This is a continuation of a previous blog post concerning the theme of the American kerchief and shirt, embroidered with threads from the United States.

Today I will explain why it was so important for Ukrainian emigrants to send kerchief’s fabric and threads back home from the United States. The reasons are derived from a deep connection with folk clothing tradition, and these connections—which still exist today—remain an important component of the national Ukrainian identity.

Photo: from wedding in Ternopil region / Traditional clothing of Ukraine

The roots of those traditions come from the time BC. But the majority of preserved pieces come from Ukrainian villages of the 19th–20th centuries. At that time people used to make their clothing from scratch. First they planted flax and hemp. The next step was to process the raw fiber to make yarn and then threads. These threads were used to weave linen. In every home this was a usual occupation for the fall and winter seasons. From this linen women sewed clothes and decorated them with embroidery. The decorating of these clothes was not merely for aesthetic reasons, but mainly for sacred guarding purposes.

People created their embroidery designs by using different natural and geometric symbols. There are nearly 100 different embroidery types and techniques. However, design traditions and colors are pretty similar within each particular village and, as a result, these designs are totally distinguishable between each village, especially between different regions of Ukraine. You are able, by looking at the different embroidery techniques and colors, to recognize a person from a different village or at least identify a foreigner.

“Our demos wanted to show, like any other ethnic group, that embroidery is not construction or composition of the mind, but a whole array of schemes in which the Creator builds worlds. Every nation creates those ornaments that the land dictates to them. Do not people come up with something, but the universe, which creates and leads out mortgaged sacred geometry. As said in his time mathematician Plato: "God acts in geometric lines."

We can say that when we put on one or another shirt with a certain pattern, we give start for the actions of certain forces and energies of a subtle transcendent plan. This can be explained by the fact that there were shirts for different sexes and ages, different holidays and traditional celebrations, for pregnant women and others.”
—Yuriy Melnychuk, Deputy Director General on Scientific Department of the Ivan Honchar Museum

Every woman tried to make her own special design and combine different elements and techniques. As more ornaments and designs were added to the shirt, a woman was perceived by society to be a better housewife or bride.

As in my previous article about Easter egg decorating traditions, I’d like to first show some authentic museum pieces of traditional old clothing from a number of different regions in Ukraine and then compare them to modern interpretations of these traditions by Ukrainian and international designers.


The pictures from below were taken from Hutsul Museum in Kolomyia. They represent folk culture of hutsuls and Ivan Honchar Museum in Kyiv, with displays of  traditional clothing from all regions of Ukraine.

Photo: from Semakivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk region, 1930 / Hutsul Museum

Top from left: Balyntsi, Ivano-Frankivsk region; Staryy Kosiv, Ivano-Frankivsk region, XIX century; Pistyn, Ivano-Frankivsk region, 1920 / Hutsul Museum

Lower from left: Yasynya, Ivano-Frankivsk region, 1920; Chornobuzy, Ivano-Frankivsk region, 1938; Yaseniv-Pilnyy, Ivano-Frankivsk region, 1930 / Hutsul Museum

Photo: from Pistyn, Ivano-Frankivsk region, 1938 / Hutsul Museum

Left: Snyatynskyy district, Ivano-Frankivsk region / Hutsul Museum; Right: Yavoriv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region / Hutsul Museum

Photo: Ivan Honchar Museum /

Photo: Ivan Honchar Museum /

Photo: Ivan Honchar Museum / Bohdan Poshyvailo

Photo: Ivan Honchar Museum / Bohdan Poshyvailo

Shchyri Project

In December 2014 there a presentation of Shchyri Project, which included 15 Ukrainian celebrities. The Shchyri (meaning sincere – IB) Project is a dedication to Ukrainian costume, and its mission is to show the richness, beauty, color and the spirit of traditional national clothes.

Stylist Antonina Belinska gathered more than 30 vintage costumes from 10 regions of Ukraine for the shoot. Preparations for the project took two months, because the organizers of the event wanted to make reconstructions not only of the early XXth century costumes, but also of the lost head accessories.

There was also a charity component to the project to support the Ukrainian army. All pictures were used to create the calendar for 2015. All the money raised from the sales of the calendars were directed to help the wounded soldiers, who have been receiving treatment in the Kyiv Clinical Military Hospital.

Women's clothing in Galicia (Lviv region). Overdress made from wool, at the bottom. Shirt with embroidered collar. Headgear is a wreath of flowers, which made from painted paper and coated with wax. 

Clothing of married women in Old Polissya (Volyn region), from XIX century. Costumes from this region has not been changed for many centuries.

Top left: Costume from early twentieth century, typical for west of Podolia (Ternopil region). Headgear is a wreath of myrtle and periwinkle. Jewelry includes balamuty (pearlescent necklaces), pearls, necklace of Venetian glass beads.

Top right: Holiday clothing of women in Odesa region. Headgear is "a wreath of candies" (early twentieth century). "Candies" were made of cotton wool, wrapped in goffered paper. Paper flowers were decorated with blown glass beads.

Lower left: Ladies clothing in Slobozhanshchina, Eastern Ukraine, the beginning of the twentieth century. The shirt is made in the technique of cutting. Jewelry includes corals, necklace with Venetian glass, dukach with a bow.

Lower right: Wedding women's clothing of Pokuttya (Ivano-Frankivsk region), the end of the nineteenth century. Characteristic feature of clothing: lower edges of the wrapper are laid on belt. Red color is a sign of wealth: only wealthy people could afford expensive red dye for fabrics. More photographs:

Vytoky Project

In March of this year the Ukrainian Fashion Week catwalk presented the Vytoky (means beginnings – IB) Project. This was the first collaboration of the Ukrainian designer and the National Center of Folk Culture Ivan Honchar Museum. In the first part of the project, participants from Ukrainian Supermodel (TV show) presented a collection of unique national costumes of different époques and ethnographical regions of Ukraine. In the second part, a collection by young Ukrainian designer Yana Chervinska was presented, which was inspired with traditional folklore motifs.

The Vytoky Project was called upon to again highlight Ukrainian national costume as an endless source of inspiration and ideas.

Photo: Bohdan Poshyvailo /


Lubov Chernikova

Lubov Chernikova is a young Ukrainian designer who uses different folk techniques (embroidery, plaiting, spinning and weaving, howling embroidery, and textile printing) in her clothing designs. She also derives inspiration from other Ukrainian folk arts, such as Easter egg decorating, painting walls, architecture, pottery, and blacksmithing. For her work she prefers to use only natural materials, as it was in old times.

Photo: Lubov

Oksana Karavanska

One of Ukraine’s most famous and talented designers, Oksana Karavanska, usually combines in her works a vivid perception of mysticism, ancient history, and the beauty of Ukraine. Karavanska’s techniques such as knitting, embroidery, beadwork, and handmade fabrics are the icing on the cake, making a nice addition to modern outfits.

Photo: Iryna Sereda / The Ukrainians

Photo: Oksana Karavanska

Roksolana Bogutska

Roksolana Bogutska is another famous Ukrainian designer, also known abroad. Bogutska gets inspiration from artworks in different historical styles as well as from Ukrainian ethnic motifs. In particular, her folk culture focus is Ukrainian national coloring. She combines the theme of ethnic décor with contemporary ideas. Roksolana’s favourites techniques are artistic embroidery on leather and fabric with silk and bead, painting, and metal inlay.

Photo: Roksolana

By Iryna Bilan on