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National Russian Dress: Costume decorations
March 2, 2009 16:31


Gaitan (itan, pochepka, chapochka) is a type of decoration for women’s dress – a colourful braid used for trimming of shirt collars, pinafore and apron straps, skirt hems, etc. The term was used for several kinds of decorations.

1. In southern provinces of Russia the gaitan was a long stripe of cloth up to 10 cm broad and decorated with beads, embroidery, or woven patterns, or, else, a long colourful beadwork stripe. The two ends of a stripe or a beadwork lattice were fastened together with a medallion with beadwork pendants, a pendant icon or a cross. The gaitan was put on over the neck, descending on the chest and sometimes reaching the waist.

Along with chest gaitans there were spine gaitans. It was a long narrow loop of red or black braid embroidered with beads. A pendant cross or icon fixed to the loop was put on the chest, whereas the stripes of braid decorated with beads, cowries, and tassels of colourful worsted, were descending on the back.

On festive days women usually used to put on a few of such chest and back decorations together.

In northern provinces of European Russia the gaitan was a string of artificial pearls, as well as a silver chain with a medallion, a pendant cross, or icons fixed to it. The gaitan also stood for shoelaces.

Old Embroidery

Traditional folk embroidery presents a wonderful example of using symbolic ornamentation. Embroidery decorated towels, wedding valances, table-cloths, curtains, festive shirts, white canvas sarafans, light outerwear, headgears and kerchiefs.

There is an assumption that embroidery was used to protect those parts of the costume, through which evil powers could otherwise reach a person’s body, as our ancestors believed. Hence, the major meaning of embroidery was protective. Collars, cuffs, hems and neckbands were supplied with safety ornamental patterns. The cloth itself was considered impenetrable for evil spirits, since items richly supplied with magic ornaments were used in its production. Thus it was important to protect those places, where the charmed fabric of the costume was bordering on the open body.

Embroidery was mainly performed with threads of red-colour, which was zttached special importance to. It had diverse tints, such as crimson, currant, poppy, and brick-red.

The stitches of the old embroidery were calculated; i.e. the cloth-threads were counted for every stitch. The pattern was not transferred preliminary onto the cloth; only its place and size could be roughly outlined with big stitches.

Ornaments

Ornamentation came to existence long before the appearance of written language. Even the caveman who wore fells and warmed himself by the fire used to decorate household items with ornaments. One can see simple patterns, like dots, straight and wavy lines, and rhombuses on earthen vessels.

The symbolical ornaments were meant to bring its owner good luck and welfare, prevent influence of evil powers, safeguard in a critical situation and favour procreation. Handed down from generation to generation and thoroughly guarded against distorting changes of their meaning and innovations up to the mid 19th century, they are akin to writings that can tell a lot about the world views of the man of that remote epoch. Yet, it is a hard task to decipher those long-forgotten signs.

The development of symbolic ornamentation that marked the man’s ability for abstract thinking was going on concurrently with the formation of the mythological outlook and shaping of the major mythological images that later made part of religious systems and cultural heritage of various peoples. Among such images one can find the World Tree, the Great Mother Goddess, the World Serpent (Dragon) and others, which were widespread in Russian, Ukrainian, and Byelorussian folklores and ornaments.

Averters

Our ancestors could not do without the oberegi (i.e. averters), special accessories that were believed to have magic powers and safeguard people from some hostile powers and detrimental influences. There were a great variety of the oberegi: from beads, bracelets, pendants, and protective embroidery patterns, symbolizing old godheads or clan patrons, to decorations on windows, shutters, platbands, above the porch and the roof, and over the house gates.

 

READ MORE ABOUT TRADITIONAL RUSSIAN DRESS...

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Tags: Russian Traditions Russian Embroidery Old Ornaments Slavic Symbols  

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