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The true history of Belarusian folk costumes

Maria Vinnikova, Senior Researcher, Center for Studies of Belarusian Culture, Language and Literature, NAS of Belarus:
I like that young people became interested in something traditional. Among these is our traditional costume, embroidery. But some points are alarming. For example, the fact that some young people are very superficial about this. The very term "embroidery" (vyshyvanka) does not actually exist in the Belarusian language and it has become a kind of a fetish. They just take some element, embroider it as they think is right and believe that this is a Belarusian tradition. I think that this is not a very good move.

To buy an embroidered shirt today is easy. But if you want to see a real Belarusian costume, then come to the Center for the Study of Belarusian Culture, Language and Literature of the National Academy of Sciences. It houses a museum where authentic costumes of Belarusians are stored.

Some things exhibited in this room are not worse than today's outfits. However, many of them are more than a hundred years old.

Maria Vinnikova:
Today is 2017 but these were worn before the 1917 revolution.

Elegant lines of some pieces of clothing overturn the notion of what a folk costume is.

Maria Vinnikova:
This is the first suit. I brought it from an expedition in 2006. And it was all eaten by moth. I had to restore it.

Some costumes send us to the classic image of a Belarusian: here they are - white shirts and red embroidery.

Maria Vinnikova:
Pay attention that the ornament is also very different. Somewhere it consists of thin and wider stripes. The same can be said about the geometric ornament, which is also considered very characteristic for us, but everywhere it's our own. Even the red color, which from the earliest times was combined with a white canvas, is not as scarlet as it is now used in embroidery. It is deep, full. Sometimes it is so saturated that it seems brownish-red. Because previously people used vegetable dyes and they did not give such a bright color. It was more reserved. And a more noble shade of red.

Another image, not invented, but the real one is the Polesie costumes of the bride and groom.

Maria Vinnikova:
Pay attention: there is almost no ornament. But there is a silhouette. There is a proportional ratio, the plastic of our traditional costume. And these belts are the accents in this case. If we talk about Belarusianness, how it can be transferred, then first of all we need to refer to the image of the costume. Through what can we feel it? Through the cut, through the plastic features, through the color. Scrolls are whitish gray. The decoration is mostly red.

If we talk about the characteristic elements of the Belarusian costume - this is, of course, a namitka (wimple). This is a special headdress of the so-called rushnyk (towel) type.

Maria Vinnikova:
Such a headdress is a feature of all Slavic peoples. But it was Belarusians who preserved it in their costume. Before the Second World War, they were worn especially in Polesie. Traditional costume is a kind of hallmark of a country.

It's enough to scroll through the pages of this album to understand: the Belarusian folk costume is a much broader and more interesting concept than we think. We really want to believe that today's fashion for Belarusian clothes will not be a momentary whim, but will be the birth of a genuine deep interest in the traditions and history of Belarus.

The true history of Belarusian folk costumes