Discovery Kyrgyzstan
 
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008
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Women's costume

Women's costumeThe main features of women's costumes in Kyrgyzstan were long dresses and wide trousers.

Different costumes or styles would indicate if a young woman was married or single, and elderly women had their own style of dress and headdress. The colour was usually white, blue or red. The colour red was the main characteristic of a young woman's dress. Recently, however, bright fabrics of other colors like orange and yellow have become fashionable.

Older women tend to wear dresses of dark material. Different tribes, however, have their own traditions. Elderly women in the "kypchak", "mungush" and "adigine" tribes still prefer to wear dark coloured dresses, whereas in some other tribes, they prefer light colours.

Dresses were worn long, almost down to the feet; sleeves would be longer than the arms, reaching below the hands, and wide collars were common. The dress was fastened by strings or by a silver "fibula", (a broach or clasp, which may have been passed down as a family heirloom). Later, dresses with a turn-down collar and sleeves became very popular especially in the south. Wide trousers were made of bright, motley fabrics.

A belted thigh-length skirt, (beldemchi), made of felt and covered by black fabric or usually by velvet was sometimes worn on a top of a dress.

Beldemchi was part of the costume worn by a married woman, after giving birth to her first child. This was a short skirt wrapped around the hips and made from wide pieces of velvet, (black, red, green or light blue - or even patterned Uzbek fabrics called adras and beikasab) embroidered with traditional patterns with bright silk thread.

Women's costumeOlder women also wore fur coats - such as the ichik which was also worn by men. The most widespread kind of female winter clothes in the past was the chapan, the same style as the men wore. Later a female version of the chapan began to be made with a shaped waist. For young women and girls these clothes were in bright "half silk" fabrics.

In the nineteenth century, in the south of Kyrgyzstan women still wore the ancient style of conic hats (shokulo), which sometimes looked like a helmet but could measure 25 cm high with earflaps and a triangular piece of material draping down the back. It was often decorated with coral beads, mother-of-pearl and feathers of an eagle or an owl. The owl feather is to protect from "evil spirits" or "evil eyes". The shokulo was also considered an important piece of wedding attire for women.

Sometimes the headgear would also be decorated with tuma - pendants made from metal, leather and fur, which were handed down from generation to generation.

Women's costumeScarves have become the basic form of headgear preferred by women of all ages, wrapped around the head so that face appears framed in an oval of material, or - particularly in summer - tied at the back of the head exposing the neck.

Two traditional forms of headgear were the elechek and kep takya. Footwear in the 19th century was mainly fashioned from leather. Red or green boots with heels were worn by the young. Soft boots (ichigi), which could be turned inside out - by the old. Also, many women wore leather galoshes. Shoes would often be decorated - for example, with silver coins, tassels and pearl buttons.

Discovery Kyrgyzstan #5

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