Traditional Ukrainian clothing

The main part of Ukrainian national costume is a shirt which is generally made of linen or another natural fabric. The shirt is decorated with embroidery, that is why, it is called the embroidered shirt or vyshyvanka. Vyshyvanka is considered to be traditional clothing of Ukrainian people. It is a reflection of their value system, traditions, culture and history.

Every year, maintaining national traditions, Ukrainians all over the world celebrate Vyshyvanka day. It is celebrated on the third Thursday of May. On this day Ukrainians wear vyshyvankas to show their love for the country and patriotism. There can be concerts, parades and competitions.

The embroidered shirt is a symbol of health and beauty, happy destiny and family well-being, honor and decency. Furthermore, Vyshyvanka is a charm for Ukrainians. They treat it as a holy thing and transmit it across generations.

History of the Ukrainian Vyshyvanka

Ukrainian hand embroidery has a deep history. According to researchers it has existed since the ancient times. In the antiquity Ukrainians expressed themselves thanks to the patterns embroidered on a woman's or man's shirt. Most women had been involved in embroidery since childhood. It was the desire to beautify their daily lives and this showed a rich inner world.

Each Ukrainian region has its own distinctive features of stitches and patterns in embroidered clothes, which vary in color and embroidery techniques. Ukrainians wore both casual and festive shirts. And every one of the ornaments had a special meaning and magic. Ukrainian people believed it could protect them from harm and evil spirits.

The embroidery ornament of Ukrainian national costume was very rich and diverse. The shirt was mostly decorated with embroidery on the sleeves, and also on the neck, bosom and the cuffs. Ukrainians often put a beautiful jacket or zhupan (short warm overcoat) over the shirt. Unmarried girls wore Vyshyvanka over their skirt but after marriage they had to tuck it into their skirt.

Embroidery Techniques

Embroidery is a world-famous kind of art and it takes a special place among other Ukrainian decorative arts. Embroidery patterns represent special written symbols. Bright patterns of colorful grasses and flowers, firebirds and cocks are the original treasure of Ukrainian people.

Embroidery stitches, which are called the embroidery technique, have a decisive influence on the type of ornament. There are about one hundred embroidery techniques in Ukraine and every locality has its favorite stitches. But the most popular one is cross-stitch. This technique appeared from the middle of the nineteenth century onwards. There are one-, two- or multi-color patterns on the embroidered shirts. There are five basic colors, which are used in Ukrainian embroidery: black, red, white, blue and yellow. Each of them has its symbolic value and meaning. It should be noted that in times past people could tell from the pattern about a person's character and desires.

Ukrainian embroidery symbols

All embroidery patterns can be divided into three groups: geometric, floral and zoomorphic. Geometric and floral patterns are the most popular. At the same time, geometric embroidery patterns are considered to be the male symbols, floral patterns – female symbols. Among the traditional male characters: all kinds of fire signs, sun signs (crosses, circles, rhombuses, lattices). Originally female geometric symbols – a straight line (earth sign), snake and all kinds of spiral waves. The most popular floral ornaments are oak, willow, viburnum, leaves and flowers. Zoomorphic ornaments are depicted as images of animals and birds such as doves, horses, cranes, cocks and ducks. Thus, Ukrainian embroidery is characterized by the boundless imagination and the unique local flavor.

Characteristics of children's embroidered shirts

In old times, the first baby shirt was made of worn parental clothes. It was believed that these things kept the energy of the parent. And it could protect the child from the evil eye and diseases. Shirts for girls were made of the mother's things, for boys – from the father's. That is why, the first patterns-charms were passed down from the parents to children, along with their colors and symbols. The first shirt that a child received was at the age of three.

The popularity of the Ukrainian embroidered shirt

It is pleasant to realize that even today the traditional Ukrainian costume is very popular. It is a little different from the ancient costume but the main Ukrainian features were maintained. Embroidered shirts are very popular among women of all ages. But men wear it with a great pleasure as well.

People wear Vyshyvankas not only on the Independence day or other national holidays; some put on embroidered shirts for their birthdays, weddings and others even wear them as daily outfits.

Vyshyvanka goes well with skirts, jeans or trousers. Besides, embroidered clothes are a fashion trend worldwide. Moreover, not only embroidered shirts are popular, but also dresses, suits and even coats.


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