do you have a reading list for this post? Any references would be great! Thanks!

    1. Hi! Here are the books: Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, Volume 6, East Asia; Folk Jewelry of the World by Ger Daniels. I know there is another book called Mongol Jewelry, I have not read that but I think it would be useful for your research too. Good luck with the dissertation!

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  6. As an Mongolian myself I am happy to see an article which ultimately praises my favorite part of the Mongolian Deel.

  7. Yeah I know by the way I'm Mongolian😊

  8. Its not mimicing cow. It's mimicing king of birds, khan garid. Closest translation is Garuda.

    In Legend of Wife Hair, when there was peace and happiness across plain of Mongolia, evils from foreign country wanted our lands and treasures, and so they send man eating 4 crows from darkness land to help them conquer land of Mongolia. Apostles of foreign land delayed for a meal under tree with many leaves while going to darkness land, and while they are resti g under tree, they talked about what they would do after they took nomad's land. Gosiiping magpie heard them talking behind leaves, and he flied to people, amd told them all of the plan of evil land.

    To protect their wives, children, elders and land, men was preparing to rode to war, and they spoke to eldest and wisest old man to what should wives that left behind should do? Wise men said "if we could make image of kind of birds , khan garid (garuda), then shouldn't that scare 4 crows of darkness land?"

    So they boiled pots full of glues and fats, and fashioned their wives hair in image of wings of Garuda, that when it was done it was like there was flocks of Garudas.

    Tomorrow at first sunlight, 4 crows was flyi g toward people with shadows behind them covering everything in darkness and shadow. Wives where scared to death, but for their husbands and children they walked up to the crows with brave heart. When crows saw the wives they thought it was Garudas came to eat them, so they fled in fear, to never come again.

    From that time, khalka wives fashion their hair like wings of bird for bravery of wives and wiseness of elders.

    Or something like that. I tried to translate it, sorry if there are any grammatical error.

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