Silk in the Cossack costume of the Pre-Caucasian steppes

Silk in the Cossack costume of the Pre-Caucasian steppes

Silk in the Cossack costume of the Pre-Caucasian steppes

On the territory of the southern part of European Russia, silk fabrics were most often found in the costume of the Don and Terek Cossack women. Their clothes, outwardly resembling outfits of the North Caucasus peoples, included a long silk shirt with sleeves extending to the wrists, and an outwear slim fit dress, festive and sometimes everyday variations of which were made of silk, damask, satin, taffeta, and others. The dress of the Don Cossack women was called kubelek; it was a kind of an unfastened garment, often waist-cut, with a tight-fitting bodice and a lot of chest clasps and a wide skirt. The costume of the Don Cossack women could not be complete without a kolpak made of patterned knitted silk cloth worn on over a hair bun twisted at the back of the head.

The Terek Cossack women wore beshmets over their shirts, similar to kubeleks, but with a wider neckline. To cover their heads, they used plain and patterned silk headscarves worn over horned kichkas.

The object of pride for the Cossack women at Don and the North Caucasus was an elegant fur coat made of fox, squirrel and hare furs, covered with silk or damask fabric. The fur coat got wider to the bottom and when worn was supposed to be wrapped or tied with a kushak (sash belt). These fur coats were called “Don coats” for their specific silhouette.

The Cossacks of the pre-Caucasian steppes, as a rule, made their clothes from silk of domestic production, although European and Asian silk-weaving fabrics were not rare in the area. During the 18th – 19th centuries, the Terek Cossacks were actively engaging in sericulture for home use and for sale. The Cossack women of Terek utilized home-produced silk threads to weave belts, passementerie and galloons, cords and webbing that were used as garment adornments.

Young woman’s festive attire
Terek Cossack Host Region
Mid-19th century.
Russians: Terek Cossacks

European Russia. 2nd half of the 19th century. Russians

Kochubeyka women’s outerwear
Rostov District, Don Host Region.
Late 19th – early 20th century.
Russians: Don Cossacks
Wedding veil. European Russia. 2nd half of the 19th century. Russians

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