Embroidered National Costumes of Ukraine

Embroidery has a tradition in Ukraine that stretches back centuries. Excavations of ancient sites reveal that even before recorded history, Ukrainians were embroidering shirts; an embroidered shirt is called a ‘vyshyvanka’ or ‘sorochka’. The story of vyshyvanka goes back centuries, but no one knows exactly when the first one appeared. It is a traditional item of clothing, usually a shirt or a blouse, made from linen and decorated with embroidered patterns. The original meaning of vyshyvanka was symbolic, with colors and decorations differing from region to region and even village to village.

Red and black acorns are usually embroidered in Kyiv and its surrounding area, green and orange patterns are from Prykarpattya and Bukovyna regions in western Ukraine.

The famous white-on-white embroidery became popular in several places across Ukraine, including Poltava, Cherkasy and Chernihiv. Blue decorations, according to Dolya, are the youngest ones, appearing at the beginning of the 20th century.

Today these shirts are more popular than ever, as Ukraine is rediscovering its regional traditions. Whereas Russian students dress in suits (men) and skirts with stockings (women) when they graduate from high school, Ukrainians almost invariably opt for embroidered shirts. Most of these shirts are still hand-embroidered, although the shirts themselves range from the inexpensive manufactured shirts imported from Asia to hand-woven cloth. These shirts are expensive, especially by Ukrainian standards, starting at 100 dollars or so. This is because of the time and care taken in hand-embroidering.

A sorochka is a traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt made of linen or cotton. The embroidery patterns very with the region or village where the sorochka was made. On both a man’s and a woman’s shirt, the edges were decorated traditionally to protect the wearer from the evil eye. The decorative flowers and bands symbolize prosperity and fertility.

This sorochka is hand embroidered using no machines and takes many hours of work and will be treasured from generation to generation. Truly a fine piece of hand embroidered art by the Ukrainian women of Western Ukraine. This fine sorochka was hand embroidered in the Carpathian Mountains. The blouse is in a new condition and free of any damages.

It is considered, the Ukrainian national embroidery is a direct protective charm for the one who wears it, and it should protect a particular area [of the body]. Women’s embroidery should end at the level of the breasts, as women are believed to breathe with their breasts, and for men embroidery should end at the level of the solar plexus, as men are known to breathe with their womb. This is a rule. In ancient times people could guess what village a person came from just from the embroidery on his or her clothes. But the times have changed, now people think about the meaning of embroidery much less. Actually, they simply want to see their clothes aesthetically beautiful. Final word, traditional Ukrainians say that even if a person doesn’t consider himself a Ukrainian by birth, but still puts on and wears vyshyvanka, we can say that this person has already defined himself or herself a Ukrainian. Someday, I hope to be wearing one as proudly as I wear Indian traditional costumes!

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